Eating with integrity in the age of information-rich diets
What we eat plays a critical role in determining one’s health. How we produce what we eat is equally critical for the planet. What our modern food system needs most is a healthy dose of integrity.
Few would argue that integrity is at the heart of any major industry. But things are changing, especially when it comes to the food system. Consumers are demanding more transparency as to where their food comes from and how it is grown.
According to the Mintel 2023 Global Food & Drink Trends report, “In 2023, consumers will gravitate toward brands that highlight how products align with their top priorities.” While integrity may not prove a foolproof guide, it hinges along two important axes: transparency and honesty. And if there is any hope of addressing the many crises facing the planet today—food sovereignty amongst them—integrity will prove one of the greatest levers of change.
Consumers drive change
Developing a food system rooted in integrity will demand cooperation between producers and consumers alike. Of those polled by Mintel, 53% of US adults are worried about the future. That figure jumps to 78% amongst Gen Z adults. While the report identifies an important sentiment producers would be wise to heed, it suggests brands leverage “the stars above as a dream destination, casting space as a symbol of hope, positivity, and global cooperation for marketers to revere.” But before we go looking for a Planet B, the soil beneath our feet offers immense potential to begin building a regenerative future today.
“In the coming years, food and drink will emerge as the latest solutions consumers will look for as they prepare for the worst,” the report adds. “A quest for trustworthy information will lead consumers to appreciate brands that support their claims…messaging benefits that are of interest to consumers, such as product versatility and environmental or ethical claims.”
But abrupt change is rarely welcomed by the status quo. Perhaps this is one reason doubt continues to be cast on those on the cutting edge of food, in areas like alternative proteins or cultured meat. Despite this, many of these disruptors are making the most sincere attempts to change the game while preserving culinary traditions where possible.
Now considered behemoths in the plant-based meat sector, companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods were punchlines only a few years ago. To this day, legacy media outlets continue to take potshots at these innovators in favor of garnering misguided fanfare. But science tells a different story whether they like it or not. According to the UN IPCC report, “a shift in consumption towards a broadly healthier diet [could] decrease GHG emissions from food production by 11% [and] decrease GHG emissions from landfills by 20%” amongst other tangible ecological benefits.
Change is gonna come…
It’s no longer a question of if things will change but how. In light of a more nuanced understanding of the ecological impacts of how and where we source our food, we must extend the consideration we give our food beyond our bodies to include the planetary body we call home. Eating fewer animal products is one substantive change we can all make.
The industrialized food system as it stands is antithetical to facilitating a more harmonious future. Industrial animal agriculture is fueled in large part by heavily processed commodity feed crops. 80% of deforestation in the Amazon is done in service of grazing cheaper cattle. Just as a diverse diet of whole foods provides a dynamic landscape of nutrients, so too does the planet thrive with abundant biodiversity. Consuming more plants directly (processed or not) is one such avenue proven to significantly reduce our impact on the planet while feeding the world’s growing population.
Equipping the masses with the means to eat with integrity is a noble pursuit. How we choose to do so will leave an enduring legacy. We believe it is one worth being remembered for.
This is the first article in a series co-authored by Udi Lazimy and T. Callahan of Lazimy Regenerative Impact Partners, 'Eating With Integrity', which will explore fundamental facets of the modern food system, covering topics ranging from diet and nutrition, sourcing and supply chains, to the intersection of food and climate. With more than 20 years leading sustainable food system policy and innovation at companies and organizations such as Eat Just, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Beyond Meat, Organic Farming Research Foundation, Patagonia and others, Lazimy Regenerative Impact Partners hopes to encourage new approaches to the challenges that face our food system with an emphasis on the burgeoning plant-based industry in particular. Readers are encouraged to learn more here
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