Taste the rainbow. Shutterstock
We cannot afford to #StopEatingMeat. Perhaps I, along with a small percentage of the population, can afford to walk into a grocery store and buy a month’s supply of products that will meet my nutritional needs without buying a single meat product, but the reality is starkly different for most of SA.
This was made obvious when several processed meat products were taken off the shelves, following a listeriosis outbreak last year.
Didn’t the woke brigade come out to remind people that polony is bad for you and we shouldn’t eat processed meats, anyway? And why didn’t people stop? Because unless you can replace that product with something equally affordable with as long a shelf life, processed meats and chicken are the primary source of protein in millions of homes.
There has recently been consensus among some experts on the economic benefits of a world that eats more fruit and vegetables and far less meat – but that world can only exist if plant-based foods and fresh produce are cheaper and more widely available.
Alas, private capital interests drive the price of food, not socioeconomic needs. Not being an authoritative expert on the subject, I leave it to the experts to say why and how it can be changed.
For one thing, most rural South Africans purchase food more than they grow it. So, starting a vegetable garden is a cute idea for someone wealthier, with better access to services, but I don’t see it becoming a solution to rural nutritional problems with the current state of affairs.
South Africa is among the lowest-ranked countries on the Barilla Centre for Food and Nutrition’s Food Sustainability Index (FSI), which takes into account, among other things, the affordability of nutritional foods.
Under the sustainable agriculture category, which considers indicators in the water, land, emissions and land users category, South Africa is in the very low score bracket at 52.4.
In the nutritional challenges category, which looks at how well a country is solving malnutrition problems, we scored 56.3 points.
Argentina, which is the highest-ranked on this index, scored 66.9 and 64.1 respectively for those categories.
Living without meat, I know first-hand the struggle of finding the right plant-based proteins and supplements that stand between myself and malnutrition.
I can only imagine what someone of lesser means (and I barely rank much higher) would have to do to sustain themselves without meat.
I tried veganism in 2010 – and I actually got sick and was technically malnourished because I had chosen a lifestyle that only rich people can reasonably afford.
Do you know how much quinoa and soy milk cost?
So, I went back to being an ovo-lacto vegetarian because of economics, not because I really wanted to.
And maybe its just a passing conversation in the vast information vortex that is Twitter, but #StopEatingMeat does not belong in South Africa. Take it from a vegetarian, who can’t even afford to be a vegan.
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