A US social scientist who believes people will stop farming animals by 2100, says New Zealand’s dairy farming heritage could help us become a world leader in the “clean meat” industry.
But industry group New Zealand Young Farmers says Kiwis should stick to what they’re good at – agriculture.
Jacy Reese, co-founder of New York’s Sentience Institute, told Stuff making meat in a lab used far fewer resources than animal farming but required the same distribution channels, culinary preparation and packaging.
“The main arguments, there are many, for the end of animal farming is technological efficiency,” he said.
“When you’re producing [clean meat] you don’t have all of that excess. You don’t have things like lagoons of manure that are polluting local ecosystems – we have a lot of that in the US and it has been exposed by undercover investigations.”
In his book The End of Animal Farming, Reese argues people will stop farming animals during the next century.
He says millennials are often pushing for the shift.
“Young people are thinking very critically about the food system. They grew up as teenagers, let’s say five to 10 years ago, when a lot of these undercover investigations were starting to come out, when the United Nations published a report on the environmental harm of animal agriculture.”
Reese is in New Zealand to speak about his research.
“Australia and New Zealand both have a reputation for ethically wholesome food and agricultural products and I think that provides a huge opportunity for them to take the lead,” he said.
Next week scientists and others in the primary industries will discuss how new food technologies will change farming in New Zealand at a conference in Auckland called ProteinTech.
Jason Te Brake, chair of New Zealand Young Farmers, said although new alternative proteins were being developed all the time and this was putting pressure on the animal farming industry, it was far too soon to say people would start farming animals because of such products.
“I would say New Zealand still has to look at what it’s strengths are. Our strength, which is recognised around the world, is that we have a very clean environment and we look after our animals, look after the land. I think our strengths really are around pasture growing, meat and dairy.”
Younger farmers were more open to changing practices to become more sustainable and using new technology than previous generations had been, he said.
“Being able to use GPS mapping to be able to spread fertiliser and applications like that is heavily incorporated into what we do rather than what is probably the more traditional way of going out and doing it off what you know.”
Meanwhile, a major scientific review published Friday has recommended people reduce the amount of meat they eat for the sake of the environment and their health.
While meat contained critical nutrients, eating lots of it could increase people’s risk of certain diseases, the review in the UK journal Science concluded.
It also said meat production led to more greenhouse gas emissions being released.
Massey University Professor Robert McLachlan said the review was thorough but found it was “unfortunately” difficult to change people’s meat eating habits.
“But change is possible,” he said.
“In New Zealand, the consumption of red meat has fallen by 58% in just 10 years, and is now close to the average for rich nations, and close to recommended health limits on a population basis.”
Fiona Greig, head of nutrition at Beef + Lamb New Zealand Inc, said the paper acknowledged red meat was a good source of nutrients.
“The body of evidence supports a moderate amount of lean red meat within a healthy diet, reinforced by the World Cancer Research Fund Report, which outlines overall dietary and exercise patterns are more important than individual foods. This underpins the New Zealand Ministry of Health’s eating and activity guidelines that includes 500g cooked red meat per week. ”