UN Brands Meat The 'World's Most Urgent Problem'

The organization has given an environmental award to plant-based companies Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods
A herd of cows
Animal agriculture is destroying the planet (Photo: Daniel Leone)

The United Nations has branded meat the 'world's most urgent problem' when it comes to the environment.

According to the organization, our use of animals as a food-production technology has 'brought us to the verge of catastrophe'. "The destructive impact of animal agriculture on our environment far exceeds that of any other technology on Earth, according to these founders," says a UN statement.

As a result, the organization has jointly awarded its 'Champions of the Earth Award', in the Science and Innovation category to plant-based companies Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat.

Emissions

"The greenhouse gas footprint of animal agriculture rivals that that of every car, truck, bus, ship, airplane, and rocket ship combined. There is no pathway to achieve the Paris climate objectives without a massive decrease in the scale of animal agriculture [sic]," said the UN in a statement.

"The magnitude of the problem has prompted two entrepreneurs to take action. Ethan Brown founded Beyond Meat in 2009; Patrick O'Reilly Brown founded Impossible Foods in 2011. Both believe that plant-based meat is the future."

The UN praised Brown and O'Reilly Brown for their 'pioneering work towards reducing our dependence on animal-based foods'.

Taste-testing the Impossible Burger and Beyond Burger. Subscribe to PBN's YouTube Channel

The dilemma of eating animals

According to Ethan Brown, Founder and CEO of Beyond Meat, he became increasingly interested in the ethical, health and environmental implications of eating animals.

"These four things kept coming back to me: human health, climate change, natural resource, and animal welfare implications of using animals for meat," he said.

"And what fascinated me is that you can simultaneously tackle all these concerns by simply changing the protein source for meat from animals to plants. If we shift our thinking to focus on the composition of meat versus its animal origin, we have a huge canvas to work from."

Global problems

Dr. Patrick O. Brown, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Impossible Foods  took a sabbatical from his being a Member of the National Academy of Medicine and Professor of biochemistry at Stanford University in 2009 to 'assess which global problems are the most urgent and which he could help to solve'.

"By far the most urgent problem to me was the use of animals as a food production technology – the most destructive technology on earth, he said.

"If there’s one thing I've learned, it's that big global problems are not someone else's responsibility. This problem wasn't going to be solved by pleading with consumers to eat beans and tofu instead of meat and fish. And it wouldn't be enough just to find a better way to make meat; to succeed we would need to make the best meat in the world."

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