Saturday, December 2Food Security Matters

Plant-Based Meat Substitutes: A Promising Pathway to Enhance Food Security

The Marcos administration faces a significant decision concerning the future of food security in the Philippines. The Department of Agriculture (DA) has unveiled a plan to increase domestic meat production by a staggering 500 percent before the current administration’s term comes to a close. However, Roberto Galang, the dean of Ateneo de Manila’s John Gokongwei School of Management (JGSOM), believes that there is an alternative path to ensuring food security while addressing some pressing environmental concerns. In an interview, he passionately argued for the cultivation of the plant-based meat substitute industry as a part of a broader strategy for enhancing food security.

Plant-based meat substitute
Plant-based meat substitute

Galang’s perspective is not merely based on conjecture but on a well-founded understanding of both economic and environmental factors. One of the key issues he highlights is the environmental footprint associated with meat production. Meat production, whether through piggeries or poultry farms, inherently generates a substantial carbon footprint. This footprint includes not only the waste directly produced by these animal farms but also the pollution and waste generated by the cultivation of animal feeds required to sustain these animals throughout their life cycles.

Galang’s statement raises the crucial question: Should the country invest in increasing local meat production through conventional means, or should it pivot towards fostering the growth of plant-based alternatives? The environmental impacts of piggeries and chicken farms, including odor and waste emissions, have been a growing concern for local communities and governments. Many local government units (LGUs) are increasingly reluctant to host large-scale piggeries and poultry farms due to these concerns.

Moreover, as Galang pointed out, it’s essential to determine suitable locations for livestock farms to mitigate these issues. The Department of Agriculture needs to identify areas where farmers and entrepreneurs can establish their farms without causing undue disruption or pollution to the environment.

This is a sentiment shared by Gregorio San Diego, chairman of the United Broiler Raisers Association (UBRA) and president of the Philippine Egg Board. He revealed that poultry farms in San Mateo and Montalban, Rizal, had to relocate due to municipal authorities’ pressure. These farms had to move to towns like Baras, Pililla, and Tanay. Yet, these very areas are now being earmarked for tourism development, prompting concerns that the poultry farms may need to relocate even further away, incurring additional transportation costs.

Another significant issue that Galang highlighted is the extensive use of corn in the Philippines for chicken feed. If the nation were to transition to consuming more plant-based meat alternatives, it would free up substantial areas of land that are currently devoted to growing animal feed crops. These lands could then be repurposed for farming crops directly consumed by people, thereby increasing the availability of food resources.

In support of this transition, Galang also mentioned that several large corporations, including San Miguel, Century Foods, and Monde Nissin, have already established subsidiaries dedicated to plant-based foods. The proliferation of such products could be instrumental in encouraging more consumers to adopt a diet that leans towards veganism or vegetarianism. Promoting these dietary choices could significantly enhance food security in the Philippines while reducing the environmental impacts associated with meat production.

By embracing plant-based meat substitutes and encouraging a shift towards plant-based diets, the Marcos administration could not only address the environmental challenges posed by conventional meat production but also foster economic growth in the burgeoning plant-based food industry. Such a strategic shift aligns with the global trend towards more sustainable and environmentally friendly food production methods.

Roberto Galang’s proposition to prioritize the plant-based meat substitute industry as a part of the Philippines’ food security strategy is a compelling idea worth serious consideration. It offers a sustainable and environmentally responsible approach to ensuring a stable food supply for the nation’s growing population. Additionally, promoting veganism or vegetarianism can help improve the health of Filipinos while reducing the ecological footprint associated with meat production. It’s a bold vision that could secure the country’s food future while simultaneously addressing pressing environmental concerns.

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