#foodcanfixit, but how?

January 25st 2019

“Food is the single strongest lever to optimize human health and environmental sustainability on Earth” The first sentence of the recently published report "Food, Planet, Health: healthy diets from sustainable food systems” and - for us - quite an intriguing one.

Why? Well… We did not only start Queal because we wanted to grow a food-business. The main reason actually was that we thought - and still think - there is a whole lot to change when it comes to how and what people eat.

This month’s inspirational post is about something you may have already heard or read something about, it might not be written to tell you something new. However, it is written to tell you something important, to keep on speaking up about the subjects of healthy food and its relation to a durable future. As we think that’s really important, and we hope (and secretly know) you feel the same way.

What is it?

The report we’re talking about is a very recent publication by a total of 37 world-leading scientist, from 16 different countries. These experts have been brought together by EAT, a global non-profit foundation focusing on a fair and sustainable food system for both healthy people and a healthy planet.

EAT believes that a three-way dynamic interaction of knowledge, engagement and action is needed for transforming the global food system into a healthy and sustainable one. This gathering of multiple experts in the field of agriculture, political science, human health and many more is a way of doing so. When it comes to the completeness of the information in this report, and the credibility of the eventual recommendations, we think this is a big advantage.

The main goal for starting this research was to set - and eventually achieve - “Planetary Health Diets” for the year 2050: the time in which nearly 10 billion people will live on this planet.

To be able to formulate this “diet” the scientist had to set a scientifical target for both the terms “healthy diets” and “sustainable food production”, about which we’ll tell you a little more later on in this post. Then, as the most important step in really making a change is to act, plans had to be formulated. The end of the report holds 5 clear strategies to instruct governments, (international) organizations, policymakers, businesses and last but not least: citizens of the world, on how to make these crucial transformations.

Why is it cool?

Ok, the actual reason behind the need for such research is not cool, of course. Actually, when browsing through the first pages of the report it’s hard to not feel a little sad and uncomfortable. How did it come so far? Why didn't we think about these almost irreversible consequences of our lifestyles? Are we really going to wait until the moment we not only have to fear disastrous consequences, but also have to face them?

Luckily, when reading on, the scientist state that even though there is no “silver bullet”, and “humanity has never before set out to radically change the food system at this scale of speed” it is in fact possible. At least, if we take action now. And exactly this, the purposeful and dedicated language of the strategies in this report is why we think it’s cool. It’s why we wanted to write about it in this month's inspirational post.

Does it have future growth potential?

Yes, at least: let’s hope so. Here at Queal, we couldn't agree more with EAT’s knowledge, engagement and action framework and think (educating) about this report is step number one. To extra mention the future growth potential and make the connection to the engagement and action parts of the framework too, the following text is about the terms and strategies of the report, mentioned earlier. It’s a little explanation about what they mean to you as (Queal) customer and the connection to our job as a future-oriented company.

The one goal: "To achieve planetary health diets for nearly 10 billion people by 2050"

As stated before, the report starts with mentioning that food is the “strongest lever”. How and what we eat is both the problem and solution for environmental sustainability and human health. By setting targets for the intakes of specific food groups and for sustainable food production, the commission defined a so-called “safe operation space” to ensure a stable Earth System.

This is a pretty difficult language, but it means that the guidelines set in this report will help to achieve the goal of feeding 10 billion people in 2050. In a healthy way, for both humankind and planet Earth.

The two targets: “Healthy Food” and “Sustainable Food Production”.

So we have to work towards a new, planetary diet. But what does healthy mean and what does this diet look like?

“A healthy diet should optimise health, defined broadly as being a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease.”

The most optimal intake of our calories should be retrieved from, according to the researchers, a large amount of plant-based food. A whopping 811 kcal out of whole grains per day, 39 kcal retrieved from starchy vegetables, 78 from vegetables in general and 126 kcal from fruits. Also, a large amount of our protein intake should come from legumes and nuts. As a company, we focus from the beginning on minimal usage of animal proteins and a great consumption of whole grains in form of oats. In this case, when you’re having one Queal meal a day, you’ve got covered almost all calories retrieved from grains! For all other meals let this be a guideline to a more healthy lifestyle and sustainable future.

On the other hand should food production companies have to make their contribution as well and start (or continue) operating within the safe operating space. This requires improvements related to dietary patterns, reduction in food losses and food production practices to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.

The five strategies for a Great Food Transformation.

“Seek international and national commitment to shift toward healthy diets."

Healthy foods should be more available, accessible and most of all: more affordable compared to unhealthier alternatives. Also, food marketing has to be improved and we should invest in public health information and sustainability education.

Clear language, if you’d ask us. And we’re ready for the change. We provide both healthy and cheap meals, try to be as transparent as possible about the things we can still improve on and hope to help you with making an informed choice when it comes to nutrition.

“Reorient agricultural priorities from producing high quantities of food to producing healthy food."

To support both human health and environmental sustainability, we need to produce enough calories (quantity) as well as a diversity of foods. To do so - and to be able to feed our future population - we need to reorient our agricultural land and use it in the most effective way.

Coincidental, we recently published another blog post about the agricultural land you’ll “free” by choosing Queal meals over “regular” ones. As a meat-based diet requires more agricultural land than when you’d consume a vegetarian or vegan meal, Queal customers all together “freed” approximately 1.183.345 m2 of agricultural land so far.

“Sustainably intensity food production to increase high-quality output.”

This one's a bit like the previous strategy, only it focuses more on an agricultural revolution in terms of system innovation. Here at Queal, this is something that really interests us, but also one on which multiple (improvements) that can be made.

We recently set up our supply chain page, in which we openly show you about where our ingredients come from and how they eventually end up in our products. By using the least of ingredients to make the best of a meal, we try to work as efficient as possible. Still, there might be some parts of our system’s processes that could be even more efficient. If we’d make the decision to go focus on optimizing our production-process even more, we will update about it in our improvements timeline.

“Strong coordinated governance of land and oceans.”

Here, the scientists strongly advise implementing a “zero-expansion policy of new agricultural land”. We need to find a way to both protect the (little) pieces of species-rich land and oceans that are left and to feed humanity on the agricultural land already existing.

Once again, we fully agree. Although we do not actively protect an intact ecosystem (could be an idea, though!) we try and focus on how to use agricultural land most efficiently. We carefully picked ingredients with high nutritional value, to be able to create a complete meal with as easy (and cheap) as possible.

“At least halve food losses and waste, in line with UN Sustainable Development Goals.”

To stay within the earlier-mentioned “safe operation space”, we have to substantially reduce food losses at the production side and food waste at the consumption side”. Substantially here means 50% less food waste.

If we’d take a look at your or the consumption of complete foods/Queal here, this is one where you(‘d) really make a difference. Why? Well, most of our products are in powdered form. This means that it doesn’t matter how - for example - the beets we use are shaped or coloured. Then, powdered means dry, which has great effects on the shelf life of our meals.

If you're interested in reading the whole report, you can find it here.

Thanks for reading!