A few months ago, I described a segment on the Chinese state television’s English channel about food as part of the “low carbon life” in China. The program explored this new lifestyle through the burgeoning vegetarian restaurant scene in Beijing, and a handful of consumers who claimed to eschew meat out of consideration for the environment. It was a bit narrow in focus but suggested that some people are making this connection, and reducing their meat consumption as a consequence.
The question of whether the Chinese are indeed considering the climate impact of their food choices is one of many I am asking during my travels in China this month on my Innovations Grant. Meat consumption is rising at a fierce pace in China; according to the most recent figures from the FAO, beef consumption in China will increase by 1.5 million tons and sheep meat by more than 1 million tons within the decade (both products are benefiting from a current hotpot craze, supplanting ever-popular pork in many urban restaurants). This is a phenomenon that has many experts (especially those in the West) from the food security, public health, food safety, animal welfare, and environmental communities in a tizzy. I can say that two weeks in I don’t perceive most urban consumers in Beijing as pondering the environmental costs of their beloved pork-filled dumplings or roast duck or beef-garnished noodles or food production in general. Read More >