For many Spaniards it was a sensible, responsible and quite overdue suggestion. But to others it was as heretical as a well done steak, a Ham or a barbecue of nothing more than assorted vegetables.
This week, Spain’s Consumer Minister Alberto Garzón launched a campaign to invite people to consider reducing their meat consumption for the sake of their health and the planet.
In a video He noted that Spain eats more meat than any other EU country, slaughtering 70 million pigs, cows, sheep, goats, horses and poultry each year to produce 7.6 million tonnes of meat. In a country that will face rapid desertification in the coming decades, Garzón added, it made little sense to use 15,000 liters of water to raise every kilogram of meat.
He has also pointed out that although the Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition recommends that people consume between 200g and 500g of meat a week, the average Spaniard saves more than 1 kg.
“This does not mean that we cannot have a family barbecue from time to time, only that we do it with a little more moderation and that we compensate the days that we eat meat with days in which we eat more salad, rice, legumes and vegetables”, said the minister.
“Our health and the health of our families are at stake. Eating too much meat is bad for our health and for the planet ”.
Garzón acknowledged that many people did not have the time or money to avoid cheap meat-based meals. He also said that meat from smaller farms was healthier and much more sustainable than meat produced by large mega farms, which he said had a detrimental effect on the environment and local economies.
And although he emphasized that he was simply asking people to think about the personal and environmental consequences of what they ate, and did not tell them what to do, his comments were quickly criticized by a fellow minister in the coalition government and by the livestock sector.
Luis Planas, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, he told Cadena Ser radio that the agricultural sector was being subjected to “profoundly unfair criticism when it deserved respect for the honest work it does both for our food and for our economy.” He said that meat consumption had declined for the past 10 years until the start of the Covid pandemic.
Six meat producing associations wrote a open letter to Garzón saying they were surprised to see him and his ministry running a campaign that “defamed” a sector that represents 2.5 million jobs and exports worth almost 9 billion euros.
When asked what his opinion was on the campaign, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez appeared to side with his agriculture minister, saying: “Personally speaking, a medium-raw steak is hard to beat.”
Others, meanwhile, struggled to see exactly what all the fuss was about. “Eating less meat is better for your health and better for the environment,” tweeted the Spanish food journalist. Mikel López Iturriaga. “You can stuff your face with all the steak you want, but don’t be mad that a minister tells you the exact same thing as the World Health Organization, other institutions, and countless other scientific experts in the field.”
In any case, he added, there was no need to resort to “eating kale with quinoa and chia”, thanks to Spain’s long and rich history of vegetarian and other dishes that use a minimum of meat. “Traditional Spanish cuisine is full of dishes that contain little or no meat: gazpachos, tortillas, rice, legumes, tracks, salads, vegetables … Try them and you will do yourself and the planet a favor. ”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism