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‘Animal source foods’ and their alternatives

  • by JW

From upland sheep-farming to food from factories to a short history of meat-eating…


Alan Spedding provides “unbiased briefings about farming and rural life and retweets of stuff that interests or amuses”- which is in turn an Arthur Rank Centre project, so can be considered as pretty solid, with a variety of subjects and perspectives.

This week’s selection looks at rearing livestock – and their alternatives.

Firstly, there is a story from the Agricultural and Rural Convention (ARC) looking in some depth at how upland farmers face harsh realities in post-Brexit England – which might be of interest to the Sid Valley’s sheep farmers:

In July 2023, Marianne Landzettel travelled to Northumberland, England to meet and interview four farm families. The resulting story portrays the difficulties upland farmers face as they navigate compounding crises. The phasing out of EU direct payments and their replacement with a system based on ‘public money for public goods’, combine with high input costs, extreme weather events, and increased market competition to threaten farm futures. While the government encourages diversification to generate more income, the reality of diversifying a farm enterprise is not straightforward nor without barriers. 

Secondly, there is a piece from the Aleph2000 initiative which looks at “animal-source foods (ASFs) in ethical, sustainable and healthy diets” – which looks at ‘Food from factories’:

Various economic and ideological actors are advocating a shift away from animal source foods (ASFs) towards plant-based mock products, insects, algae, and bioreactor-cultured variants. This has sparked predictions of the collapse of animal agriculture by mid-century. More balanced views suggest it could lead to a reduced animal-to-plant protein ratio. However, consumer acceptance remains low due to sensory issues, high prices, neophobia, and mistrust of producers. Mock products are often marketed for their supposed health, environmental, and/or animal welfare benefits but have been criticized for greenwashing. They are often contributing to the consumption of ultra-processed foods and differ in nutritional properties from their animal-based counterparts, potentially compromising the intake of essential nutrients. Bioreactor-cultured foods are more similar to ASFs, but nonetheless face challenges in replicating the biochemical composition and sensory properties. Upscaling production is also a major challenge. While touted as a more sustainable alternative to ASFs, they can still have a significant environmental impact, and may not preserve the ecological, cultural, and social benefits of traditional animal agriculture.

Finally, in another piece from Aleph2000, there is an interesting longer-term consideration of animal source foods in (pre-)historical diets:

Claims of humans currently eating more animal source foods (ASFs) than ever are unfounded, as consumption has been substantial throughout human evolutionary history. Although often portrayed as excessive, there is nothing ‘unnatural’ or biologically aberrant about such levels of consumption. During the pre-agricultural era, ASFs were vital and shaped human physiology. With the advent of agriculture, the proportion of ASFs in human diets decreased, leading to periods of malnutrition and infectious diseases. However, the industrial revolution brought increased access to ASFs, leading to improved nutrition and stature in the West. The current Western diet that emerged in such countries, but is now characterized by large amounts of ultra-processed foods, has led to debates about the health and sustainability implications of current ASF consumption.

Picture source: morning-brew-d5Qohkj5sV0-unsplash.jpg (309×320)