J anuary brings renewed interest in nutrition, especially weight loss. New diet! New you! At the same time, conventional agriculture is depleting natural resources, degrading the environment, and contributing greatly to climate change—and livestock plays a major role. As the twenty-first century marched forward, the fourth industrial revolution unveiled numerous game-changing technologies altering how we eat. Countless questions followed: Is it healthier? More sustainable? Will consumers eat it? Why is food technology necessary?
A plant-based diet is a diet consisting mostly or entirely of foods derived from plants including vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and fruits and with few or no animal-source foods. As of the early 21st century, it was estimated that 4 billion people live primarily on a plant-based diet, some because of limits caused by shortages of crops, fresh water, and energy resources. Vegan author Ellen Jaffe Jones wrote about the origins of the term in a interview. It was developed to take the emphasis off the word ‘vegan’, because some associated it with being too extreme a position, sometimes based exclusively in animal rights versus a health rationale. Some sources use the phrase “plant-based diet” to refer to diets including varying degrees of animal products, for example defining “plant-based diets” as diets that “include generous amounts of plant foods and limited amounts of animal foods” and stating that “The American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund call for choosing predominantly plant-based diets rich in a variety of vegetables and fruits, legumes, and minimally processed starchy staple foods and limiting red meat consumption, if red meat is eaten at all”. Although herbivory a diet entirely of plants was long thought to be a Mesozoic phenomenon, evidence of it is found as soon as the fossils which could show it. Within less than 20 million years after the first land plants evolved, plants were being consumed by arthropods. While amphibians continued to feed on fish and insects, some reptiles began exploring two new food types: the tetrapods carnivory and plants herbivory. Carnivory was a natural transition from insectivory for medium and large tetrapods, requiring minimal adaptation. In contrast, a complex set of adaptations was necessary for feeding on highly fibrous plant materials. Quite often, mainly herbivorous creatures will eat small quantities of animal-based food when it becomes available.
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