Can We Eat Meat And Still Tame Global Warming?

This file photo taken on July 25, 2019, shows an aerial view showing beech trees suffering from drought stress in a forest in Warburg, western Germany.  PHOTO: INA FASSBENDER / AFP

Not everyone needs to become a vegetarian, much less vegan, to keep the planet from overheating, but it would surely make things easier if they did.

That’s the ambiguous and — for many on either side of this meaty issue — unsatisfying conclusion of the most comprehensive report ever compiled on the link between climate change and how we feed ourselves, released Thursday by the United Nations.

The core findings are crystal clear: climate change is threatening the world’s food supply, even as the way we produce food fuels global warming.

Rising temperatures in tropical zones are starting to shrink yields, displace staple crops, and sap essential nutrients from food plants.

At the same time, the global food system — from farm to food court — accounts for at least a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions.

With two billion more mouths to feed by mid-century, it cannot simply be scaled up without pushing Earth’s thermometer deep into the red zone, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) “special report”.

More than a quarter of today’s food-related emissions come from cattle and sheep.

“Today’s IPCC report identifies the enormous impact that our dietary choices have on the environment,” commented Alan Dangour, nutrition and global health expert at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

“It is clear that reducing the demand for meat in diets is an important approach to lowering the environmental impact of the food system.”

Double climate threat

The livestock industry is a double climate threat: it replaces CO2-absorbing forests — notably in sub-tropical Brazil — with land for grazing and soy crops for cattle feed. The animals also belch huge amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

On average, beef requires 20 times more land and emits 20 times more greenhouse gases per unit of edible protein than basic plant proteins, notes the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based policy think tank.

For all these reasons, the IPCC concludes, gravitating towards “balanced diets, featuring plant-based foods” would hugely help the climate change cause.

This may sound like a ringing endorsement of vegetarianism, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the world must, or should, eschew meat altogether, the IPCC said.

Besides “coarse grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds,” that “balanced diet” also includes “animal-sourced food produced in resilient, sustainable and low-greenhouse gas emission systems,” the report concluded.

There are likely several reasons the 100-plus authors stopped short of calling for a ban on carbon-intensive red meat.

To begin with, calling for anything is not part of their brief.

“The IPCC does not recommend people’s diets,” co-chair Jim Skea, a professor at Imperial College London’s Centre for Environmental Policy, tweeted in reaction to misleading media stories.

‘Reference diet’

“What we’ve pointed out on the basis of scientific evidence is that there are certain diets that have a lower carbon footprint.”

Observers privy to the week-long meeting, which vets the report summary line-by-line, also note that some scientific findings align better than others with the interests of beef-producing nations.

IPCC reports are based entirely on published, peer-reviewed research, and this one included thousands of data points.

But the final step in a years-long process is approval by diplomats who tussle over how key passages are formulated, including what gets left in or out.

Another compelling reason not to espouse a purely plant-based diet is that billions of poor people around the world depend on fish, and to a lesser extent meat, for protein and nutrients that may not be readily available elsewhere.

“More than 800 million people have insufficient food,” noted Harvard University’s Walter Willett, co-commissioner of a landmark study earlier this year in The Lancet proposing a “reference diet” for optimal health that is long on veggies, legumes and nuts, and short on meat, dairy and sugar.

That diet, The Lancet study found, could feed a world of 10 billion people in 2050 — but only barely.

“We are suggesting a more balanced diet that has roughly 100 grammes per person per week of red meat — a single serving once a week rather than ever day,” co-author Johan Rockstrom, former director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Change Impacts, told AFP.

Meat consumption has levelled off in rich nations, where fast food chains — including Burger King, McDonald’s, and this week Subway — are rushing to offer faux meat alternatives.

But globally, consumption of all four major meats — beef, pork, chicken and lamb — are projected to rise slightly over the next five year, according to industry analysts.

AFP

Meat-Heavy, Low-Carb Diets Can ‘Shorten Lifespan’ – Study

AFP Photo

 

Middle-aged people who get roughly half their daily calories from carbohydrates live several years longer on average than those with meat-heavy low-carb diets, researchers reported Friday.

The findings, published in The Lancet medical journal, challenge a trend in Europe and North America toward so-called Paleo diets that shun carbohydrates in favour of animal protein and fat.

Proponents of these “Stone Age” diets argue that the rapid shift 10,000 years ago — with the advent of agriculture — to grains, dairy and legumes has not allowed the human body enough time to adapt to these high-carb foods.

For the study, receiving less than 40 percent of total energy intake from carbohydrates qualified as a low-carb regimen, though many such diets reduce the share to 20 percent or less.

At the other extreme, a 70 percent or higher share of carbohydrates — such as pasta, rice, cakes, sugary drinks — can also reduce longevity, but by far less, the scientists found.

“Low-carb diets that replace carbohydrates with protein or fat are gaining widespread popularity as a health and weight loss strategy,” said lead author Sara Seidelmann, a researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

“However, our data suggests that animal-based low carbohydrate diets might be associated with shorter overall lifespan and should be discouraged.”

Replacing meat with plant-based fats (such as avocados and nuts) and proteins (such as soy products and lentils) reduces the risk of mortality, Seidelmann and her team found.

The optimal balance of food groups for longevity remains hotly debated.

Many studies have concluded that eating carbohydrates in moderation — 45 to 55 percent of total calorie intake — is best, but others report improved short-term, cardio-metabolic health with high-protein, high-fat diets.

Measures of metabolic health include blood pressure, good and bad cholesterol, and blood sugar levels.

Plant vs animal protein

“Low carbohydrate dietary patterns favouring animal-derived protein and fat sources, from sources such as lamb, beef, pork, and chicken, were associated with higher mortality,” the study said.

“Those that favoured plant-derived protein and fat intake, from sources such as vegetables, nuts, peanut butter, and whole-grain breads, were associated with lower mortality,” it said, adding that this suggested “the source of food notably modifies the association between carbohydrate intake and mortality.”

Seidelmann and colleagues poured over the medical histories of nearly 15,500 men and women who were 45-64 when they enrolled — between 1987 and 1989 — in a health survey spread across four locations in the United States.

Participants filled out detailed questionnaires about their dietary habits — what foods, how much, how often, etc.

Over a 25-year follow-up period, more than 6,000 of the men and women died.

People who got 50-55 percent of their calories from carbohydrates outlived those with very low-carb diets, on average, by four years, and those with high-carb diets by one year.

A review of medical records for an additional 432,000 people from earlier studies confirmed the results, which are also in line with World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations.

“There is nothing to be gained from long-term adherence to low-carbohydrate diets rich in fats and proteins from animal origins,” said Ian Johnson, a nutrition researcher at Quadram Institute Bioscience in Norwich, England, commenting on the research, in which he did not take part.

But carb quality, not just quantity, is crucial he added.

“Most should come from plant foods rich in dietary fibre and intact grains, rather than from sugary beverages or manufactured foods high in added sugar.”

Fibres also help maintain a healthy gut flora, now considered to be a major factor in health and disease.

AFP

Yobe Govt. To Construct First Cargo Airport In Northern Nigeria

Yobe, cargo airport, airport, NigeriaThe Yobe State government is set to award contract for the construction of the first ever cargo airport in northern Nigeria.

The state’s Commissioner for Works, Transport and Energy, Sirajo Wakil, revealed this on Monday in an interview with Channels Television in Damaturu, the Yobe State’s capital.

He said that the airport which would be for ticketing, cargo and located in the state’s capital, would facilitate the export of meat, dairy products, and gum Arabic among others which will be source of foreign exchange to the state.

Mr Wakil regretted that Yobe State was the only state among the 19 northern states of the country without an airport, hence the need for an outstanding one.

He affirmed that the state government had concluded plans for the award of the contract which according to him, would be the first of its kind in the Nigeria’s northern region.

The Commissioner also lamented the non-functioning of most airports in the north, saying they were constructed on the basis of ticketing which ordinarily according to him could sustain the survival of any airport.

He disclosed that regulatory agencies like the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Nigerian Meteorological Agency and the Ministry of Aviation had visited the state for the feasibility survey of the proposed airport and had certified the award of the contract.

Wakil assured the people of Yobe State that the Governor Ibrahim Geidam-led administration would complete all the ongoing road projects across the state despite the tough economic situation.

First Taste Of Test-tube Burger Declared ‘Close To Meat’

The world’s first laboratory-grown beef burger was flipped out of a petri dish and into a frying pan on Monday, with food tasters declaring it tasted “close to meat”.

Grown in-vitro from cattle stem cells at a cost of 250,000 euros ($332,000), the burger was cooked and eaten in front of television cameras to gain the greatest media coverage for the culmination of a five-year science experiment.

Resembling a standard circular-shaped red meat patty, it was created by knitting together 20,000 strands of laboratory-grown protein, combined with other ingredients normally used in burgers, such as salt, breadcrumbs and egg powder. Red beet juice and saffron were added to give it colour.

The two food tasters were reserved in their judgement, perhaps keen not to offend their host at the London event, noting the burger’s “absence of fat”.

Pressed for a more detailed description of the flavour, food writer Josh Schonwald said the cultured beef had an “animal protein cake” like quality to it, adding that he would like to try it with some of the extras often served with traditional burgers – salt, pepper, ketchup and jalepenos.

Even the scientist behind the burger’s creation, vascular biologist Mark Post of Maastricht University in the Netherlands, was relatively muted in his praise of its flavour.

“It’s a very good start,” he told the hundreds of reporters who had gathered to watch the meat being cooked and served.

The Dutch scientist’s aim was to show the world that in the future meat will not necessarily have to come from the environmentally and economically costly rearing and slaughtering of millions of animals.

“Current meat production is at its maximum – we need to come up with an alternative,” he said.

MASSIVE SCALE

The World Health Organization (WHO) says meat production is projected to rise to 376 million tonnes by 2030 from 218 million tonnes annually in 1997-1999, and demand from a growing world population is expected to rise beyond that.

According to a 2006 report by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), industrialised agriculture contributes on a “massive scale” to climate change, air pollution, land degradation, energy use, deforestation and biodiversity decline.

The meat industry contributes about 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, a proportion expected to grow as consumers in fast-developing countries such as China and India eat more meat, the report said.

Chris Mason, a professor of regenerative medicine at University College London, who was not involved in the research, said it was “great pioneering science” with the potential to ease environmental, health and animal welfare problems.

But, he added: “whilst the science looks achievable, the scalable manufacturing will require new game-changing innovation”.

Post said he was confident his concept can be scaled up to offer a viable alternative to animal meat production, but said it may be another 20 years before lab-grown meat appears on supermarket shelves.

He also conceded that the flavour of his meat must be improved if it is to become a popular choice.

Post resisted requests from journalists from all over the world eager to try a morsel of the world’s first cultured beef burger, saying there was not enough to go around.

Instead, he said, his children would be offered the leftovers.

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World food prices fall in May: UN’s FAO

World food prices dropped in May for a second month in a row, hit by steep falls in dairy products, sugar and other commodities, and are likely to fall further in the coming months, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said on Thursday.

Food prices grabbed attention of the world leaders after their spike to record highs in February 2011 helped fuel the protests known as the Arab Spring in the Middle East and North Africa. Food prices have fallen since.

Improvement in the security of food supplies amid the economic downturn was high on the agenda of a summit of leaders of the G8 industrial powers last month.

The FAO Food Price Index, which measures monthly price changes for a food basket of cereals, oilseeds, dairy, meat and sugar, averaged 204 points in May, down from 213 points in April, the FAO said in its monthly index update.

“We were expecting a decline in May, the surprise is the extent of it, which showed that markets for oils and fats, dairy products and sugar all had to make sharp downward adjustments,” Abdolreza Abbassian, FAO’s senior economist and grain analyst, told Reuters.

In May, an improved outlook for crops in some major producing countries, a strengthening U.S. dollar, which hits competitiveness of dollar-denominated commodities, and growing concerns about Europe’s debt crisis pushed prices down.

“We’re in a situation where supplies have improved and we’ve had quite a big spillover from other markets which were all down,” Abbassian said.

The steep price drop in May meant that even if further declines were seen in June, they would probably be less marked, he added.

The index was driven down by a 12 percent fall in dairy prices, a 9 percent drop in sugar and a 7 percent decline in oils and fats.

REUTERS

Nigerian abattoirs are cesspit of diseases- Vet doctors

The Nigerian Veterinary Medical Association (NVMA) has warned that nation  is on the verge of a disease outbreak if the deplorable state of operations in the abattoirs and slaughter slabs are not improved.

In a statement  signed by the national president of NVMA,c Dr Gani Enahoro, the association said   “all the illegal abattoirs including those in a poor state, should be shut down immediately”  to ensure a sound public health.

The Nigerian Police force was also urged by the association to provide adequate security for professionals working in all abattoirs and slaughter slabs.

The association also urged the various state governments to embrace the responsibility of sanitizing the abattoir operations in their states to ensure a sound public health for consumers of  unwholesome meat from the abattoirs.

The statement further disclosed that a member of the vet doctors association, Dr James Etukudo was attacked in Akwa Ibom while attempting to canvass good hygiene and prevent butchers who sell meat from dead animals.