Thursday, May 31, 2012


Based on the predominance of the type of diet people consume, population is broadly classified as carnivores (meat eaters) and omnivores (vegetarians) but such distinctions get blurred because there are people who are flexible in their approach to food. Those who are not compulsive meat eaters but can manage with plant based foods are now being called "flexitarians" reflecting their flexibility in choosing the type of food they want to eat. A pure vegetarian can never reconcile to a food which is derived from a dead animal and there are natural non-vegetarians who can be reconciled to a vegetarian diet due to economic compulsions. Recent emergence of a generation willing to switch over to a vegetarian diet is compelling the food industry to come out with products which are not animal based but still gives them the feeling of consuming a meat based preparation. It is some thing like a smoker trying to cut down on smoking realizing its dangers to health. Such products make the efforts of people trying to change their predominantly meat based diets into predominantly plant based foods and this trend augurs well for the sustenance of this planet. Here is a take on this important development.

"Flexitarians — health conscious and mostly younger consumers — are drawing the attention of the food industry, which is developing new meat-mimicking products. One of the latest innovations is soy chicken from the research laboratories at the University of Missouri. The market potential is huge. Only 2 to 3 percent of Americans consider themselves vegetarians, but 4 percent of American eaters aged 18 to 29 choose to eat a meatless meal at least once a week, according to market research firm Innova Insights. The Vegetarian Research Group, meanwhile, estimates that 13 percent of Americans over 20 eat meat with fewer than half of their meals, and 25 percent say they are "working to eat less meat." For Sholar, the driving force was concern about cholesterol. Though the change wasn't easy here in barbecue country, after seven years living the flexitarian life, he's pretty used to it. "Sometimes you're looking to make something taste a bit like meat, a lot of times you're not. You're just realizing you just don't eat meat," Sholar said. High-end supermarket chain Whole Foods is seeing more demand for meals that aren't based around meat, according to Sarah Morgan, a healthy eating specialist for the Rocky Mountain region of Whole Foods. "A lot of our customers tell us that they're looking for some alternatives, and they're looking for new ways to think, instead of this standard American diet that's very animal-protein focused," Morgan said. Many of those customers haven't had to live without the foods they grew up eating.Enter the new Holy Grail for some food companies: vegetarian foods that replicate the carnivore's food experience so they don't feel that they're sacrificing while giving up meat".

In India where vegetarians are supposed to be predominant, it is often not clear whether this situation is due to economic factors or life style evolution. But the proportion of vegetarians in the total population will definitely go down if the economic development puts more money in the hands of the consumers to buy meat foods which are invariably costlier. Those who swear by meat diets are forgetting the reality that, just like fossil fuels sources running out, this planet will never be able to sustain production of adequate meat foods and even if quantitatively production is achieved it will be at a terrible price unaffordable to generations that follow the present one. The very fact that to raise one kg of animal protein one has to waste at least seven times more plant protein must have a sobering influence on the thinking of present generation. Same is true with water consumption. With environmental degradation taking place at a faster rate during animal raising, the quality of air is bound to be adversely affected jeopardizing every form of life on the earth. Global warming is bound to be more pronounced under the above conditions which in turn affect the production of plant foods. Sooner this realization dawns on the humans of current generation, lesser will be the danger that will haunt the world in future.


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