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Eating differently against the climate crisis | Part 2 meat and fish

After Part 1 here now the 2nd episode of my series about our diet in the climate crisis:

Scientists call them "Big Points", in other words, crucial points where we can do a lot against the climate crisis with little effort, without having to change our lives too much. These are:

  • Mobility (cycling, walking, rail and public transport instead of cars and airplanes)
  • heizen
  • clothes
  • Nutrition and especially the consumption of animal products, especially meat.

The rainforest burns for our hunger for meat

The ingredient lists and nutrient information of many finished products read like a bad mix of chemistry textbooks, environmental destruction, doctors nightmare and instructions on obesity: Most products contain too much sugar, too much salt, abundant animal fats, and palm oil from deforested Rainforest areas and meat from conventional cattle breeding. There the fatteners feed their cattle, pigs and chickens with concentrated feed, for the ingredients of which the Rainforests are disappearing. According to the environmental protection organization, more than two thirds (69%) of the rainforest destructionLess meat, less heat“(Less meat, less heat) on the account of the meat industry. The Amazon forest gives way mainly to cattle breeders and soy manufacturers who process their harvest into fodder. 90 percent of the deforested and burned Amazon areas are used for animal husbandry.

Around the world, animal husbandry already causes around 15 percent of man-made greenhouse gas emissions. In Germany around 60% of the agricultural area is used for meat production. There is then no space for plant-based foods to feed people.

Fish will be out soon

Fish not convincing as an alternative to meat. There is simply too little for our hunger. Nine out of ten large fish have already been taken out of the seas and oceans. There are also enormous amounts of so-called by-catch. These are fish that get caught in the nets without being used. The fishermen throw them overboard again - mostly dead. If things continue as before, the seas will be empty by 2048. Wild saltwater food fish will then no longer exist. Since 2014, fish farms have been supplying more fish than the oceans worldwide.  

This is how aquaculture becomes more sustainable

Even aquacultures still have a lot of room for improvement when it comes to sustainability: salmon, for example, is mainly fed with fish meal from other fish. The animals live - like cattle and pigs in factory farming on land - in a confined space and are often infected with contagious diseases. To keep this in check, the breeders feed their fish with antibiotics, which we then eat with them. The result: numerous antibiotics no longer work in humans because the germs have developed resistance. In addition, the excrement of the farmed fish over-fertilizes the surrounding waters. The ecological balance is better with organic fish farms. Those who adhere to the rules of organic farming associations, for example - as on organic farms - are only allowed to give antibiotics to animals that are really sick.

After a Investigation by the Öko-Institut Only two percent of the fish eaten in Germany comes from local aquaculture. This delivers 20.000 tons of fish annually. The authors recommend fish from local breeding, especially carp and trout, which are not fed with fish meal. The fish farmers should use closed water cycles and renewable energies and above all feed their animals with environmentally friendly substances such as microalgae, oilseeds and insect protein. In 2018 the Study "Policy for Sustainable Aquaculture 2050" with numerous recommendations.

Grilling a barbecue

Vegetarian and vegan are currently experiencing a boom Vegan Products. The share of the US manufacturer Beyond Meat initially rose from 25 to over 200 euros and has now leveled off at around 115 euros. The Rügenwalder Mill  calls their vegetarian products "the growth driver" of the company. Despite these figures, the market share of meat-free food products in terms of total consumption in Germany has so far only been 0,5 percent. Eating habits change slowly. In addition, vegan burgers made from soy, wheat schnitzel, vegetable patties or lupine Bolognese can only be found in a few supermarkets. And, wherever they're offered, they're usually expensive. The products only become profitable and therefore inexpensive when they are sold in large quantities. This is where the cat bites its tail: small quantities, high prices, low demand.

The pioneers of the next food revolution are also faced with this problem: They use insects instead of meat from cattle, chickens and pigs. The Munich start-up Wicked cricket  started producing organic snacks from crickets in 2020. The founders breed the animals in their apartment and soon in a container on the premises of the "Railway attendant Tiel“, A culture and start-up center on the former slaughterhouse site. Around 2.000 types of insects, including crickets, mealworms and grasshoppers, are ideal for human nutrition. They provide significantly more proteins, fiber, vitamins, minerals and unsaturated fatty acids per kilogram of biomass than meat or fish, for example. For example, crickets contain about twice as much iron as beef. 

Disgusting is relative

What seems uncomfortable or even disgusting to the inhabitants of Europe and North America is normal in many countries in Africa, Latin America or Southeast Asia. According to the United Nations Food Organization FAO, two billion people around the world regularly eat insects. The FAO praises the animals as healthy and safe food. In contrast to mammals, the likelihood that humans will become infected with contagious diseases through eating the crawlers is very low. Like many other epidemics, the corona pandemic is a so-called zoonosis. The SARS Cov2 pathogen has spread from mammals to humans. The more we restrict the habitat of wild animals and even consume them, the more often humanity will catch new pandemics. The first Ebola cases occurred in West Africa after people ate monkeys there.

The hungry neighbor as the farmer's beneficial organism

Edible insects are cheap and easy to raise compared to cattle, hens or pigs. The start-up company works in Rotterdam, the Netherlands De Krekerij together with farmers who convert their cowsheds for breeding crickets and locusts. See the problem Founder Sander Peltenburg above all in making people's insect burgers tasty and getting them to the supermarkets. He tries it with growing success through top chefs who serve discerning, eager guests the new specialties in gourmet restaurants. Peltenburg's insect balls taste slightly nutty, strong and intense fresh from the deep fryer. They are somewhat reminiscent of falafel.

The environment and the climate would benefit if we were to eat insects instead of meat: For example, one kilogram of cricket meat requires 1,7 kg of feed, and 1 kg of beef twelve times as much. In addition, around 80 percent of an insect can be eaten on average. With cattle it is only 40 percent. Locusts, for example, also do significantly better than cattle when it comes to water consumption. For one kilo of beef you need 22.000 liters of water, for 1 kg of grasshoppers 2.500. 

In East Africa, people gather their grasshoppers out in the countryside and thus help the farmers to fight back against the devastation in the fields. The beneficial organism in the field is the hungry neighbor here. Other advantages: Insects thrive best in a confined space. So little space is required even for large quantities. The crawlers do not produce liquid manure that has to be spread over the fields to damage the groundwater. The climate benefits from the fact that, unlike cows, insects do not emit methane. Animal transport and the operation of slaughterhouses are also eliminated. Insects die on their own when you cool them.

Part 3: Tasty plastic: flood of packaging rubbish, coming soon

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Eating differently against the climate crisis | Part 1
Eating differently against the climate crisis | Part 2 meat and fish
Eating differently against the climate crisis | Part 3: Packaging and Transport
Essen against the climate crisis is different | Part 4: food waste

Written by Robert B. Fishman

Freelance author, journalist, reporter (radio and print media), photographer, workshop trainer, moderator and tour guide

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