Are you a closet Flexitarian?

Yesterday’s’ co-ordinated vegan rights protest, blocking off Melbourne streets and causing chaos at various farms and abattoirs around Australia, may well become a defining moment in our future food landscape.

Over a decade ago, when I first worked with Farmers and Horticulture groups, I suggested there was the beginning of a consumer-led desire to reconnect to the land and its produce and an increasing questioning of where our foods were grown and how.

We spoke about how we could best answer these questions and thought it might be possible to take a generic non-descript piece of fruit or vegetable and give it its own distinct humanesque brand.

Back then, the rise of QR codes and increased smart phone ownership also meant it might soon be possible to take consumers on a digital journey from seed to table.

About 6 years later, after keeping a watchful future-eye on our changing food consumption trends and future food expectations, I hypothesised the rise of Veganism, once considered fringe and alternate, would soon become a major cultural and dietary movement that would literally take the world by storm.

So, fast forward to today and here’s what’s next – we’re becoming Flexitarianist’s.

Someone whose diet will be mostly plant-based with the occasional inclusion of meat.

aka reducetariant’s and/ or lessetarianist’s – but they just sounds too strange to me.

In the past 6 months I’ve had foresight discussions and strategy sessions with some of Australia’s and the world’s largest meat producers and their research shows a strong increase in meat consumption moving forward, mostly due to rising population and the growth of the middle class, but more interestingly that per capita, meat consumption is dropping.

My take is that by 2025 the average Australian will have 3 meat included meals per week, the rest will be a mixture of vegetable, plant and alternate proteins – including plant based non-animal meats, such as Impossible Meats and Beyond Meats, that are literally taking the food planet by storm.

But this future story takes another twist.

If we are going to significantly shift to a plant-based diet, how do we grow more, with less land, less water and less labour?

There are solutions, but they’re departures from our traditional ways of farming.

Technology will step in with artificial thinking to increase yields, help select best crops, reduce the need for water and fertiliser and with artificial robot and autonomous hands to plant, weed, and harvest.

Perhaps vertical skyscraper hydroponic farms which have 365 day a year yields – literally going up, first floor beans, second floor potatoes, third floor tomatoes, may add huge constant production on a relatively small piece of land.

But beyond this, is even a deeper issue, the need to revisit what we eat.

White rice, white flour and generally anything “white” is a result of an intense water and resource heavy post-harvesting process that was originally purposeful in increasing shelf life and logistics.

But today, given that we shop differently, more frequently and that we are more willing to experiment with the foods we eat, should we return to growing and eating less intensive and resource demanding wholefoods and ancient grains?

Not since the 1950’s, when huge influx of migrants to Australia brought with them unique European, and a few decades later Asian foods, have we seen such a discussion and radical changing of what we eat.

The future of food debate needs to continue, if we are to feed our increasing population.

But the solution is not, as the protestors wish us to believe, a simple one-size vegan diet fits all solution.

The future of food consumption is more likely to be found in our journey towards flexitarianism.

Do we need the radicalisation of this issue and the street / farm protests? Most probably not. But it did get us talking about it.

So instead, let’s get together and have a more tempered discussion on the future of food and what we need to do now to get us to the best version of our future food-eating selves.

Coincidently, because I’m a futurist and saw this issue coming, last Sunday I chatted on-air in my regular segment on Australia Overnight, about the future of food, take a listen now…

Future of Food
3AW Australia Overnight with Alan Pearsall – –
recorded 7 April 2019 – 17 minutes

Eye on the Future - Apr 9, 2019 | Agriculture, All, Business, Food, Health, Horizon Trends, People, Retail, Social, Technology, Transport