At the heat of the horse meat crisis in Europe, UNEP published ‘Our nutrient world’, a report that looked closely at the massive impact of nutrient use by agriculture and especially in meat production. The report proposed many actions to improve the management of nutrients in agriculture. But one recommendation received the most media attention: the plea for voluntary lowering of personal meat consumption. The enthusiastic responses that followed may suggest that the size of meat on the plate in affluent societies goes down in the coming decades. A remarkable trend, given that eating more meat is one of the first habits that people take up when they get wealthier.
Indeed, there is an almost perfect correlation between growth in GDP and growth in meat consumption. The case of China’s development shows this very clearly. In 2050 many of the nine billion people may have more income and better diets, as they are lifted out of absolute poverty. However, another share of those nine billion may turn into people like us Westerners, risking over-consumption of meat products combined with loads of refined sugary foods and drinks, and embarrassing little physical exercise.
The global meat production needed to fulfill that appetite would require enormous nutrient inputs. That means potential pollution to ecosystems, risking land degradation, food insecurity and exacerbating loss of natural ecosystems. That is what UNEP warns for. Global awareness of the importance to moderate meat consumption would help a great deal. But would we humans be able to cut ourselves loose from our intrinsic desire to portion up on meat as soon as we can afford it?
Slowly but clearly, the numbers are showing that this is getting a significant trend. The rising meat prices may provide a partial explanation, as well as awareness of animal welfare issues, and meat related scandals and disease outbreaks. In addition, ever more people consider lowering their meat intake as a statement of making a sustainable lifestyle choice. Meatless monday is becoming a true global initiative, engaging consumers, restaurant holders and retailers to plate up vegetarian food. Flexitarians, demitarians, part-time meat eaters are gaining influence.
What we eat is very much an expression of culture. Despite the biological appeal of meat eating, most of our appetite and preferences are shaped by our communities. Changing our food habits through shifted cultural perceptions is not impossible and very much what we are seeing right now. It could be that over the course of this century we’ll learn to appreciate new diets that have a lower impact on ecosystems globally. We might even pick up new or unfamiliar foodstuff like test tube meat or insects. So what do you think that you will have on your plate in 2030?
Food on our plate. Some meat and a lot of vegs.Photo credits: Flikr
Read more of our blogs at Futurista
- About WFS
- Contact Us
- Frequently Asked Questions
- History of WFS
- Board and Council
- Press Room
- Futurist Gear
- Are You the Next CEO of the World Future Society?
- Book a WFS / Futurist Magazine Speaker
Essays and comments posted in World Future Society and THE FUTURIST magazine blog portion of this site are the intellectual property of the authors, who retain full responsibility for and rights to their content. For permission to publish, distribute copies, use excerpts, etc., please contact the author. The opinions expressed are those of the author. The World Future Society takes no stand on what the future will or should be like.
Free Email Newsletter
To sign up for Futurist Update, our free monthly email newsletter, enter your email in the box below and click Save.
March 8, 2014 - This is a great time to be an astronomer. It appears we are discovering exoplanets by the boat load and we are finding out that solar systems, some like ours, and some bizarrely different, seem to be the rule and not the exception.
March 8, 2014 - For several years I worked with an Australian company developing a new skimmer technology for remediating oil spills. That got me very interested in this subject area. So I keep my eyes open for new technological innovations that can address what remains an industry-wide problem for fossil fuel and transportation providers.
How will we change as technology learns to communicate with our emotions?
March 7, 2014 - The greatest challenge renewable energy providers face is achieving a sustainable continuous supply of guaranteed power delivered to consumers either through the grid or off grid. That's the single issue holding back large-scale adoption of renewables.
Yesterday my wife Deb and I had lunch at one of our favorite Chinese restaurants, and afterwards we’re given the typical fortune cookies that come with the bill. Jokingly I broke open the first one and asked, “I wonder if it’d be possible to create a real fortune sometime in the future and put it into these cookies?”
March 6, 2014 - I am finally back from Florida and once again sifting through the content my web crawlers and affiliations with social networks that provide me with the fodder I turn into 21st Century Tech blog.
Seth MacFarlane, the multitasking comedian and creator of Family Guy, and other raunchy fare, happens also to be the driving force behind the new version of Carl Sagan's classic science show COSMOS, which will appear Sunday on Fox and simultaneously on other networks, hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson. I know a number of the writers and producers who have striven to create something stunning, vivid and updated for the 21st Century.