Recent newspaper headlines about the dangers of sugar and the link between processed meats and cancer have brought food, and the way we consume it, into sharp focus.
A typical Western diet high in animal protein and heavily processed foods can have damaging consequences both for our own health and for the environment.
Our predominantly meat-based diets are extremely inefficient. Rearing livestock uses significant amounts of natural resources such as land and water and is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions – producing just 1kg of pork, for instance, produces around 31 times as much carbon dioxide as 1kg of potatoes.
At the same time, obesity rates in both the developed and developing world are soaring as people shift away from eating wholegrains and fruit and vegetables towards heavily processed, convenient foods containing high levels of sugar, salt and saturated fats.
At WWF, one of the ways we are trying to tackle these issues is by working with companies to make their food offerings more sustainable; in particular by encouraging a focus on developing more plant-based meal options. A good example is our partnership with Sodexo, one of the world’s biggest contract caterers, who are in the process of rolling out a range of ‘Green & Lean’ meals to their independent schools sector clients in the UK.
The meals follow 10 simple principles that make them more nutritious and better for the environment. What they are not is pure vegetarian and vegan options – meat still plays an important role in many of the dishes, which are based on traditional favourites such as Beef Lasagne, Fishcakes and Chicken Curry, but it is not always the star of the show. Instead, we have focused on substituting some of the meat with low-carbon, nutritious alternatives such as vegetables and pulses, as well as using wholegrains rather than refined grains, minimising levels of salt and sugar and sourcing MSC certified fish. The new meals also cost no more to produce than the meals on which they were based since sustainable eating need not come at a premium.
We’re optimistic that the feedback from the students will be extremely positive. Sodexo will continue to roll out the meals to other independent schools over the remainder of the school year and we will be looking to develop more recipes to add to the bank of ‘Green and Lean’ meals.
We will also be co-hosting an event with Sodexo at Food Matters Live 2015 on Wednesday 18 November to discuss the work we are doing in partnership, to look across the food industry to consider broader demand for sustainable meal options and look ahead to future trends and opportunities in this area.
The session is free to attend so please do come and join us and learn more about how sustainable meals can be good for all of us, and for our planet.