Can We Find a Sustainable Choice Among Fast Food Fare?

The Introduction of a Sustainable Fast Food Brand: Jackie Mays

Searching for prepared food on the go forces us to make unwanted choices. We buy convenience and low price, but we’re often presented with non-nutritious food quality and very unsustainable restaurant options.

Spurred by the onslaught of alternative meat suppliers and considerable consumer demand for plant-based options, the major hamburger fast food chains have reacted by adding plant-based burgers to their menus. And bending to pressure by the investment community and a tacit recognition of climate change as an existential threat, as well as consumer affinity with brands which act sustainably, McDonald’s has recently placed targets on reducing its total greenhouse gas emissions. While these and other reactions are noteworthy, they nevertheless fail to address the fundamental problem for consumers forced with making undesirable choices.

Enter Jackie Mays Burger Grill, a sustainable fast food restaurant franchise for meat lovers and vegetarians alike. If you’re like me, and are concerned about the environment and animals, you have probably also searched in vain to find a healthier fast food alternative that was affordable and convenient. Personally, I just couldn’t support fast food restaurants any longer that have such a poor record of sustainability. So I decided to start something new.

Step One, Exceed Fast Food Burger Taste and Quality

We source our plant-based meats from only the top suppliers, such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods. Then we combine our own plant-based alternative-meat ingredients, top our burgers with amazing plant-based cheese, add fresh produce, grilled buns, and our own special sauce to make our own signature Jackie Mays cheeseburgers. Our other menu items are just as good, all plant-based, and indistinguishable to their less healthier contemporaries. We can’t wait to serve people in our own restaurants later this year.

Step Two, Create a Movement

Unlike other fast food restaurants, our movement is about standing up for climate action, animal welfare, and social justice. For example, our burgers will be responsible for emitting 80-90% less greenhouse gases than burgers from animal meat; and where Jackie Mays will harm no animals, fast food companies are responsible for ordering meat of slaughtered animals that have mostly been treated inhumanely in factory farms: over a million cows per year for McDonald’s and that’s about 25 annually per restaurant.

Step Three, Tell the World About It

Jackie Mays will be the first-of-its-kind fast food franchise that serves only plant-based foods at affordable prices. We’re building a brand based on sustainability and that has the power to disrupt the fast food industry.

Step Four, Crowdfund to Build a Movement

We know starting a restaurant is hard and they have low success rates. But unlike traditional mom & pop restaurants, Jackie Mays will be the first-of-its-kind restaurant at the beginning of a plant-based and food revolution (see my post Better than Beef?) and will be backed by professional investors.

There are many more steps to make, but now this Step Four is the most important. Even with our exceptionally talented team, we can’t start this movement without YOU! So wherever you live, please join us with your pledge of just a dollar or more and claim your rewards. You won’t be charged unless we reach our funding goal.

You can find more answers to questions in the FAQs on our crowdfunding campaign page and don’t forget to watch our other videos and learn about why we named our concept “Jackie Mays.” In closing, I invite you to help us create the first-of-its-kind sustainable fast food brand; and I invite you to join our movement, support our campaign, and let’s break new barriers with Jackie Mays! Thank you.


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Time to be Alarmed?

Alarmist announcements have a tendency of polarizing an audience. Yet at some point, we all need to know what the stakes are about climate change and how we can help. Greta Thunberg and George Monbiot make a simple case to Protect, Restore, and Fund.

 


If you’re new to Sustainability X, welcome! We will present solutions to the climate change crisis over the coming weeks and months, and how you can get involved. Please join our movement and follow us by clicking the “FOLLOW” link in the footer below!

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What’s Your Sustainability-Startup Pick?

Right now voting is underway for the best sustainability startup and you should weigh in!

Forty-seven startups from all over the world were created just weeks ago and each won 1st place at their respective international venues for Global Startup Weekend Sustainable Revolution (techstars). Now it’s time to choose the best startup of the lot.

I had the opportunity to participate and help build a startup over an intense 54 hour roller-coaster weekend. Since Sacramento, California was the only city representing the USA, it’s fair to say that when our team placed 2nd, we placed 2nd in the country! Alas, while our team did not win the gold, the 1st place team WeVo proudly represents our nation and is very worthy of your vote (they earned mine already!).

Each team created a one-minute-video pitch showcasing its startup, and together with a brief summary describing each new concept, provides all the information you need to cast your vote (thru July 13). It can take less than a minute, or you can take some time and browse the array of incredible concepts aiming to make our world a better place. So go ahead, vote now!

Global Startup Weekend - Vote Now

Why did I join Startup Weekend? It’s a good cause: contribute to developing startups that focus on sustainability and to support our local Sacramento startup community. But more selfishly, I had in mind to help develop my own concept in the food industry (more on that later…). So I was quite pleased with myself when I pitched my concept and it was selected as a top concept to pursue (along with about 40% of the other pitches). Yet I was devastated, when in the end, my supporters abandoned my team for other concepts; startups that perhaps didn’t already have a pitch deck and partial business plan created.

After a difficult night of soul searching, since time is of the essence when working on a new venture and 54 hours is a considerable time commitment, I decided to stay the course, regroup, and join another team. I’m glad I did as it was an amazing journey from which we all grew, and in many ways tangentially contributed to my current venture. Of course, the icing on the cake was when our team won 2nd place.

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2nd Place, Global Startup Weekend Sustainable Revolution. Spotter – mobile app to pool consumers with deals at restaurants during slow times.

Now it’s time for the best team globally to win it all. So go ahead, take a few minutes and vote for your favorite sustainable startup. You’ll be glad you did.


If you’re new to Sustainability X, welcome! We will present solutions to the climate change crisis over the coming weeks and months, and how you can get involved. Please join our movement and follow us by clicking the “FOLLOW” link in the footer below!


 

Better than Beef?

Ground-breaking innovations in plant-based products have ignited a food revolution

(Since this post is quite long, I’ve also published it on LinkedIn so you can read instead as installments of a four-part series.)

What’s the best burger you’ve ever had? While you take a moment to consider, don’t be surprised if your new favorite becomes an animal-free plant-based burger.

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The plant-based “meat” industry grew by 20% last year giving pause to the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Some predict it will be a $10 billion global industry in 10 years from an estimated $4.6 billion in 2018, and provide institutional investors a pathway to market disruption, all while new plant-based consumer preferences aim to significantly lower resource demands and greenhouse gases. Ultimately, it’s up to you the consumer; and now, you have some tasty choices.

Arguably, one restaurant in Santa Barbara, California once served the best burger in the world. Patrons would come from far and beyond to experience the pleasant ambiance and enjoy the superb tastes of 1129 Restaurant. Sightings of entertainers like Joan Rivers, Nick Nolte, Bo Derek, Fred Ward, among others, were not unusual. From the moment you walked from State Street through its wrought iron entrance and meandered through its botanical patio, walked by the large Spanish fountain and candlelit tables scattered about filled with happy diners, you knew you were in for a treat.

I had the honor of waiting tables at the restaurant, known as much for its fluffy Monte Cristo sandwich speckled with powdered sugar, mounding Mandarin Chinese Chicken Salad, tender flame-grilled Filet Mignon and fresh Halibut, or its delectable Bread Pudding among other pastry masterpieces – as for its casual-fare, most delicious Cheese Burger. Sadly, the restaurant is long gone now, but one has to wonder whether it would have then served a plant-based burger in lieu of its all-beef offering.

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Food Revolution

If you think that is a silly question, as say an older generation might, you probably haven’t heard about the likes of Impossible Foods or Beyond Meat (or recent entrant Moving Mountains in the UK). Together these companies have taken the market by storm after developing the most delicious hamburger meat replicas from plants. While Impossible Foods burgers have landed on the menus of about 5,000 restaurants, many of them high-end like Momofuku Nishi and Jardiniere, Beyond Meat has sold over 25 million uncooked burger paddies through your local grocery stores since 2016. (And the Impossible Foods’ plant-based “meat” is on its way to grocery stores next year.)

Last year I had the pleasure to meet Seth Goldman, Executive Chairman of Beyond Meat, and Pat Brown, Founder and CEO of Impossible Foods, at the Royal Botanic Gardens – Kew Forum, The Root Code: Toward a Green Economy. Both men championed the need for sustainable agriculture and both are doing something about it. Here are the astounding takeaways from my conversation with Dr. Brown: more than 45% of the land surface of our planet is currently in use as land for grazing or growing feed crops for livestock, and the destructive impact of animal agriculture on the global environment far exceeds that of any other technology on Earth.

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Seth Goldman, Executive Chairman of Beyond Meat, and Dr. Pat Brown, Founder and CEO of Impossible Foods, at the Royal Botanic Gardens – Kew Forum

Beef Debacle

To frame the problem, Americans alone eat roughly 48 billion hamburgers a year, not really knowing or directly paying for the enormous and unsustainable resources used in the process, not to mention the animal welfare issues. For example, and although measurements vary according to the complexities in sourcing and calculations, it takes 1,800 gallons of water to produce one pound of grain-fed beef, and producing one pound of beef generates 26 pounds of greenhouse gases which adds up to 158 million tons of greenhouse gases per year for all burgers consumed (equivalent to 34 coal-fired power plants). Individually, eating one less all-beef hamburger per week equates to driving your car 350 fewer miles per year.

If the resource demands on beef production weren’t bad enough, one beef hamburger can contain the DNA from over 1,000 cows, since processing mixes meat from different states. This amplifies the danger that a single case of e-coli could contaminate thousands of burgers; and in fact, just recently nearly 50 tons of ground beef was recalled in the Western states due to possible E. coli contamination, on the heals of a similar 25-state recall just the month before last. And over the holidays while we’re enjoying delicious home-cooked meals and hopefully our families and friends, in the back of our minds we trust the recent 35-state salmonella outbreak on turkey meat won’t impact us or our families as it has the families of the 63 people hospitalized so far and one fatality.

Healthier Diets

Yet converting to a plant-based diet belies the fact that, as my brother will remind me, eating meat is a primal activity. While evidence suggests the earliest humans first ate raw foods, fruits, leaves, roots, and the like, our species became smarter big-brained animals when we incorporated meat into our diet. Further, our mind and body evolved into modern humans as the introduction of fire allowed our species to cook food, which made meat and vegetables easier to digest by breaking up the long protein chains, making them easier for stomach enzymes to digest.

As Doctor Oz suggests, eating red meat is still considered a healthy choice, particularly a grass-fed beef that contains more vitamins and nutrients. But he advocates using beef more as an accoutrement – an accessory item – to a plate of vegetables and other foods, to more fully enjoy beef in a diet of less red meat. And why less? Because too much red meat consumption leads to significant health issues, including heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, obesity, and diabetes. Also, the overuse of antibiotics in farm animals is causing a growing health risk that could potentially fuel modern plagues (some planned improvements are on the horizon). Because of these factors, nearly 40 percent of Americans are actively trying to incorporate more plant-based foods into their diets.

But wait you say, real men eat meat: at least one report confirms the perception many people have that eating meat is linked with masculinity. One study in the report explains “participants were asked to rate the maleness and femaleness of various foods, from blood to rabbit to fish to milk. The top four most masculine choices were medium-rare steak, hamburger, well-done steak, and beef chili; the most feminine were chocolate, peaches, chicken salad, and sushi.” Changing these stereotypes to one of  real men eat plants (think Popeye and spinach) will take some time and effort, but it’s worth it. “Researchers from Harvard School of Public Health… found that one daily serving of unprocessed red meat was associated with a 13 percent higher risk of death; a daily serving of processed red meat was associated with a 20 percent higher risk.”

Since we know ancient humans were hunter-gatherers, “There’s been a consistent story about hunting defining us and that meat made us human,” says Amanda Henry, a paleobiologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. “Frankly, I think that misses half of the story. They want meat, sure. But what they actually live on is plant foods.” Passions run high in the debate about modern humans: are we designed to be meat-eaters or vegetarians? (PETA has strong opinions and facts as you might expect.) And which diet is healthier? While these debates rage, what’s undeniable are the health benefits of a plant-based diet.

Before becoming a vegetarian Albert Einstein said, “Nothing will benefit health or increase chances of survival on earth as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” Unfortunately, that evolution is not likely to occur anytime soon given today’s foodie culture. Just a glimpse of programs on Food Network will show you how to prepare practically any type of meat any way you want it.

Many expert chefs would scoff at the concept of serving purely vegetarian fare and that’s because when they opine about food, it’s all about taste. Yet you know there is promise when “the famously opinionated chef [Gordon Ramsey] offers the Impossible Burger as a substitute for any of the burgers on the menu at Gordon Ramsay Burger at Planet Hollywood Resort. Whether it’s topped with arugula and mushrooms a la the Forest Burger or tandoori baste and tabbouleh salad like the Mediterranean Burger, the Impossible Burger dresses up well.”

Okay, so they’re good enough for top chefs and they’re vegan, but does that mean these plant-based burgers are healthier than 100% all-beef burgers? Yes and no, according to Men’s Journal. While these plant-based burgers have no cholesterol or hormones, they have much more sodium. And while beef-burgers are generally not considered processed foods, plant-based burgers are ‘manufactured’ from plants. According to dietitian Sharon Palmer, “…processed foods are often left with highly absorbable carbohydrates, and little of the important nutrients, such as fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.” The bottom line according to Men’s Journal? “Both somewhat unhealthy, meat and non-meat burgers should not be a regular food item for anyone… though, it’s nice to know that there’s finally one burger both you and your vegetarian friends can enjoy.”

Eating meat is so ingrained in our culture that our espousal of it passes from generation to generation like a sport or political affiliation. I hail from a family of “carnivores” (omnivorous really), so on a recent family lunch to the local Land Ocean Restaurant, my dad ordered his new favorite burger — the LAVISH burger, a luscious combination of grain-fed prime beef, sharp cheddar cheese, bacon, and caramelized onions.

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Our family lunch at Land Ocean Restaurant

Unlike the Planet Hollywood Resort, and along with most other fine dining establishments, Land Ocean Restaurant has yet to offer a plant-based burger alternative on its menu.

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The LAVISH Burger

What seems inconceivable to me would be my father, like legions of other hardcore meat-lovers, someday switching to a plant-based burger even if it did. But now that I have been won over, I do believe he too would switch if the burger actually tasted better, not to mention all of the other benefits supporting the decision.

Tastes Great

As Dr. Pat Brown said, “Before I even started Impossible Foods, I knew that our success would depend on creating foods that not only match but categorically outperform meat from animals in taste, nutrition and value.” Dr. Brown retired as a Professor of Biochemistry at Stanford University to found Impossible Foods.

I can attest that this Impossible Burger™ – made from simple ingredients found in nature, including wheat protein, coconut oil, potato protein, and heme – tasted great. It was meaty, juicy, and spiced just right which made the flavor on par with great tasting all-beef burgers.

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Sampling IMPOSSIBLE Sliders with Robert Freeman (center) and Misti Schmidt

My colleagues at the Sustainability Management Association (SMA) were at first somewhat reluctant to try samples of this plant-based concoction at the Kew Forum; however, they ultimately liked the taste and agreed these sliders were remarkably similar to all-beef burgers.

The special ingredient is heme that allows the burger to “bleed” in the middle. “Never heard of heme? Heme is responsible for the characteristic of taste and aroma of meat. It catalyzes all the flavors when meat is cooked. Heme is exceptionally abundant in animal muscle, and it’s a basic building block of life in all organisms, including plants.”

Don’t just believe me that this burger tasted as good, if not better, than a sizzling all-beef burger. Watch the short video below of independent tasters.

CNBC Impossible Burger

Unfortunately there weren’t Beyond Burger samples at the Kew Forum, so Mr. Goldman, also the founder of Honest Tea, asked me if I had ever tried The Beyond Burger®. I hadn’t, but after finding Beyond Meat burger patties in the meat section at Safeway (and Wholefoods Market), and because the burgers were so delicious, they have since become our family’s go-to burger about every other week.

It’s been suggested that you cook the Beyond Burger (and the Impossible Burger) medium rare for best results, as all-beef-burger-connoisseurs typically enjoy as well. Three minutes on both sides at medium heat – getting the temperature above 160° F in the middle as with beef burgers – and you’re good to go.

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As an aside, one beautiful day in Santa Barbara while waiting tables on the patio at 1129 Restaurant, Bo Derek of the movie “10” floats in with her husband John Derek, and he orders the famous 1129 cheese burger, cooked medium rare. I take their order: Mr. Derek a “MW” cheese burger and the radiant Mrs. Derek, a specialty salad. After the first bite of his burger, he called me over and said, ‘this burger is well done.’

The chef quickly cooked up another burger while berating me, but instead of “MR” he cooked the second burger rare! Afterwards, I apologized to John Derek for my mistake and pointed out it was not the chef’s fault, but understandably he just sneered at me. Bo Derek appeared delightful and unaffected as she paid the bill and tipped me a straight 15%. But alas, that was the last we ever saw of the Derek’s at 1129. Even a plant-based burger wouldn’t have saved me then.

This hearty Beyond Burger has the same texture as cooked ground beef and a slightly different meaty aftertaste that has kept us coming back for more. Made of water, pea protein isolate, expeller-pressed canola oil, refined coconut oil, and other ingredients under 2%, the Beyond burger is gluten-free and made from non-soy and non-GMO ingredients.

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Ethan Brown, founder and CEO of Beyond Meat (and no relation to Dr. Pat Brown), is on a mission to convert hardcore meat-eaters to Beyond Meat meat-substitute products, and it’s working. Exit polls of consumers purchasing Beyond Meat products found that 70% self-identified themselves as meat-eaters. Along with the support of notable investors, celebrities, and professional athletes, the company will likely continue to penetrate its meat-eater target market, especially as it ramps up production given it’s recent announcement of a $100 million IPO.

Listen to this insightful interview below about the future of meat from the man and company that wants to be the catalyst to help you willfully separate yourself from animals grown and slaughtered for their meat.

Sustainable Farming -vs – Factory Farming

For a company with such an ethical mission, Beyond Meat was lambasted by its loyal vegan customers for taking minority investments in 2016 and 2017 from one of the largest meat producers in the world, Tyson Foods. “People said I personally have blood on my hands,” recalled Ethan Brown, recognizing that everyday Tyson Foods slaughters approximately 30,000 cattle, 48,000 pigs, and 6 million chickens. In his defense, Mr. Brown believes that with its market power, Tyson Foods can help make plant-based foods a norm. And for its part, Tyson Foods President and CEO Tom Hayes said, “If you can’t beat em, join em, right?”

Others in the annual $65.3 billion Beef Cattle Production industry aren’t so sure of the synergy between the meat and plant-based protein producers, and have declared game on. The US Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) filed a petition to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to prevent substitute-meat companies, both plant-based and lab-grown meat – meat grown from animal muscle tissue that is slowly becoming viable, from using the terms “meat” and “beef” to label their products.

It’s not just that the industry is concerned about the chipping away at its current business, but the prospect that a food revolution may come to fundamentally disrupt its industry and potentially the entire way of life for cattle ranchers, similar to how industrial farming decimated family farms. (Queue the background music: John Mellencamp – Rain On The Scarecrow.)

Earlier this year, and as reported by Business Insider, “a group of scientists from the University of Oxford published the most comprehensive analysis to date of the damage [industrial animal] farming does to the planet. The new research suggests that without dairy and meat consumption, global farmland use could be reduced by over 75% — an area equivalent to the US, China, European Union, and Australia combined — and still feed the world. Globally, traditional animal farming accounts for about 18% of all greenhouse emissions, uses 47,000 square miles of land annually, and exhausts 70% of the world’s water.”

So as a civilization, what farming choices do we have as an ever-growing population (200,000 more human beings everyday) consume ever more resources? Is it more industrialized farming, or have we gotten that all wrong? It turns out, we’ve gotten that  wrong according to the documentary “Sustainable” (read review and watch trailer ) by Chef Rick Bayless and team (on Netflix) because we’ve been asking and solving the wrong problem. What we’ve solved is: “how can we make agriculture into the most efficient, profit-making system that we can,” and effectively, “how do we make the most possible money we can,” rather than “how do we produce the most appropriate food.”

A few decades ago, my friend and restaurateur Mark Orfalea, attended a chef’s conference in one of the great food cities in the Americas: Oaxaca, Mexico. It was in the early days of his restaurant, Freebirds World Burrito, and he had the pleasure to meet Chef Rick Bayless, celebrity and founder of Frontera Grill, while absorbing some of the nuances at the conference of preparing Mexican cuisine.

Chef Bayless left an impression on Mark (as he has also on my wife who owns several of his cookbooks). Mark’s takeaway was that when preparing food for customers, it’s of the utmost importance to prepare high-quality food. As Chef Bayless would say, it all starts with fresh local ingredients from farmers that view themselves as caretakers of the soil, and in a larger sense, the Earth. According to Project Drawdown, “Conventional wisdom has long held that the world cannot be fed without chemicals and synthetic fertilizers. Evidence points to a new wisdom: The world cannot be fed unless the soil is fed. Regenerative agriculture enhances and sustains the health of the soil by restoring its carbon content, which in turn improves productivity—just the opposite of conventional agriculture.”

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Saluting to future success with buddy Mark Orfalea in front of the first Freebirds location

One thing upon which most people agree, industrial animal farming or ‘factory farming’ should be changed due to its many problems. Nearly 95% of participants in a national survey conducted by the American Humane Association said they are “very concerned” about the welfare of farm animals. Yet, the vast majority of meat consumed in the U.S. is raised and slaughtered in factory farms. Crystallizing the issue quite plainly, musician Sir Paul McCartney has said, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, the whole world would be vegetarian.”

The underlying issue is that an ever growing worldwide demand for meat consumption cannot likely be met just by local sustainable farms (some estimate it would take five planet Earths with the billions of animals raised annually for slaughter). Therefore, alternative meat producers like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods not only create tasty new options for consumers, but they could also help solve this vexing problem of providing enough desirable protein to the masses without all the animal suffering attributed to factory farming. And while factory farming isn’t about to end anytime soon, as consumers we should demand at a minimum transparency and better oversight.

Ethics of Eating Meat

I had the privilege of being the first general manager and on the founding team of Freebirds (originally Freebird’s Fabulous Flame-broiled Chicken; now Freebirds World Burrito with 75 locations – with the operational expansion made possible by our friend and subsequent (and lateral) owner Pierre Dubé). In those early days, I would schedule employee work hours, receive deliveries from local produce vendors, pick up supplies, make food deliveries, open and or close the restaurant, manage the team, work the register, and yes I would cook. I must have cleaned and cooked hundreds if not thousands of chickens in my time at Freebirds. So when vegans said Mr. Brown had blood on his hands, I literally did. That part has never set right with me, especially now as I contemplate the ethics of killing animals for their meat. (Btw, the Freebirds chain now offers a Beyond Meat option on its menu.)

Since animals are distant cousins of human beings, and humans having also descended from from them many generations ago, we can only hope it elicits a certain reverence when we eat them. As you may know, Charles Darwin “…is often referenced in literature on animal ethics [and states that] the difference between humans and other animals is one of degree rather than of kind.” Of course, every human is also related to every other human, and that should also give us ‘food for thought‘ in our everyday interactions with other people, let alone other countries, and cultures.

Cousins

When it comes right to the core of the matter, no one has been able to prevail in a debate that humans eating meat is actually ethical, especially if it doesn’t depend on one’s survival. Some arguments come close: 1) by consuming other animals, we can affirm our animal nature, drawing ourselves closer to the earth, and 2) accepting the biological reality that death begets life on this planet, together with the assumption of choosing ethically raised food. Yet when you look at the subject objectively, the counter argument supporting a vegetarian diet wins the ethical debate (e.g. live and let live, and do unto others). A simple truth cannot be overcome; that is, the killing of another sentient being for sustenance is unethical, especially in the presence of alternatives. Where alternatives aren’t present, as in Eskimos hunting a whale or a castaway scavenging for food, the absolutist says the killing of another sentient being for sustenance is still unethical, yet can be rationalized as ethical based on a survival ethos.

I suppose what makes this issue of killing animals so polarizing is that most of us feel we need to eat meat for our survival, or at least to maintain optimum health. Therefore, we can rationalize the practice based on our own diluted survival presumptions. Of course, when it comes to religion, “Many deeply religious souls in the West eat meat because it is sanctioned in their holy books,” according to Jane Srivastava writing for Hinduism Today. But what’s made the issue so pronounced is that the mass efficiency of industrialized farming over the past 50 years has increased the sheer scale of slaughter to an incredible magnitude. “Over 56 billion farmed animals are killed every year by humans. These… figures do not even include fish and other sea creatures whose deaths are so great they are only measured in tonnes.” And with the growing economies and meat-hungry populations of China and India, those numbers are set to increase significantly.

It’s also not hard to imagine that the scale of animal suffering is correlated with the scale of slaughter even with the Humane Slaughter Act (passed in 1958), and why groups such as Animal Equality are working to create a world in which all animals are respected and protected throughout their lives, and not just addressing inhuman treatment at the end of an animal’s life. As Albert Schweitzer once said, “Without a reverence for life, mankind has no future.”

Given these levels of animal farming, it’s no wonder how Dr. Pat Brown’s claim is true that nearly half of the Earth’s land surface is currently used to raise animals for food (i.e. grazing and growing feed crops), and what that also portends for the future. He says, “Unless we act quickly to reduce or eliminate the use of animals as technology in the food system, we are racing toward ecological disaster.”

Climate Change and Meat Consumption

Speaking of racing toward disaster, according to Nathan Hultman of the Brookings Institute, “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) [recently] released a shocking report: Global Warming of 1.5°C. An equally accurate but more evocative title could have been: We’re almost out of time…”

“The [IPCC] study estimates that global emissions of greenhouse gases need to drop by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030… a roughly 60 percent drop from today’s levels, in 12 years… We’re already at 1 degree warming and seeing some significant impacts; … [and] our current momentum appears to have us on a trajectory for about a 3 degrees or more world.” While there have been a litany of impacts so far, including devastating hurricanes, floods, and ‘tornado’ fires, few are more worrisome than the rapid melting of the Greenland ice sheet. “This is an overarching, existential threat to everything we’re trying to do, to our entire way of life,” California Governor Jerry Brown has said regarding climate change. “Based on that, I believe we have to rise to the occasion.”

The role that our food systems play in global warming is significant. Food systems emissions are estimated at between 19 – 29% of global greenhouse gases, with livestock representing nearly 15% of the total, and deforestation for animal farming compounding the problem (read further about a promising solution). It’s been estimated that by 2050, greenhouse gases (GHG) attributed to the food system could grow by up to 90% without mitigation efforts, so scientists and academics have proposed options for better outcomes.

Three areas of focus for food system GHG mitigation are food waste, technological improvements in the food chain, and dietary changes. “At present it is estimated that more than a third of all food that is produced is lost before it reaches the market, or is wasted by households…” Proposed solutions could cut in half “food loss and waste [and] would reduce environmental pressures by 6–16%” compared with the 2050 baseline projection. Implementing technological improvements could further “…reduce the environmental pressures of the food system by  3–30% …” But perhaps most importantly, “…dietary changes towards healthier diets could reduce GHG emissions and other environmental impacts by… [more than] 56%… for the more plant-based diet scenario.”

Avoiding meat and dairy is the ‘single biggest way’ to reduce your impact on Earth; much more so than driving an electric vehicle or installing solar panels on your roof. According to Project Drawdown and a 2016 study, 63% of business-as-usual food-system GHG emissions could be reduced by adopting a vegetarian diet (that includes cheese, milk, and eggs), and as much as 70% for a vegan diet. They say, “Bringing about dietary change is not simple because eating is profoundly personal and cultural, but promising strategies abound.”

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“Vertumnus by Guiseppe Arcimboldo, painted 1590-91.” Credit: Imagno (Project Drawdown)

One such strategy to bring about dietary change is becoming a flexitarian. As reported by CNN, “This [flexitarian] diet includes plenty of fruits, vegetables and plant-based protein sources including legumes, soybeans and nuts, along with modest amounts of poultry, fish, milk and eggs, and small amounts of red meat.”

Sir Paul McCartney said, “…[it can start] with just one day a week. One day without eating animal products can have a huge impact in helping maintain that delicate balance that sustains us all.” I encourage you to watch his stunning 5-minute video below One Day a Week, narrated by McCartney, and includes his daughters Mary and Stella, Woody Harrelson, and Emma Stone. Music accompanies inspiring visuals, and includes an unreleased track called “Botswana.”

Replacing all-beef burgers with plant-based burgers into your diet on just one day a week (Meat Free Monday) would make a considerable dent in your personal carbon footprint. (Since Every Monday Matters, this other organization (EMM) also encourages you to Go With Plants). Compared with conventional burgers from cattle, The Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger both generate approximately 90% less GHG emissions, 90% less land use, and respectively 75% less water and 99% less impact on water scarcity.

Demand for Plant-Based Burgers

There is a clear “megatrend” showing consumers are eating more plant-based foods (52% in the U.S. and 65% worldwide), according to a separate study by DuPont Nutrition & Health. “Taste was cited as the top response as a barrier to consuming plant-based food.” With the benefits of plant-based burgers, especially their taste, the meat-substitutes market is projected to continue its steady growth ($6.43 billion by 2023).

“It’s going insane,” BurgerFi corporate chef Paul Griffin said. “I don’t think I’ve seen anything change the industry… as much as this plant-based protein.” With more than 100 locations across the U.S. and internationally, BurgerFi serves its Beyond Burger along side of its ‘natural’ all-beef burgers and traditional fare. Another international chain with over 1,100 locations said, “We are out of Beyond Burgers. Due to a Canada-wide shortage and the extreme popularity of [the burger], we have run out,” according to a company Instagram post. A&W Restaurant launched the Beyond Burger in July to its 925 Canadian locations. To keep up with demand, this past summer Beyond Meat announced it would triple its production.

Not to be outdone, Impossible Foods found its way to the menus of several other well known traditional burger chain restaurants. “After slinging tiny square beef sliders for decades, [White Castle] began testing meat-free burgers at 140 locations in April — and it’s become a cult favorite. Now, the Impossible Slider will be available at nearly 400 locations nationwide,” the company said in September. Before the White Castle introduction, the international chain Fatburger (151 locations worldwide) launched the Impossible Burger at its 68 U.S. restaurants after a successful pilot test in seven of its California locations. “We’ve had stores selling 80 to 100 burgers a day just in Impossible Burgers,” said Fatburger CEO Andrew Wiederhorn. “It’s been in high demand.” Adding fuel to the fire, earlier this year the Impossible Burger also became Kosher.

Across the pond, the upstart Moving Mountains secured a supply deal to the United Kingdom’s Marston’s 413 food pubs nationwide. “We are delighted that Marston’s has chosen us to supply our [plant-based] B12 Burger across the whole of the UK…,” said Simeon Van Der Molen, CEO of Moving Mountains. It’s probably safe to say that the B12 Burger will make its way to more and more eateries as time goes on.

Where You Come In

With all the demand for plant-based burgers you’re probably wondering, “why haven’t I had one yet?” Or maybe you have and you’re already part of the food revolution. Either way, nearly all signs point to a future of not just more plant-based foods, but our new favorites, plant-based burgers. We’re ‘talk’n about a revolution’ after all.


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All of the Above

Guitars

If you’re like me, every time you go inside a music store you want to play all the guitars. Even when I couldn’t play a chord, I still wanted to play them all!

When contemplating what we can do in the face of dramatic climate changes, there are numerous paths we individuals can take. In fact, knowing the seemingly impossible task of turning our Titanic of a civilization around with each of its depleting systems, and yet seeing the options before us and the headway of change already begun, leaves me feeling more energized and optimistic than ever. Seeing the beast before us, we can slay it! True, we are in an allegory of David and Goliath, but you know who wins that battle.

On the ground, other battles are being waged. Hurricane Irma has devastated the Caribbean and is beginning to unleash her fury on the U.S. as Floridians have evacuated in mass. All this while the full scope of tragedy has only recently taken shape with Hurricane Harvey leaving Houston literally submerged, with at least 70 fatalities and estimates of over $150 billion in damage. If there is any consolation, and there is not much, it’s that while old-school energy production was shut down or shuttered for days or weeks, renewable energy like wind kept on producing, albeit with some issues and under treacherous circumstances.

These storms make the clear case that a focus on resiliency is key. Resiliency is our ability to adapt and bounce back when things don’t go as planned, and it begs for an “all of the above” energy strategy. By diversifying our energy supply while ultimately relying less and less on fossil fuels, provides us with the greatest security in cases of severe weather and other cataclysmic events such as war, earthquakes, and the like.

Where each of us can make a difference, is in a similar “all of the above” strategy when it comes to the many solutions available to sequester and reduce heat-trapping emissions. Individually, we just need to choose one or more areas where we feel the most passionate or where we can make the greatest impact. Then collectively and working in parallel, we can solve the climate crisis. The obvious benefit is in restoring the world’s environmental balance, and leaving a hopeful future for our children.

If you love cars, why not join the zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) revolution in your area? Or if you’re a foodie, why not incorporate more plant-rich meals in your diet and learn about the plethora of ways to improve food supply and the reduction of waste? If you’re a mom or care about the health and welfare of women and girls, why not get involved in education programs that lay foundations for girls in underdeveloped areas to live happy fulfilled lives? The list of solutions truly goes on and on, and it’s all about finding the area where you can get involved.

In a world that is changing all around us like never before, creating a foreboding sense of uncertainty and anxiety, this list of Solutions from Project Drawdown is an exciting, provocative, and important remedy and resource that should inspire you and others to be part of the global warming solution. So why not consider today the area where you will make your biggest contributions?

BGVillage_momanddaughter
Mother and daughter: Boys & Girls Village, Connecticut

If you’re new to Sustainability X, welcome! We will present solutions to the climate change crisis over the coming weeks and months, and how you can get involved. Please join our movement and follow us by clicking the “FOLLOW” link in the footer below!