By Meg Adelman, RN, BSN, MPH, Navitas Organics Co-Founder
For the majority of the population, a meal is simply not complete without animal protein on the plate. Market demand has amplified animal production practices across the globe at the expense of public health. An estimated 97-99% of our meat supply in the U.S. makes its way into American’s homes from the dubious production practices of factory farming or CAFO’s (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations). Livestock raised under these conditions are forced into overcrowded confinement spaces, endure inhumane treatment, and subsequently experience substantial stress making them susceptible to illness long before they are “processed” or killed.
With the rise of COVID-19, we began to see problems on the other end of this spectrum as well. Centralized processing facilities play a role in spreading disease through the production line, causing employees to get ill and potentially exposing consumers to a host of infectious viral or bacterial organisms. Five major companies control 100% of the animal protein processing in the U.S. to get meat products onto store shelves. All five of those companies were completely sidelined early in the pandemic because they became hot spots for COVID-19 transmission due in part to the very same working conditions for employees that are used to raise the animals themselves. Immigrants, many of them here illegally, work the production line and are exploited with low paying jobs that mandate long hours standing shoulder to shoulder with inadequate break time. They assemble this way to have the capacity to react quickly to the speed at which animal products fly through the conveyor belts, exposing them to the potential for traumatic injuries as well as cross-contamination.
Let’s put this into perspective. This is what it takes to keep up with America’s obsession with the same poor-quality meat that is linked to devastating health problems that are crippling our healthcare system and the population at large - heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, cancer, and the list goes on.
Research on plant-forward diets repeatedly demonstrates a reduced risk of cardiometabolic, cognitive, and carcinogenic diseases. Specifically, this approach to eating is highly effective to reduce obesity-related metabolic dysfunction and chronic inflammation, known precursors to a wide variety of chronic diseases. Recent studies have shown remarkable potential not just to prevent, but even reverse conditions like Type 2 Diabetes with a plant-forward diet. This diet-related disease afflicts roughly 34.2 million people of all ages (10.5% of the population) and costs us 327 billion dollars annually in healthcare expenditures. The devastating toll of Diabetes on our country continues to grow, despite our having the tools at our disposal to mitigate it.
It’s The How
More importantly, the way foods are farmed is equally relevant to whether or not they are beneficial to human health. For instance, conventional produce that is heavily sprayed with pesticides arguably causes us more harm than good because most agrochemicals are endocrine disrupters or classified as potent neurotoxins. Considering we eat three times a day, that’s a huge potential for repeated exposure to chemicals that bioaccumulate ,or build-up in our systems causing significant disruption to normal physiological processes over time.
Perhaps the most compelling reason for meat reduction is egregious land management (or better yet mismanagement) practices to expand animal production that is deleterious to the environment, and as we’ve learned from this year’s calamity, creates ideal conditions for outbreaks of infectious diseases. Currently, 60% of agricultural land is being utilized for animal grazing or to grow feed intended to “finish” protein animals to keep up with global demand. Critical loss of rainforests, wetlands, and marshes being cleared for this purpose reduces our capacity to capture carbon from the atmosphere, resulting in a minimum of a 30% contribution of greenhouse gasses responsible for accelerating global warming. The threat to biodiversity through loss of habitat is equally concerning, and without natural compensatory mechanisms inherent in the ecosystem, “superbugs” (viruses and bacteria) have the potential to repopulate without any natural controls to contain them.
No matter what your beliefs about what constitutes the ideal healthy diet, the problems and consumption patterns inherent with intensive, conventional animal agriculture are not only problematic to human health but are threatening our very existence on planet earth.
A Diet By Any Other Name Just Isn’t The Same
Never fear, plant-forward does not mean complete elimination of animal protein. This reductionist, whole foods approach means eating fresh foods and avoiding packaged or processed foods whenever possible. Animal protein that is produced using regenerative farming practices is a necessary and vital transition to combat the bleak picture of raising animals the way we’ve been accustomed to doing it and arguably provides superior nutrition when livestock are allowed to roam free and eat native grasses. Without grazing animals to help sequester carbon into the soil, our vast prairie and grasslands lands will be in peril, and animals are an integral part of conservation. When you get down to the nitty-gritty, it’s the introduction of cheap processed foods, whether Vegan or Omnivore friendly, that completely negates the health benefits of choosing one diet over the other. The “plant-forward” moniker aims to encourage healthy eating behaviors that best promote health and longevity, and is also far less restrictive, increasing mainstream appeal. A plant-forward diet acknowledges that some animal protein, grown in precisely the right way, does have a place on the plate, especially if plant foods are always the main star of the show.
Superfoods With Purpose
At Navitas, our purpose is to participate in, and potentiate, an organic plant-forward revolution because we believe in its limitless potential to improve population and planetary health. Our Superfoods with Purpose campaign reaffirms this core value and is an important reason why we bring these hyper nutritious, organic, and indigenous plant foods to the consumer. First and foremost, we do this “For You” to support you in your journey to eating plant-forward so that you can continue to thrive and show up every day in your lives and communities. In the same respect, our superfoods are consciously cultivated “For the Planet” because supporting a global transition to organic, plant-forward eating using holistic, regenerative farming practices will build ecological resilience and begin to heal our planet.
Will you join us in our plant-forward mission? Here are five more reasons for your consideration:
- Overall meat reduction is associated with a decreased risk of stroke, cardiovascular disease, and many forms of cancer
- Inflammation is the principal cause of most disease pathways and eating a plant-forward, anti-inflammatory diet is one of the greatest tools at our disposal to avoid chronic disease
- Transitioning to a plant-forward diet will decrease the insatiable demand for animal protein and result in a measured reduction of greenhouse gases responsible for climate change
- Large scale animal feeding operations (responsible for 99% of meat consumed globally) contributes to poor air and water quality undermining the health of the entire ecosystem
- Plant foods are delicious and energizing! Put on your oxygen mask first and then dive in to uncover your life’s true purpose. We are, in fact, in this together!