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Experts Weigh in On How Sustainability Now Preserves the Future

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Paul Willis

Farmer and Founder, Niman Ranch Pork Company

What innovations are being made to curb the environmental impact of food production?

Do you call it innovation when you return to traditional farming practices and raise animals with care? Our farmers operate biodiverse systems that are diversified and environmentally sound. We have a delivery system for smaller farmers to reach the marketplace. Essentially, we are the opposite of industrialized monocultures who continue to centralize and grow.

How can the everyday consumer make a difference?

You ask where your food comes from and more importantly, how it is raised. Whether it is an apple, carrot or meat product, it is always important to ask those questions. Try to support what you believe is best for the animal, the farmer, the environment and the customer.

Is organic synonymous with sustainable?

I think organic, on a diversified farm, would be considered sustainable, but, an organic monoculture might not. Some of our farmers also raise organic crops, but for most, raising hogs on the farm becomes part of the crop rotation. Nutrients produced by the animals enrich the soil. Knowing your farmers and how they farm is synonymous with sustainable.

How can we responsibly and sustainably eat meat?

Know that the animals are raised with care. Consume better meat. Eat responsibly and have a better culinary experience. We don’t want to feed the world — we want to feed the world better. Getting meat from animals raised responsibly is sustainable.

Is it more expensive for the consumer to eat sustainably?

Sustainable food is the only affordable choice in the long run. The overuse of antibiotics has created significant health care costs associated with antibiotic resistance. Long term thinking is better for our children, the animals, customers and the environment. Paying slightly more for quality food is worth the planning involved for a sustainable future.

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Erin Kim

Communications Director, New Harvest

What innovations are being made to curb the environmental impact of food production?

Cellular agriculture (the growing of agricultural products made from the cell level through biotechnology — including meat, milk and eggs) is an emerging area with a lot of potential. Being able to produce meat and other animal products without animals could allow people to continue eating foods they love without as many negative environmental impacts.

How can the everyday consumer make a difference?

Cellular agriculture for meat and eggs is new, but it’s used in many foods we already eat, like rennet for cheese and thickening ingredients for ice cream. Food is personal — different people value different things, but consumers can, and should, become familiar with the scientific processes which are already present in our food and make decisions from there.

Is organic synonymous with sustainable?

In my opinion, no. Not for the realities that our food system faces now and into the future. And words like organic, natural and sustainable mean different things to different people. There isn’t a lot of consensus when it comes to how to implement those ideas in a broader context.

How can we responsibly and sustainably eat meat?

Probably every single one of us could stand to eat at least a little bit less meat. But with cellular agriculture, the hope is that it will allow people to satisfy their desire or need to eat meat in a more sustainable way.

Is it more expensive for the consumer to eat sustainably?

Yes — for now, anyway. I think usually the cheaper option when it comes to food (and other products) is not the one that’s healthier, tastes better or better for the planet. There are always tradeoffs. Unfortunately, when something is affordable, it’s at the expense of something else.

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Monica Klausner

Co-Founder, Veestro

How can the everyday consumer make a difference?

Eating more plants (thereby reducing the amount of animal products consumed) is one of the easiest ways to make a difference. The change does not have to be drastic; swapping out meat for plant-based meals once or twice per week is a small change that has a big impact on environmental resources such as water, land and climate.

Is organic synonymous with sustainable?

Not exactly. “Certified Organic” means that strict guidelines were followed in the production of the product, but these guidelines do not currently require that farming methods be specifically sustainable. Sustainability is a much more holistic style of farming where the entire lifecycle of the product is taken into account — from the soil all the way through to the market.

How can we responsibly and sustainably eat meat?

For me, personally, the most responsible and sustainable way to eat meat is to not eat it at all. I do understand that this may not be realistic for everyone. In that case, my recommendation is to reduce the amount of meat you consume, and make sure the meat was raised in a more humane way.

Is it more expensive for the consumer to eat sustainably?

That depends on how you look at it. It might cost more money now to buy sustainably grown organic products, but the alternative will definitely be more expensive later. If we don’t take these sustainability issues seriously, we will be faced with even higher costs of health insurance, shortages of food, water and land and the ultimate devastation of our environment.

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