Today’s guest is Anthony Warner. Anthony graduated in Biochemistry from Manchester University before embarking on a career in professional kitchens. Frustrated by pseudoscience and misinformation in the food industry, in 2016 he started a blog, which led to the bestselling book, The Angry Chef. He’s also the author of Ending Hunger.
How do you like to practice sustainability in your daily life?
My interest is in food very much and that part most people would do in terms of recycling and energy conservation. But I’m interested in the food system, how we can make it better and more sustainable, and how we can influence that with dietary choices in a way that is fair and sustainable and doesn’t cause a problem. So, most of my focus on sustainability is on choosing the right foods to eat and making dietary changes.
Can we eliminate world hunger and is this a sustainable solution?
A few years ago, I decided to write a book about how to make a more sustainable food system and worry about the general environmental impacts of our food. As I started writing it, I realized that there was something bigger I needed to write about because it’s very easy to say we’re producing too much food and being too wasteful.
However, we also need to remember that overcoming hunger and preventing hunger is probably one of the most important things we’ve ever done. While we haven’t completely eliminated hunger in the world, it has drastically reduced over the past years. It’s perhaps one of the greatest achievements of humankind.
When I’m saying hunger, I’m saying chronic underfeeding of large parts of the population. It had decreased for a very long time until recently when it started to tick back up, which is concerning.
Global hunger is around the corner. But technology changes the way we produce and how we consume food. It prevented those sort of Malthusian apocalyptic predictions that enormous amounts of people are going to go on to starve and the population growth would outpace food production.
But what we want to explore in the book is that we really need to balance calls to reduce the environmental impact of food and, at the same time, combat world hunger. So we need to provide a food system that is not just sustainable but also carries on lifting people out of hunger.
Lifting people out of hunger is the most important thing we can do to improve the lives of chronically underfed people. The more we can lift out, the more potential we unlock, and the more chance we have of progressing and making a better future in our society.
The reason we’re unable to feed people is not that we can’t produce enough food, but we can’t distribute it properly. This is a huge challenge. If we don’t consider very seriously how we’re going to face it, we’re going to end up in trouble.
The problem is that we don’t talk a lot about environmental things all the time. Instead, we need a conversation. While there were global meetings on sustainability in the bidding process today, I still think we’re not talking about food enough as part of that picture, which is hugely important.
If we don’t change the way we consume food over the years and don’t make drastic changes in some way, the consequences of that are horrific. But there is a glimpse, and hopefully, I showed in the book that there is a future that can be brighter, but it requires a lot of work.
What is the issue with food distribution?
People might think this is a rant against animal agriculture because I believe in a global sustainable food system, but we can’t have the exponential growth in animal product consumption that we’re currently doing.
So much of our food production is being fed to animals. They are, however, not incredibly efficient protein-producing machines. So growing a crop, growing soya, and then feeding that to animals is a really inefficient way to produce food–this causes a lot of waste.
This means that there is enough food being grown right now but a lot of that has been fed to animals. Additionally, many people cannot afford to buy food because of the imbalance in global wealth distribution, so food poverty is just caused by inequality and policy. As a result, we have a very unbalanced system where a lot of food has been grown.
Is plant-based protein enough over animal-based protein?
The idea that something’s more natural and that humans evolved to only eat meat is just not the case. For the vast majority of the world, people consume most of their protein from plants.
It’s only really rich countries, like the UK, the US, and most European countries which can afford to eat an awful lot of animal protein. In most of the world, most people get most of their protein from plants. There’s no reason why you can’t have a completely healthy diet based largely on plants.
There is some sort of nutrients that you need, like Vitamin B12, which is difficult to get from plants, but in terms of some of the macronutrients in your diet, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t get everything from plants and still be completely healthy.
There’s no denying that there’s a good quality protein in meat. It’s very good at delivering nutrients to people, and it’s quite good to have a small amount in his diet. The problem is that most rich countries eat far too much animal protein. This is mainly because of culture, which seems to have evolved in some way. For instance, meat and dairy have become signifiers of wealth.
I think there are good reasons to have a small number of animal proteins in your diet if that’s what you want to do. But undoubtedly, you can be completely healthy without it.
Once we’re efficient with our food surplus, will this help us cure world hunger?
It’s obviously very difficult to solve the problems of not producing enough food, but you can probably solve some of the issues around the sustainability and the environmental impact of our food system.
Making the world more equitable in terms of how food is distributed in the number of people going hungry is very difficult. This is because there’s probably more in play than just how much food people have.
For instance, if you go to countries that you think are experiencing hunger, you will see that not everyone in that country starves. Instead, only the poorest people in rural areas are starving while people in cities have plenty to eat. So it is just very much a problem of distribution and people losing livelihoods and not being able to buy food.
But if we can make enough food, produce it efficiently, and not be feeding as much livestock, there will be more abundance of food available for people. Hopefully, fewer people will experience food poverty and food deprivation.
We have made extraordinary progress in that in the past 200 years, the difference in the number of people experiencing genuine food poverty has moved from probably 50 to 60% of the global population. It may be even higher as in the 19th century to today, probably 10 to 12% of the global population. That’s whether they’re massively increased population size as well. So we have made that shift.
It is possible to make enormous strides forward, but we have to make sure we continue moving in that direction and getting input getting people out of the extreme ends of food poverty. It’s one of the most important things we can do as humans.
Hunger is a horrible, awful, dehumanizing force that has blighted humanity for our entire existence, and we have made enormous strides against it. I’m just very keen that we continue to make those strides globally. But at the same time, not destroy the planet with the environmental impacts of that food.
Is there an organization, website, or company where we can donate something to help other countries?
One issue of food waste in most developed countries is that 25% of all the food we buy is wasted, and that food’s environmental impact is extraordinary. It’s something that we need to address.
I think we need to create a cultural shift that will make our overall global food system more sustainable. We are eating too many animal products, and that affects people all around the world. That has a sort of knock-on effect in terms of the environmental impacts of that and it also influences the food system, and the price of some of the commodity crops; the more animal products we consume, the more demand there is, and the harder it is for people to afford it.
So we have to understand that our food decisions are important. As individual consumers, what we can do is consider investing our money into something that is more sustainable. We have to make better decisions environmentally each day.
I hope you enjoyed my talk with Anthony and that you took away some value. If you want to listen to the entire interview, click play below or head over to your favorite platform (Apple, Spotify, or Google.)
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