Carni Sostenibili in Poland

We are glad to publish the interview made by the journalist Tomasz Mocarski to his colleague Andrea Bertaglio for the magazine Polskie Miezo, to explain to the Polish public what The Sustainable Meat Project (Carni Sostenibili) is and what its mission is.


What is Carni Sostenibili, and why it was born?

Carni Sostenibili (Sustainable Meats) is a communication project that wants to identify the key issues, the state of knowledge, and the latest scientific and technical guidelines trends. The aim is to counterbalance the disinformation spread since at least four decades on these topics, showing instead that meat production and consumption can be sustainable, both for health and for the environment.

To date, the debate on meat production and consumption did not consider the point of view of meat producers. But they can, more than anybody else, provide information, details, and data that is useful to correct, where necessary, opinions based on prejudice, if not wholly incorrect. So, in 2012, a group of operators in the livestock sector (companies and associations) started in a logic of pre-competitive transparency to support scientific studies that could show the truth about meat and the livestock sector.

Born from the common purpose of the three main Italian meat industry associations, Assocarni, Assica, and Unaitalia, this initiative (and its website) aims to cover all the topics related to the world of meat. It is an unprecedented project in Europe, contributing with an instructing and informative approach to a balanced discussion on health, nutrition, animal welfare, and sustainability.


What is the source of attacks on meat, according to your knowledge?

As far as I can see, there are two primary sources of attacks on the meat sector, often crossing each other: the ideological and the economic/financial ones. In other words, two kinds of people tend to attack those producing or consuming meat: people following ideologies like veganism and people with interests in making meat substitutes or alternatives, like plant-based fake meat or lab-grown cultured meat.

Their messages are always the same: meat is bad for health and the environment, cured meats cause cancer, intensive farming mistreat animals, etc. A bunch of fake news is copied and pasted to create noise, attract attention, clicks on a website/youtube channel, sell copies of books or, in the case of some NGOs, get generous donations from those thinking that all that they say is true.

Mainly some “environmentalist” NGOs are very able to speak to the guts of the public, with posts, petitions, or videos stating that animal farming is evil, but without deepening a single time what livestock farming is. They will never say that moderate consumption of meat is necessary for good health, that livestock plays a significant role in preserving biodiversity and landscapes, that the real problem for the climate is transports and energy production, not farming.

All these attacks on the meat sector potentially harm our health, the protection of the environment, and the climate. Besides, according to the recent UN Nutrition Report, the constantly rising chorus of criticism and attacks against agriculture and livestock farming in the West threatens the health of the world’s poorest. Livestock is essential for half a billion low-income families in developing countries to prevent poverty and malnutrition. Cattle, swine, goats, sheep, chickens, and camels are considered by many families as their most important assets, source of economic livelihood, and nutrition, ensuring that their children do not grow up malnourished.


What are the best examples of your actions? And what is the environmental hourglass?

As a Communication Project, Carni Sostenibili has organized many online and “physical” events since the very beginning. Conferences, congresses, scientific symposiums, book presentations, events at the Italian Senate and the European Parliament, tastings with famous chefs like Massimo Bottura, conventions of farmers, food scientists, veterinarians, or pediatricians, presentations of the Projects itself around Europe or in the USA. And again, events dedicated to children, elderly or sportive people (so the groups of people who need more than anybody else to include meat in their diet), etc.

Every diet has some environmental impacts, often much more significant than they seem. To calculate them, Carni Sostenibili has developed the so-called “Environmental Hourglass”, which also became the symbol of its work. A direct comparison between foods, which is extremely clear when using unit values, becomes much less clear when correlated with a correct weekly diet and recommended portions. When graphically representing this concept, starting from the recommended weekly consumption proposed in the nutritional guidelines and multiplying them by the average environmental impacts of the various food categories, one obtains an innovative graphical representation that resembles an hourglass.

The most crucial aspect emerging is that in a balanced diet (like the Mediterranean Diet), the environmental impact of foods rich in proteins (meat, fish, eggs, legumes, cured meats) is comparable to the environmental effects generated by foods of vegetable origin (fruit, vegetables). If consumed in the right amounts, the various food categories have a similar “environmental burden” (in CO2 equivalent) evenly distributed along with the hourglass. Therefore, it is reasonable to say that a balanced diet is beneficial to health and the environment.

The hourglass was created considering various types of foods with the awareness that the representation presented in the report, “The sustainability of meat and cured meats in Italy”, is not the only one as there are countless combinations of consumption frequencies and favourite foods.

However, this video explains better than I can do what the Environmental Hourglass is about.


Can you talk about the success of Carni Sostenibili?

In a few years, Carni Sostenibili raised a lot of attention, and more importantly, became a point of reference for the entire livestock sector all over Europe. We see more and more often papers or articles referring to the activity of this Organization, and all this is very gratifying.

However, among essential successes like speaking with important politicians and legislators both in Rome and in Brussels or having our experts and contributors hosted in important radio and tv shows, one thing is particularly crucial: inspiring others to spread correct information about meat. Carni Sostenibili’s work inspired the birth of an important platform: the European Livestock Voice (ELV), a multi-stakeholder group of EU partners in the livestock food chain that decided to unite to bring back a balanced debate around a sector that is playing such an essential role in Europe’s rich heritage and future. Like Carni Sostenibili is doing in Italy, the ELV gathers on a European level the associations which represent sectors ranging from animal health to feed, to breeding and animal farming and farmers, to inform the public about the social value of livestock production and its contribution to global challenges, offering another perspective in the ongoing debates.


Do you support the thesis of man-made climate change?

I am not a climatologist, but the fact that we humans put in the atmosphere incredibly huge amounts of CO2 and greenhouse gases in a few decades makes me “believe” that all this has some consequences. So yes, I support this thesis. But even if we are only seeing another cycle through which climate has been going since the birth of this planet, I think that reducing our carbon footprint makes sense for many reasons. First of all, the necessity to emancipate ourselves from fossil fuels (the actual origin of climate change) means reduced costs, better health, and probably fewer wars to get it.

Livestock and agriculture are often accused of being a major source of climate change. Still, no one considers that they are the only human activities that, besides emitting GHGs, are also sinking carbon. Yes, if well managed, animal farming can help cool down the climate. That’s why it is important not to fight against those claiming that climate change exists but to let everybody know that livestock is part of the solution, not the problem. In general, not only about climate change, switching from a defensive to a proactive approach would be very useful.


Why do you think there is no real dialog between activists – including scientists, journalists, and organizations like yours, unless there is one?

I guess there are many reasons. Indeed, as I said before, there are vast interests behind the veg-friendly propaganda, and we speak of many billion euros (or dollars). This clever, prosperous marketing, making people feel guilty or “unethical” if they eat meat, invests loads of money in communication, more than advertising. And it is using a powerful tool, the ideology of environment or animal-rights activists, to vehiculate it. In other words, it is pretty clear to me that the billions invested in the meat-substitutes products are using or financing the more or less naïve people and groups caring of the wealth of animals and of the environment (as if we all wouldn’t do that).

People need to believe in something. In this era in which “God is dead” and politics are not that appealing, the possibility to put our beliefs in protecting health, the animals, and the planet is simply perfect. So, money and ideology are the main reason for the impossibility to communicate with those opposing themselves to meat production and consumption.

Then there are other reasons, like the massive ego of some academics, who have never seen a farm in their life, but they speak, write and publish papers or reports about the impacts of farms (I swear I also met this kind of people). Not to mention the bubble of disinformation we all live, nowadays, made of algorithms closing us up in the so-called echo chambers, where people’s beliefs stay closed into a system reinforcing their existing views without encountering opposing views. We are all convinced to be hyper-informed with the Internet and social media. Still, we tend – and we are taken by the algorithms of the search engines and the social media to read only what pleases us or what already meets our beliefs. It is, in my opinion, the biggest paradox of our times, and we need to get out from that before it is too late. The disinformation flooding us today can look intangible today, even harmless, but its effects are real.


Source: Polskie Mieso 4 – 2021

The "Sustainable Meats" Project aims to identify the key topics, the state of knowledge and the most recent technical scientific trends, with the aim of showing that meat production and consumption can be sustainable, both for health and for the environment.