We have all heard the word ‘sustainability’ and in our industry, it gets used like “caramelized”, “de-constructed”, “organic” or “healthy” without actually any understanding of the true meaning. Unfortunately, we have the “band-wagon syndrome” here in the UAE which means everyone does the same thing from Friday brunch, ladies night and sliders just as examples. So when we talk about sustainability, do we really understand the meaning of it and what it involves for our industry? In the UAE we have missed the boat to save the Humour, so I doubt it.
In the current state of industrial food production to meet the ever-growing demand for meat, it’s not a surprise that we feed animals power food to grow quicker. For example, a 40gr chick can reach 2kg in just 5 weeks and a 45kg calf gains 6 times its weight in just 7 months. However how much more steak, sausages and burger we are going to eat? This will damage our environment, ecosystem and as well as our own health. A more vegetarian diet could save millions of lives as well as dollars in our health care system from people with heart disease and cancer.
Today’s food production is responsible for a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and by 2050 it could reach double that amount. Producing 1kg of Brazilian beef creates the same amount of carbon emission as a normal family car driving from Berlin to Rome which is about 1600km. This does not include the damage to the ecosystem by cutting down the Amazon rainforest to create more pasture for the cattle to graze. To satisfy our ever larger hunger for meat we already use 70% of the productive agricultural land to grow food for cattle which makes them our competitors in land use for food.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) in 2014, we consumed worldwide 68.1 million tonnes of beef, 110.5 million tonnes of poultry, 117.3 million tonnes of pork, and 13.9 million tonnes of sheep. This means per head we eat 43.3 kg of meat per year. In addition, 40% of the world’s wheat harvest and 85% of the soya harvest is used for animal feed. Adding water consumption, Methane gas (a cow produces approximately 500 lt per day) as well as the excrement animals produce, the word ‘’sustainability’’ has a whole new meaning for our industry and the way we deal with it. In light of the world food production situation, eco-system and greenhouse gas emissions, it’s simply irresponsible to continue on this path.
So when we chefs create a new menu we should keep in mind “eating for a better and sustainable world” and the same when we come up with concepts for our restaurants. As professionals, it’s up to us and together we can cook for a better and sustainable world.