There’s a vegetarian revolution in Brazil. Vegetarians in Brazil? Yup.
While Brazil is famous for its meat and for burning down the Amazon rainforest, the number of vegetarians in Brazil is increasing rapidly. The number of vegetarians in Brazil has doubled in the past six years, which has given rise to a booming plant-based industry that is seeking to make meatpacking plants obsolete. Are you ready for this? 30 million people, or 14 percent of Brazilians, reported being vegetarian or vegan in 2018.
“We’re going through a revolution,” said Bruno Fonseca, a co-founder of New Butchers, one of several new Brazilian companies that make plant-based versions of animal-based protein, including burgers, chicken breast alternatives and even salmon.
My oh my, the times are changing! There are now millions of vegetarians in the country, even more are moving that direction, and the range of food choices they have grows every year.
A recent Harris poll, showed that 3.2 percent of U.S. adults, or 7.3 million people, follow a vegetarian-based diet. In addition, 10 percent of U.S. adults, or 22.8 million people, say they largely follow a vegetarian-inclined diet. The study also indicates that of the non-vegetarians surveyed 5.2 percent, or 11.9 million people, are “definitely interested” in following a vegetarian-based diet in the future.
Businesses are starting to notice this sea-change, and to offer more vegetarian choices. From the Earth Burger Veggie Burger Stand in Texas to the sofritas options at the Chipotle Mexican Grill chain, it seems there are more vegetarian choices available in restaurants every day. Meanwhile, the food manufacturers are making meat substitutes more real like than ever and some are even hyper-real. For instance, one company is developing a burger that actually bleeds. Don’t worry it’s plant based blood!
It seems that the environmental groups are finally starting to acknowledge the benefits of eating plant-based foods for the environment, and leaders such as Al Gore have chosen to switch to a vegan diet.
On the health front, Dean Ornish’s groundbreaking study into the ability of lifestyle changes, including a plant-based diet, to reverse heart disease, was published back in 1990, and was followed by studies into both heart disease and many other diseases by doctors around the world, but it is only more recently that mainstream doctors are starting to recognize that dietary changes should be standard practice for patients with certain common conditions. The announcement that the president of the American College of Cardiology, Kim Williams MD, prescribes a plant-based diet to his patients and is himself a vegan, brought the issue to the forefront of the medical world as never before.
Increasing numbers of athletes are also recognizing that a plant-based diet can help them improve their performance. From top runners such as Scott Jurek, to champion body builder, Patrik Baboumian, to Olympic medal winners, it seems that a vegan diet is the diet of champions these days.
Vegetarians are making a comeback in China, yes, China! While we have lamented the sky rocketing meat consumption in China, the growing popularity of meat-based, fast-food restaurants such as McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken, and have been dismayed by the China’s purchase of the world’s largest pork producer and processor, Smithfield, there is a silver lining to this darkening cloud.
A deepening environmental crisis, marked by growing levels of water pollution on the local level and climate change on the global level, combined with counterfeit food and adulteration scandals of the very worst kind, endangering the health of all and sickening many, has motivated a small but growing number of Chinese to return to a traditional vegetarian diet.
One such person is Long Kuan, an early follower of urban China’s growing vegan trend. “It started when global warming was a big issue, and I looked into a lot of information about food’s impact on the environment,” she said. “I didn’t know anything about it before. I was just loving the animals and didn’t want to eat them.” Four years ago, Long Kuan was a pop singer, pixie-faced, in her late 20s, with little pig tails. A song of hers out at the time, “LOHAS Queen,” was an ode to LOHAS – “lifestyles of health and sustainability.” She decided to switch from just being vegetarian to being vegan, after reading a United Nations report that said that raising, slaughtering and processing livestock produces more greenhouse gases than cars. And these days, she says, it’s a lot easier to be a vegetarian or vegan in China than it used to be.
With this growing trend towards the veg-diet, there has been an upsurge in vegetarian and veg-friendly restaurants. One example is Beijing’s Gingko Tree café with its vegan buffet, and flavorful dishes, offering all the taste but none of the meat that many Chinese love. On the menu at Gingko Tree are lamb kebobs with cumin, fish with black bean sauce, a salad, spring rolls and rice — all vegan. Chinese vegetarian cooks have ingenious ways of making tofu taste like meat. And while some purists may feel that defeats the purpose of giving up meat, Long Kuan celebrates having so many different flavors to choose from, with less harm to animals and the planet.
Another example is Shanghai’s Jen Dow buffet style restaurant offering over 200 different dishes. A rich compliment of meat substitute dishes, such as duck legs made out of mushrooms, are complemented with numerous vegetables just as they are – powerfully adaptable ingredients that make some delicious dishes, with no need for artifice. A selection of colorful skewers of vegetables and tofu for hotpot, and a seemingly endless row of stir-fried vegetables, including white asparagus, bamboo shoots, and burdock, and all sorts of melon, are to be found in this popular vegetarian hot spot.
China once had one of the highest rates of vegetarianism in the world, rivaling even India, having been sparked by the influx of Buddhism over 1,000 years ago. This continued until very recently, and it wasn’t very long ago that T. Colin Campbell was able to document the health advantages of a plant-based diet in his famous book, The China Study. Today, with many Chinese viewing a meat diet as a sign of success, and with a growing middle class, a strong shift away from the more traditional plant-based diet occurred. But with that change towards a western diet, a surge in the incidence of western lifestyle diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, has taken place.
While statistics on the number of vegetarians in China are hard to come by, one analyst placed the number at around 50 million people. While that’s not much compared to the one and a half billion people in China, many think it is more than enough to spark a renaissance of its once flourishing vegetarian diet.
France has taken a bold step in the wrong direction and it’s one that, if not overturned, could hurt every vegetarian student in the country.
A decree and bylaw, published in the “Journal Officiel” on October 2nd, forces school canteens to respect a set of standards meant to guarantee the nutritional balance of the meals. Each meal necessarily has to contain a protein dish where proteins are exclusively animal-based (meat, fish, eggs or cheese), overriding the plentiful availability of vegetable proteins. A dairy product is supposedly necessary as the only way to cover calcium needs, ignoring untold vegetable and mineral alternatives. For meats (beef, veal, lamb, or offal…) and fish, a minimum frequency is specified as mandatory.
So, from now on, it is impossible for regular school cafeteria users to be vegetarian, or impossible for them to maintain their vegetarian diet every day, and it will be impossible to be vegan for even one meal. Vegetarian children, who may manage to leave the meat on the edge of their plate, would be forced to have unbalanced meals, as no alternative would be available.
This decree appears to be a short-sighted political move designed to protect the French animal farmers, who have been scared by the success of speeches by famous people such as Paul McCartney, advocating eating no meat one day a week. Let’s hope there’s sufficient uproar by health and human rights advocates in France, for the politicians to see the folly of such a move.