Theater of Cruelty

Food and drink – a burning political, personal and ecological torch

"Lecker-land" is no more. Nutrition lies and the rapid change in food culture.
Forfatter: Manfred Kriener
Forlag: Hirzel Verlag (Tyskland)
MAT / Everyone eats. Some people know what they are eating. Few people know what they ought to.

The German science journalist Manfred Kriener is a man who enjoys his meals. After all. In the book Lecker-land is burnt down > he puts large amounts of research material on people's eating and drinking habits under the microscope. The result can threaten to take away our appetite, unless we – as individuals, as producers and consumers – make some clear choices.

First some nutrition lies, like that there is "superfood". In the western affluent society, it is increasingly so that things we buy and the food we eat, show the outside world who we are – it beautifies us with individuality and aura. With a significant dose of media hype, the healthy superfood is said to help with colds, Alzheimer's, cancer and wrinkles – it is good for the heart, for the intestines, yes, maybe even for sperm quality. The superfood is called avocado, chia seeds, moringa leaves, goji and açai berries, wheat and barley grass, tulsi tea, guaraná, camu-camu and powdered baobab fruit. The stranger the name, the better.

Poor sustainability

According to Kriener's many sources, the superfood has nothing to do with science, but a lot to do with advertising. The long-distance food jewels – camu-camu berries, for example, originate in the Amazon, – have deplorable ecological footprints, and they are often bad news for small farmers where they are grown.

The popular inca quinoa seeds – protein-rich, gluten-free, full of iron, zinc, magnesium and more – became a problem for the locals in the producer countries of Bolivia and Peru. Quinoa has become an expensive export commodity, and poor families who based their diet on quinoa got less food on the table as its popularity and exports increased.

We do not need an expert to tell us that by eating less mass-produced
meat – or cut it out completely – we are part of the solution.

A general trend among superfoods is that with capital-intensive investors come more pesticides, and an increasing product volume of poorer quality. A positive upcoming counter-trend may be that the goodies find their way to European fields, as has been the case with the ancient superfoods potato and tomato. They also came from South America. Otherwise we do not have to go that far for superfoods
- apples for instance.

"Frankenstein meat"

Laboratory meat – how does that word taste?

The butchers of the future work in a laboratory. In high-tech reactors, muscle cells are isolated, and we get "outside the animal" meat. Some call it "Frankenstein meat", while researchers like to call it "clean meat". The plan is to revolutionize agriculture, animal husbandry and the entire food production in the fight against global climate-damaging meat consumption.

The first laboratory-produced meatball was eaten by two food writers in London in 2013. The meatball cost 250 000 euro. The verdict was: Sure, it does taste of beef. Today, duck, turkey and lamb are also on the in vitromenu.

Photo: Pixabay

The new meat producers want to get rid of everything that is wrong in modern intensive meat production: the claustrophobic enclosures, growth hormones, genetic engineering, antibiotic orgies, resistant superbacteria (MRSA), manure mountains, pesticides, deforestation, nitrate-contaminated groundwater, salmonella, E. coli and sick animals. The goal is to supply the world's population with valuable protein. The road there, on the other hand, is long, uncertain and partly unsightly.

First, the price must go down. In 2018, a small slice of laboratory meat roast cost 50 US dollars. In addition, production requires the use of calf serum for cell proliferation. The association <i>Doctors against animal experiments</i> describes the procedure as follows: “Immediately after the slaughter of a pregnant cow, the fetus is cut out of the uterus. Then a thick needle is inserted into the living calf body and directly into the beating heart. The blood is sucked up until the animal is emptied of blood and dies. "

Good luck with alternative methods.

Hurdles for the production of laboratory meat are several. Cutting to the bone: The main problem persists as long as "everyone" wants meat on the plate. We do not need an expert to tell us that by eating less mass-produced meat – or banning it from our dinner tables altogether – we are part of the solution.

Fish with challenges

The population's hunger for fish plays a parallel role in the nutritional accounts. The sin register is long: a dramatic overfishing, gigantic amounts of "irrelevant" fishing that is thrown overboard [fish you do not have a quota for, editor's note], destroyed seabed, dolphins and other creatures in the net, plastic and mercury in the sea, long transport routes and antibiotic and vaccine use in the farming culture. Suggestion? Again – scientifically produced cell cultures. With the same challenges as with the test tube meat.

Nutritionists advise people to eat oily fish twice a week – at least. Greenpeace, on the other hand, encourages us to refrain from fish, and has its own red list of fish species we should never put on our plate – including tuna. For us consumers, this means a strenuous excursion to the fish vendor, where we have to make an effort to do the right thing in terms of both environment and health.

One of Kriener's chapters is called "Aquaculture – about salmon and lice". Here, Norway plays a major role, and with the danger of overestimating Norwegians' knowledge of the subject, I make it short: The challenges are queueing up, to put it mildly, with chemical discharges into the sea that destroy crustaceans, antibiotic use and more.

The theme of sugar, on the other hand, represents problems and ignorance of alarming dimensions. How many people know that a 250 gram cup of cherry yoghurt in the store contains sugar equivalent to 11,5 sugar cubes, or that a liter of "healthy" orange drink is sweetened by an average of 80 grams, or 27 sugar cubes? The information on the labels is often obscured or written so small that you have to use a magnifying glass to read it.

Sugar is the big culprit

Studies show that the high sugar content in soft drinks is a key cause of, among other things, severe obesity, diabetes and metabolic disorders as well as, of course, caries.

Kriener also states that the sugar sneaks into all kinds of products such as sausages, ham, bread, pizza, canned beans, sauces, salad dressings, sour cucumbers, even cigarettes. And in low-fat dairy products.

Healthy fats were long demonized thanks to fat hysteria, for example extra virgin olive oil and untreated coconut oil (industrially engineered trans fats not included). Fat was turned into a scapegoat for obesity, heart disease and stroke. In recent decades, nutritionists have given way to the real culprits – sugar and carbohydrates.

Neither Kriener nor his research colleagues raise any moral finger. They want to inform and point to opportunities for optimism. It is needed in the fight for the climate, sustainable agriculture and a food culture that can be included in the concept of «the good life», where by the way (only) one glass of wine daily belongs. In the name of health.

Ranveig Eckhoff
Ranveig Eckhoff
Eckhoff is a regular reviewer for Ny Tid.

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