Q: What do the chaos of the sinking Titanic and the warring orcs of Lord of The Rings have in common?
A: They were both brought to the cinema screens by directors committed to a meatless, plant-based future.
According to stuff.co.nz, Hollywood directors Peter Jackson and James Cameron have joined together to launch a plant-based food business as a way of reviving and sustaining rural areas.
Called PBT New Zealand, the company is reportedly still in the research phase but is considering specific plant-based innovations, including making the extraction of protein from the alfalfa plant more efficient.
Explaining the company on New Zealand TV, Cameron, who owns more than 1500 hectares of rural land in the Wairarapa on which he successfully launched an organic vegetable farm, said there were serious problems with consuming meat. “From a sustainability standpoint, the problem is that getting your protein from meat requires anywhere from 10 to 40 times as much land as getting the same exact nutritional value from plants.”
He also expressed concern at current levels of environmental damage. “What we see is that the rivers and the lakes are extremely polluted here. New Zealand isn’t living up to its own image of itself right now — and the image that it projects to the world.”
James Cameron and his wife Suzy Amis Cameron have been focused on tackling both issues in recent years, having founded a solar-powered school with a plant-based lunch in California and a facility in Saskatchewan, Canada, that processes plant proteins to make food like pasta, sauces and butter.
These experiences form the bedrock for his vision for a sustainable, plant-based future. “I think it’s a way to keep [smaller] towns vital — if we could put ‘plant meat’ factories, or ‘plant-cheese’ factories, or ‘plant dairy’ factories in those places.”
The initiative is sure to face resistance from agricultural interests in the country, which is famed for its lamb and beef production: New Zealand exported 1.2 million tonnes of meat in 2017.
Nevertheless, people on all sides of the equation are aware of the need for innovation. A recent article in the publication Science found meat and dairy farming contributes around 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions, but only produces about a fifth of the calories. Global consultancy firm AT Kearney projects that the global meat supply will drop by more than a third by 2040.
Even agricultural representatives at Beef and Lamb New Zealand, quoted in Stuff, say that people need to bear in mind that the world population will be 10 billion by 2050, and that meat will only be able to feed a small proportion of people.
Lab-grown meat can only go so far. The world may need to learn to open up to a plant-based diet — something it seems to be doing if the $10 billion valuation for Beyond Meat, the meat alternative company, is anything to go by.
Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber