Looking Back at Food For Future: What We Learned and How We Plan to Move Forward
How one monthly issue was perceived by our community, and our team
This article is looking back on our monthly issue “Food for Future,” in which we invited you to join us in exploring the impact our daily eating habits have on the future of our personal lives, and the planet. We wanted to learn how far even small changes can go with informative and entertaining articles, specific tips for everyday life, and recipes that could guide the way and inspire us towards a more sustainable way to eat.
If everything we eat is a problem, then what can we eat? That was the central question our editorial team asked and set out to answer when we decided to dedicate a whole month to the topics of food and sustainability. The "Fridays for Future" movement has heightened awareness of how what we do affects our planet (and inspired the name of our campaign), and we wanted to draw more attention to the fact that food not only energizes, excites, and satisfies us, but also has a huge impact on the environment.
There are plenty of scientific reports on the subject of course, but it’s easy to get lost in that flood of information and hard to decipher language. Sometimes it even seems overwhelmingly negative and hopeless, that you’re left with the impression that you can't do anything right and you can’t make a valuable impact. There are also so many bumps in the road, it can be daunting to even take the first steps towards a more sustainable life, especially with the ever present, cynical question looming over you, “Do these small steps that I take actually make a difference, or is everything for nothing?”
Finding the balance between cynicism and optimism, sustainability and practicality was what we found particularly important to tackle in "Food for Future," and we wanted to take the first steps together—with you, our community. We wanted to help inform you, yes, but also inspire you with how small changes can make a difference—and we wanted to encourage conversation and push back, too. So for four weeks we published various articles and recipes on the topics of meat, meat alternatives, dairy products, and seafood. We presented lots of stats, facts, and numbers, but we also aimed to share concrete ideas for everyday cooking and shopping.
A penny for your thoughts
Since this topic tends to be a bit controversial, it was important for us to encourage and ensure that we made space for dialogue to exchange different opinions and ideas and learn more from each other. In the course of the month, we conducted several polls in the app and today, we wanted to share the results with you.
We’re starting with something we found very exciting: When asked whether you would consider a solely plant-based diet to help stop climate change, almost half (45.3%) of you—our community—said yes.
That’s pretty impressive, but as we learned, you don’t always have to go all the way and make that big commitment. Small steps already have an effect. For many people a vegetarian diet (or even cutting meat a few times a week) is a good compromise, and the following poll helped proved that: When asked if you’d rather give up meat or dairy for 100 days, only a quarter (25.8%) chose dairy while almost three quarters (74.2%) could live without meat for 100 days. And what do you like to replace that meat with? The most popular meat substitute is beans and lentils (48.1%), followed by tofu (22.8%), tempeh (3.5%), and seitan (5.8%). If you haven’t heard of the latter yet, our beginner's guide about seitan is a great place to start.
Most vegetarians and vegans in our community said that sustainability was the main reason for their diet (35.4%), others (26.6%) maintain that diet for health reasons, (23.1%) ethical reasons, or (9.8%) because they simply don't like the taste of meat, and only a small portion (5.1%) are vegetarian or vegan to save money–an important point which we briefly address in our article on dairy.
But choosing one type of diet or product doesn’t always have to exclude the other, right? Many people, even if they consume dairy, are still curious about trying new plant-based products. Even though only a quarter of those asked would give up dairy, 37.8% have already tried plant-based yogurt. If you’re still looking for the right kind of plant-based yogurt to try (or try next), our guide can help with that.
Among plant-based milk alternatives, oat milk is your favorite (34.9%) followed by almond milk (26.9%), soy milk (11.3%), and rice milk (7.3%). You can find an overview of their advantages and disadvantages in this article on plant-based milks.
And last but not least, you don't have to give up meat and fish per se, but it is important to learn a bit more about its impact and where to buy it. Most of you buy seafood at the supermarket seafood counter (32.1%) or the supermarket seafood aisle (31.7%), and some others go to a fishmonger (14.9%) or buy directly from the fish market (14.2%). Only very few of you buy your fish from organic supermarkets (7%). In our seafood guide, we’ve compiled a list of the seals and certifications you should look out for, no matter where you shop.
Let’s keep the conversation going
We were particularly pleased about the thought-provoking, informative, and critical comments you left us across our platform and social media channels. There were plenty of inquiries, clarifications, discussions, and dissections. The content we published was praised (“I think it's great that you're doing this!," "Interesting overview, thank you!," "Thank you for that!") and criticized ("What would be the ‘correct’ alternative then?," "I guess it’s best if we all stop breathing then."). It’s true: The issues we raised are polarizing and triggered a wide variety of reactions, but they also held up a mirror to our habits and choices—showing us where we have more work to do and what we need to learn more about in order to do better by the environment.
No matter the subject, there are bound to be diverging opinions based on personal experience and preference. Your input and conversations showed us quite clearly that progress often comes out of compromise—that we can each find ways to contribute to a more sustainable future that suits us, without sacrificing everything we love about eating and drinking. To give you a little insight, here is a sample of comments shared with us throughout the campaign:
On the subject of milk (alternatives):
"Perhaps a thought: the CO2 emissions ignore transport, which adds to the total footprint of rice and almond milk."
"We also prefer plant-based milk. However, even with organic products, this often involves longer transport routes (often the raw products come from far away and are then only processed in Europe) and a lot of packaging waste. And the water quality isn’t the best in a lot of cases. If you then counter this with someone who buys his milk fresh in a glass from the organic farmer around the corner, it takes on a different note".
"If there is a great [milk] alternative, one should fall back on it as much as possible. It protects our environment and our animals/cows. [...] Besides, the alternative is not so expensive that you could not afford it. You could use these products more wisely as well."
"Sorry, but I’m sticking with cow's milk. We like it, we grew up with cow's milk, and I buy mine directly from the farmer. [...]”
"Man is a creature of habit. [...] Real milk is rare these days in our household and only used when plant-based milk isn’t a satisfying substitute. Homemade pudding, for example."
On the topic of eating meat and whether you would eat less if it would benefit the world:
"Ridiculous question. The Earth is being damaged by overpopulation and by the compaction of the Earth's surface."
"So I have eaten meat all my life and I haven't done it for a year. I lack nothing and I have a clear conscience on top of that.”
"Rather less, but excellent meat."
"More interesting is the nutritional value in relation to CO2."
"Super interesting article [on meat]. I think it's great that this one illuminates all pages and describes informatively what you can expect from your own consumption behavior to make a contribution—even if it is only a small one. Keep it up."
"I don't think ‘ultimate nutrition" exists. After much trial and error [...] I have not yet found the perfect diet either, but I have learned that each person's digestive system is individually ‘composed’. [...] I think everyone has to experiment a little and listen to their body. [...]”
It’s nearly impossible to pack all relevant information on a subject as broad and complex as sustainable food practices into a handful articles—it’s even harder to do so in an informative and entertaining way. So it was incredibly heartening for us to see how deeply our community engaged on the topic throughout the month, took time to point out inaccuracies and ambiguities, and learn from each other in the process.
The tip of the iceberg…
From the beginning, this campaign was intended to be an exploration of the connections between food, the environment, and us as consumers—for better or worse. With this in mind, we learned and shared so much, but we also realized that many perspectives weren’t given enough attention. For instance, accessibility and food security are two global issues that should be addressed when we talk about food and sustainability, and yet, they were simply overlooked.
So we want to acknowledge these issues now and assure you that this acknowledgement is just the tip of the iceberg—we’re committed to dedicating more time, space, and effort into exploring these issues in the near future, and making sure that more perspectives are included in future discussions.
What we learned at Kitchen Stories
While we shared our research and findings with you in the Food for Future campaign, we also learned a lot from you—our community. You raised great questions, sparked debate around the world in the comments section, and opened our eyes to our own content and the ways we can do better as a company.
To better understand our role in working towards a more sustainable future, we took a closer look at our archive of recipes to see which types of meals we promote the most. Below you’ll find a rough breakdown of our main dishes by dietary preference:
As you can see, meat, seafood, and meatless main dishes each make up a little over one-third of our total recipes. Although we think this is a great start, we know that we can improve, not only by increasing the number of vegan and vegetarian options for our community, but also providing more ideas and tips for making ingredient swaps that can help reduce our overall carbon footprint. These are lessons and insights we’ll keep in mind as we create more content that we hope will solidify our platform as a resource for inspiration, empowerment, and education.
As always, we’re eager for your suggestions and wishes for our content as well! Let us know what you would like to see more (or less of) in the future—we’re listening.
Published on July 14, 2020