Sustainable Food Goes Beyond a Plant-Based Burger
These days, when we hear about the idea of eating more sustainably, that more often that not refers to a select few practices. Namely, reducing our consumption of meat and other animal products. Pretty much everywhere we look, the solution to fixing a broken food system and saving the planet is reduced to adopting a (seemingly simple) plant-based lifestyle.
But for most of us, transitioning to a fully plant-based way of eating isn’t exactly easy. From financial to accessibility concerns, shifting away from meat and dairy isn’t as simple as flipping a switch. And that doesn’t even account for the fact that for some, cutting out animal products goes against our food cultures, ways of eating that have been with us and those who came before us for generations. Besides, who’s to say that these solutions by themselves can solve all of our problems?
As much as we might wish it, creating a better future of food will not be solved by one catch-all solution. A vegan burger won’t reverse climate change on its own, and plant-based milk isn’t likely to fix all of the problems we face. Instead, we see the need for a more robust set of solutions, ones that can not only alleviate key issues that currently exist in food production and consumption, but that we all can enjoy, afford, and realistically take part in.
Why Alt Protein is Only Part of the Solution
The majority of plant-based protein offerings currently on the market rest on a few key pillars: better for the planet, better for our health, and better for animals. While it’s pretty clear that plant-based alternatives provide key benefits to cows and the like, what’s not as straightforward is how beneficial they are to human and planetary health.
A vegan burger won’t reverse climate change on its own, and plant-based milk isn’t likely to fix all of the problems we face. Instead, we see the need for a more robust set of solutions, ones that can not only alleviate key issues that currently exist in food production and consumption, but that we all can enjoy, afford, and realistically take part in.
A recent report from the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) takes a hard look at such claims, seeking to uncover just how much truth they hold. While the report investigates the many ways plant-based alternatives are marketed and presented to us, one key theme is that it’s unclear how good these products are for us –– and our planet. “Alternative proteins and their sustainability credentials rest on shaky ground — as chemical-intensive, heavily processed foods, they have major impacts on human health, biodiversity, and climate change,” notes the report’s lead author Philip Howard.
Depending on how they are produced and what goes into them, these products may or may not provide substantial benefits to our individual and planetary wellbeing. So, while plant-based alternatives have been and will continue to be a driving force in addressing issues of climate change and human health within our food system, they don’t –– and shouldn’t –– exist by themselves.
Sustainability is More Than Just Saving the Planet
When we hear the word sustainability –– especially when it comes to food ––we tend to imagine how up-and-coming innovations can yield a more positive impact on our environment. But we’d like to challenge that a bit. In reality, sustainability can and should refer to a broader set of goals and ideals when creating food and drink for the future.
Of course, environmental sustainability is hugely important. It’s why we’ve crafted our Cacao-Free Chocolate and Bean-Free Coffee, replacements to their traditional counterparts that alleviate pressures on our planet, now and into the future. It’s also why we use upcycled grapeseeds in our products, to give new life to ingredients that would otherwise go to waste.
But sustainability comes in other forms, too. While the latest in plant-based innovations tout claims of being kinder to the planet, they aren’t often kinder on our wallets. And for those of us who aren’t willing to fork over that plant-based premium –– and more importantly, those who simply can’t –– that’s a problem. Creating a future of sustainable food means creating products that everyone can enjoy, without barriers. Besides, with the goal being to affect large-scale change for our planet through food, we should start with products that are within reach for all.
Simply put, we don’t believe there is a one-size-fits-all fix to solve all the problems that exist within our food system. Instead, we see products that seek to target key issues as parts of a larger solution. Whether it’s improving human health and safety with our Peanut-Free Spread or addressing environmental concerns like deforestation with our Bean-Free Coffee, innovations in food ought to complement one another, not monopolize efforts to save the world.
So if you’re craving a plant-based burger, go for it! Just don’t depend on it to solve all the world’s problems. But follow it up with some Cacao-Free Chocolate for dessert, and we’ll be heading in the right direction.