I believe in living as naturally, minimally, and sustainably as possible.” — Emily von Euw
I stopped eating meat in 2010. My decision was the based on an aversion to chewing on someone else’s flesh and the unnecessary degradation to animals and the environment. I’ve been a pescatarian ever since. However, an article in the National Geographic states that all the world’s seafood will be gone by 2048 except for jellyfish, and has encouraged me to reconsider a plant-based diet.
I’ve tried veganism before and it didn’t go well. My love for cheese was part of the issue but ultimately, reconsidering protein came down to a silent battle with anemia that encouraged my decision to add fish back into my diet. I also felt just the slightest bit of guilt for being the odd fellow at the table who politely refused everything on the menu; an imposition to the host as I tried to look cheerful filling a plate with spinach and buns. But all of this has changed.
“Our food system is probably the number one issue our generation is going to face as a policy issue, as an environmental issue..” – Eve Turow
Veganism has become more mainstream. Data shows that a plant-based diet is no longer limited to those individuals who promote animal welfare but is extending to a much larger portion of the population. Individuals who seek a cleaner diet to preserve their health and the health of the environment are consuming more plant-based foods and looking for meat and dairy alternatives.
Thanks to Instagram and the surge of food photography across social media, millennials are more aware of environmental issues and problems with our food system. Eve Turow, the author of A Taste of Generation Yum, claims that millennials are obsessed with branding themselves, using channels such as Instagram for shameless self-promotion, and yet have the most power to demand change.
Turow’s argument stems from the idea that we (millennials) are a generation of narcissists. And I wouldn’t disagree.
Turow claims that millennials spend an excessive amount of time on food styling and select organic foods over processed as a symbol of status and income. Yet, she also states that millennials are the ones asking probing questions, holding companies accountable, and raising awareness for a food culture reform.
I realize that even entertaining the idea of a vegan diet comes from a position of privilege. And I’m guilty of oversharing food photos; my coffee cold and eggs rubbery, all for a handful of ‘likes’ and emoji comments from people I’ve (rarely-ever) met in person.
But acknowledging this fact and taking the steps (however small) toward change is powerful. And it’s catching on.
“The traditional food industry is ripe for disruption because it is inefficient, inhumane and in need of an overhaul.” – The Economist
Companies from Silicone Valley have recognized that one of the main issues people face when giving up meat and other animal products is in the taste of plant-based foodstuffs. These companies identified that individuals want the taste of meat and cheese in their food. It’s tasty and savory in a way that (most) vegan meals cannot provide.
Impossible Foods, a startup that raised $75m to develop plant-based meat and cheese imitations, is one of many startup companies that aims to transform food culture by mimicking the taste of meat and dairy in plants. The project has received funding from Khosla Ventures, Google Ventures, Mr. Li’s Horizons Ventures and Bill Gates.
As more world leaders encourage environmental sustainability and use science to accommodate for human behavior, there’s less room to excuse ignorance. In the past, companies provided for that small percentage of individuals who willingly aspired to a plant-based diet. Today, startups are targeting people who love meat and dairy products, which means replicating the meat and cheese flavors that people crave.
Patrick Brown, a Stanford biochemistry professor and founder of Impossible Foods, has found a way to select specific proteins and nutrients from greens, seeds, and grains to recreate the wonderfully complex experience of meat and dairy products. Brown and his team, a group of molecular biologists, biochemists, and physicists, have been working on replicating the unique flavors and textures in hamburger patties.
The secret ingredient that gives the burger its juicy full taste is called heme; a compound found in all living cells, including plants. Heme contains iron so, when it’s exposed to oxygen the hamburger patty turns red and replicates the experience of eating a juicy red piece of meat.
“The food movement is really a communitarian movement.” – Michael Pollan
I’m not big on labels and I’m not going to call myself a vegan. I simply aspire to live with a more attentive and appreciative attitude and make small strides to understand how my actions affect the future of the food economy and environment. This is a good place to start and a small ask we can all contribute towards.
So far, and to sound completely pretentious, the struggle has been real. The other night I ate a cinnamon bun and a bag of chips for dinner due to lack of preparation and exhaustion. I understand that I need to spend more time planning and have chosen a few plant-based recipes from Emily Von Euw, the author of This Rawsome Vegan Life to add to my dinner rotation
And wouldn’t you guess, I discovered Euw on Instagram! Euw is one of the many Instagrammers who creates a dialogue around social issues by sharing visually engaging media that inspires her audience and encourages action.
Even if that action is something simple as replicating the delicious vegan mac ‘n cheese.
The virality of social media is truly potent. It provides such a grand landscape for individuals to express themselves, connect with like-minded creatives, and share their vision for a better world.
I tend to agree with Turow in that we need to be physically present for a shift to take place; it’s not enough to post a picture and call it a day. But there’s strength in numbers, and as more individuals strive for social accountability and awareness I think we’ll see a new attitude develop towards food consumption.
And if your starting point and initial contribution is posting a flatlay food photo and adding a handful of hashtags, go for it. Any action is better than no action at all.
Happy eating, friends!
Featured Image | Julien Sister via Stockstap