Dr Corinna Tucker from Massey University in Palmerston North was addressing an audience at the city library on the balance between the environment and agriculture.
She said a critical point was coming for New Zealand and the world in terms of meat-eating: “Something has to change. A lot of things have to change.”
On average, Kiwis consume an average of 400g of meat a day, making them the second highest consumers of meat in the world after Luxembourg. Other experts put New Zealand top.
Tucker’s comments – indeed any comments that suggest a reduction sheep and cattle numbers – will be unwelcome in a country so heavily reliant on the livestock industry.
New Zealand is the world’s largest exporter of sheep meat and dairy, with more than 114,000 are employed full-time in agriculture generally.
While meat consumption is on the rise globally, Tucker warned that demand will inevitably soon begin outstripping supply, making it vital that alternatives be employed by 2030.
“We won’t be able to continue to meet the demand for meat,” she said. “We eat far more than is necessary – we have a really high-protein diet.”
She suggested that the way meat is currently produced would sow the seeds of its own demise, with the environmental degradation wrought by industrial farming and livestock-rearing techniques bringing about a revolution in the industry and the kitchen.