Shouldn't governments and businesses be solving these problems, not individual consumers?
The Two Strategies encourage you to change what you eat, in order to change the food system. But should the onus really be on individual consumers to change the food system? Rather than expecting consumers to choose the best products themselves, shouldn’t governments pass policies and regulations that make food production more sustainable and humane to animals? Shouldn’t farmers and food companies make sure food is produced in ethical ways?
Well, yes. Policy and regulation are essential. There are many ways that local, state and national governments can protect farm animals, can protect workers, and can make agriculture more sustainable. We should push for these policies and regulations. Food producers have a responsibility to produce food in ethical ways, and we should hold them accountable.
But changing how our food is produced won’t solve all our food system problems. We need to change what we consume, and how much of it we waste, not just how we produce our food. Even if our meat is produced in more sustainable ways, eating less meat — and producing less meat — is still environmentally beneficial. Even if our food is produced with less waste involved, we consumers should still reduce our own food waste, because consumer food waste is a significant part of total food waste.
There are ways that governments and the private sector can encourage the adoption of plant-based diets and encourage consumers to reduce food waste. For example, governments could adopt policies about meat alternatives in school lunches, and food retailers could increase the availability of meat alternatives in stores and restaurants. Awareness raising campaigns and commercial marketing could inform the public about the environmental benefits of plant-based diets. Some have suggested that governments could reduce consumer purchases of meat by adopting taxes on meat, or specifically on red meat, which has the largest greenhouse gas footprint. Additionally, governments could shift subsidies that currently incentivize the production of crops used for animal feed and use public funds to support farmers producing plant-based food for human consumption. Similarly, governments can help to reduce food waste by imposing organic-waste-to-landfill bans or mandating that businesses which generate edible excess food redistribute or redirect this food to charity (rather than trashing or even composting it). Governments can also regulate date labels to reduce consumer confusion about when food is safe to eat. State and local policies can be enacted to promote nutrient cycling in the food system by encouraging scrap feeding of livestock and establishing municipal compositing programs, or reducing barriers to operating community compost systems.