Wot, no lettuce?
As the Festive Season draws closer, we in the meat industry seem to be in receipt of an early Christmas present.
Battered but unbowed by acres of coverage on October’s IARC Report, which placed processed meat in the same category as asbestos and tobacco as regards carcinogenicity, the Daily Mail, the Independent and some others carried a report from Carnegie Mellon University in the US that vegetarian and so called ‘healthy’ diets may be more harmful to the environment than diets containing more processed or red meat.
Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) is the scientific tool which enables us to compare the relative environmental impact of the many goods and services that we consume in our daily lives.
We've heard many demands in recent years for us to reduce our consumption of meat or stop eating it altogether, based on evidence from LCA studies suggesting that our overly carnivorous habits are wreaking untold damage to the planet. Yet now we are being presented with research which appears to be telling us the precise opposite.
LCA is a theoretical exercise and its usefulness in a real world situation of course depends on the validity of the assumptions on which the calculations are made. The writer of this blog does not pretend to have the necessary competence to pronounce judgement on the relative merits of the Carnegie Mellon study versus other research which arrives at very different conclusions. No doubt the world’s finest LCA boffins will be locking horns, once their Christmas dinners have been fully digested.
However, this latest research does at least provide a welcome reminder that we inhabit a complex world where everything may not always be as it first seems. But, in the kangaroo court of our 24-7 news jungle, you are either innocent or guilty, pure as the driven snow or insidiously evil. In the real world, there are many shades of grey - well 50 at least. So maybe the jury needs to deliberate for a while longer.
So what should be our industry’s response to the Carnegie Mellon research? It’s quite simple really: just keep doing what any responsible meat producing business has been doing in recent years to secure its place in the challenging market conditions of the future.
Keep looking for more sustainable inputs for your business processes, keep delivering efficiencies which don’t compromise quality, keep reducing waste and finding new outlets for the unavoidable by-products of your business.
In other words, keep up the good work in 2016 ...... and have a very Happy Christmas in the meantime.
Thursday 17th December 2015