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The book 'Environment, Health and Business Opportunities in the New Meat Alternatives Market' (Eds. Dora Marinova, Diana Bogueva-Koprinkova, et al.) was voted Best in the World in the Vegetarian hashtag#Food related writing category.

I am glad to inform you that this book, which I was a contributor with the chapter "Understanding Edible Insects as Food in Western and Eastern Societies", was recognized with the Gourmand Awards, considered equivalent to the Oscars in the area of food. After this recognition, I interviewed Dora and Diana. 

When and how did you start to have the idea to write a book on alternative meat and the relation with health and the environment?

The idea about the book emerged spontaneously and it was a logical continuation of our previous work related to sustainability of food consumption. We have previously focussed on social marketing and trying to influence consumer behaviour but then realised that people need new alternatives to the established preferences associated with the taste of animal products and meat in particular. It was easy to scope the book, given the boom that is already happening in alternative food products, such as plant-based meat analogues, in-vitro/cultured/lab-grown/clean meat, insects, algae etc. There are also important ethical and philosophical changes occurring in the relationships between people and animals. Increasingly people are re-assessing their values and showing more interest in how food is produced, what is the ecological footprint of food and raising concerns about animal welfare. On the other hand, we have categorical and increasing evidence about the negative impacts of red meat on human health, specifically cancer and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs). There have been many studies modelling the health and environmental impacts of reducing the consumption of livestock-based foods, what we wanted to offer is a book describing what are the alternatives for people to choose. We were ourselves surprised how much is happening in this area. All contributors to the book brought in their expert evidence and opinion. For example, your work on insects, Giovanni, is cutting-edge and skilfully combines tradition with innovations.

So, what are the main takeaways of the book?

There are several strong massages from the book. The first is that the way we have relied on livestock for food production is coming to an end because of the high environmental, biodiversity, water and land-use price we are paying. We should stop projecting endless increases in the production and consumption of meat, but instead should look at meat alternatives. The second is that the market of meat alternatives is booming and places, such as Silicon Valley, have now become the hub of innovation in meatless and eggless products. Alternatives to cow-milk dairy products, such as soy milk, are becoming the preferred option in many not only in China but also in the West. Coffee shops in New York these days sell at least 50% of the coffees with alternative milk, such as soy, rice, almond, coconut, and all this is diversifying the market and presenting more choice to consumers. The developments in this area are not robbing consumers from their preferred food and drink products, but instead are offering them more and better, healthier and tasty choices. A third take-away message is that it is perfectly OK not to eat meat. This is particularly relevant to Western men who wrongly associate meat with masculinity. The health benefits of not-consuming meat and eating more plant-based foods are well-established and in fact necessary to counteract the obesity and NCDs epidemics. We are giving this interview at a time when the world is fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Although this coronavirus has not been explicitly linked to livestock, it is a zoonotic disease. Other zoonotic diseases which have emerged from animal husbandry are viruses such as the ones causing the swine flu and the avian flu. If we do not decrease the consumption of animal-based products and do not change the conditions in which animals are being raised for food consumption, we will be seeing increasingly more of such new global epidemics. 

Did you expect to win the Gourmand Awards and how, if any, this will impact your future projects/idea on the topic related to the New Meat Alternatives sector? 

The Gourmand Award pleasantly surprised us, particularly because we know how prestigious these global awards are and that the Gourmand Committee scans through 100,000 books annually from all around the world and in different languages to decide who the winners should be. As academics, our target is always the scientific readership audience; the Gourmand Awards however look at all books and all readers. It is amazing to be recognised in the mainstream book literature.

Behavioural change in the food area is very complex. We need to develop a better understanding how people transition to better and more sustainable food choices. Hopefully, this award will strengthen our academic recognition, research grant applications and will allow us to further expand research and international collaborations. Food consumption is no longer a matter of only individual choice but has become an issue of global significance. Our message to all people is to re-examine and reimagine their food choices and make them better. 

Thank you and good luck!



For more information on the book:

Editors Short biography:

Dr Diana Bogueva is Adjunct Postdoctoral Fellow at the Curtin University Sustainability Policy (CUSP) Institute and Team Manager at the Centre for Advanced Food Enginomics, University of Sydney. She is an interdisciplinary early career researcher focused on food sustainability and consumer behaviour change. Diana applies her extensive background of 20+ years in journalism, 10+ years in marketing and qualitative research to investigate and propose innovative solutions to address excessive meat consumption. She successfully builds international and local linkages which have resulted in positive collaborations with academic and industry partners across the globe. Diana has published on meat myths, masculinity and meat alternatives. Her work on social marketing and the Sustainability Social Marketing Model (SSMM), including the 4S marketing mix, is gaining recognition and influencing reduction in the consumption of animal-based foods. Diana has published ten first-authored papers in peer-reviewed journals and book chapters and co-edited 4 books. 

Dora Marinova is a Professor of Sustainability at the Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute. She has over 400 referred publications and has successfully supervised 66 PhD students. Dora has conducted research for the Australian Research Council, the Government of Bangladesh, the Australian and Western Governments. She served as a member of Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council’s Panel on Centres of Research Excellence in Population Health and in Health Services Research. Her research interests cover innovation models, including the evolving global green system of innovation and the emerging area of sustainometrics. For the period 1991–2017, Scopus lists her as Australia's top author and 12th in the world in the area of sustainability.