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Keen interest . . . Hurunui Deputy Mayor Marie Black, left, and Mayor Winton Dalley were in the audience at the sustainable protein debate at Tai Tapu, south of Christchurch. PHOTO: DAVID HILL

By DAVID HILL

Getting the right mix of proteins and reducing the carbon footprint is a complex issue.

Hurunui Mayor Winton Dalley raised what he saw as a central issue with a panel of speakers who were last week debating plant proteins as a way of overcoming human health and environmental challenges.

“The whole-of-life footprint of some of these alternatives that are around are massive, so this is complex in terms of the carbon issues, the environment issues and the health issues,” he said.

“We just need to work our way calmly through the right solutions and not look for silver bullets, whether they be crickets or whether they be meat-free burgers.”

There was general agreement with Mr Dalley’s comments among the panel of speakers at the Tai Tapu Community Centre, south of Christchurch, which included Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy, business leader Maury Leyland Penno and dietitian and author Dr Caryn Zinn.

Dame Patsy, a vegetarian, said the cost of not acting in the face of climate change and the human obesity epidemic would be high.

“I think we are all affected by what we see happening in the world.

“I think I am in that category of being optimistic as well. I do see a lot of change. You listen to some of the farmers today, listen to Winton Dalley, they’re all looking to do things differently.

“You’ve seen the Ministry for the Environment come out with its report recently showing what’s happening to our country, so the cost of not doing something could be too much to bare,” Dame Patsy said.

Ms Leyland Penno said there needed to be rethink in “how we farm” and “what we farm”. She advocated for green leafy products and alternatives such as hemp, hops, quinoa, saffron and avocado.

“We’ve got to have more integrated systems that protect our environment better.

“We’ve got a lack of capability and resource in crops or products outside our traditional meat, dairy, kiwifruit, so we’ve got to get there.

“It’s not a simple challenge but we really need to ramp it up.”

Dr Zinn says red meat still has a place in our diets, but we need to rethink the way we eat meat, which includes eating less processed meats and recognised that the whole animal provides nutrition.

She warned of “healthy user bias”, where lifestyle choices such as not smoking or getting more exercise may have more to do with better health outcomes than diet for vegans, over those who eat red meat.

Plant-based diets without meat or fish risked missing out on nutrients such as vitamin B12 and omega 3, she said.