Image: Nawal Karimi, ‘Burger Time’, Canva, Free Content License
What the future of meat should look like is a deeply personal and contested affair. How much and what types of meat should we eat, and how should the meat we eat be produced?
As one of the primary sources of emissions in our food system, many experts and practitioners agree the production of livestock will have to be rethought in the coming years, but exactly how remains in deep contention. In 2015, Dr Tara Garnett reflected on the potential paths for meat in the think piece Gut feelings and possible tomorrows: (where) does animal farming fit? From different stakeholders’ takes on the solutions to animal farming, the piece spun four futures into scenarios that attempted to unearth the values and assumptions that drive these views and imagine how these futures might evolve.
This new project asks the questions: Does a plant-based meatless future lead to planet-friendly eating or is it going against nature? The alternative "meat" future promises meat without animals - is that a utopian or dystopian vision? Does 'less but better' meat promote a triple-win for animals, people and the planet, or is it actually elitist and unrealistic? And is efficient meat 2.0 the only way to feed the planet and conserve biodiversity or is it the root of society’s problems?
These tradeoffs provide a real framework for conversation about the future. The issues are complex and the debates are often heated, bringing to the fore fundamental questions about how much meat we should consume in the future, how that meat should be produced, and how we’ll achieve that future.
To explore these questions in more detail, TABLE held a panel discussion bringing together four key thinkers and researchers who each tackled one of the four scenarios identified in Meat: The Four Futures. These panelists presented the evidence they find most convincing for their preferred future, what other future scenarios they agree or disagree with, and how they envision achieving their version of a more sustainable and just food system.
Adele Jones is Executive Director at the Sustainable Food Trust. She has been with the SFT since 2013, and now oversees the organisation’s strategic activities. In recent years, one of her major focuses has been the development of a project called the Global Farm Metric - an internationally common framework for measuring on-farm sustainability. She is currently an advisor to the Scottish Government. In 2020 she undertook a part time secondment with the Welsh Government, and in 2019 she completed a part-time secondment with DEFRA, both times working to develop metrics for monitoring the new post-Brexit farm support schemes. Previous to these roles, Adele has a background in geography and soil science.
Jude Capper is an independent Livestock Sustainability Consultant based in the United Kingdom. She is also the ABP Chair of Sustainable Beef and Sheep Production at Harper Adams University (UK). She undertook her BSc (Agriculture with Animal Science) and PhD (Ruminant Nutrition and Behaviour) at Harper Adams, followed by post-doctoral research at Cornell University (USA) and a faculty position at Washington State University (USA). In addition to her research, she is also the Chair of the Route Panel for Agriculture, Environment and Animal Care; the Vice-Chair of the Green Apprenticeships Advisory Panel at the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education; and is on the board of the National Beef Association. Passionate about sustainability issues and the role of animal agriculture in helping to feed a hungry world using fewer resources, her current research and outreach work focuses on modelling the environmental impact of livestock production systems.
Iain Tolhurst is the owner of Tolhurst Organic Farm, where he has been farming organically for more than 30 years. Tolhurst Organic is located near Reading and is one of the original organic farms in the UK. The farm is a “stockfree” farm (no livestock on the premises) and all produce, harvested year round, is sold locally. Iain is fond of saying that he grows biodiversity and the produce is a byproduct of that. He is regarded as a leader and innovator in organic farming and is the co-author with Jenny Hall of the book “Growing Green: Organic Techniques for a Sustainable Future.”
Varun Deshpande is the Managing Director for Asia for the Good Food Institute. He grew up in Mumbai, India, and has a background in healthcare and technology startups. He established and led GFI India for 4 years before moving into an Asia-wide role leading teams in India, Singapore, Japan, and Korea, as well as partner organizations across the continent. Varun is a leader in the effective altruism community and has been named one of India’s leading climate voices (India Climate Collaborative) and 25 Most Influential Young Citizens (GQ Magazine).
This event is moderated by Tara Garnett who is Director of TABLE and a researcher at the University of Oxford.