Beef-less burger bull

Two days ago it was reported that Air New Zealand was going to serve a beef-less burger on a couple of flights, and it has prompted some political bull.

Stuff: Air New Zealand to serve plant-based burger on Los Angeles-Auckland flights

Our national carrier is the first airline in the world to partner with Impossible Foods, a Californian start-up whose non-meaty meat is stocked by more than 2500 restaurants across the US, from renowned chef David Chang’s Momofuku Nishi restaurant in New York to White Castle and Umami burger outlets.

There’s usually a burger on the Business Premier menu but Chave believes the Impossible Burger will appeal to all palates.

“Whether you’re a vegetarian, flexitarian or a hard-core meat lover, you’ll enjoy the delicious taste of the Impossible Burger.”

The burger, which is prepared in Air New Zealand’s Los Angeles kitchen and assembled at altitude, comes with two plant-based patties, smoked Gouda cheese, caramelised onions and a smear of tomatillo cream. Because fries don’t hold up in the air, it’s served with a side of beetroot relish and pickle.

Sounds like it could be quite nice. I had a delicious meatless burger in a Curio Bay cafe (in the far south of the South Island) last month.

It isn’t the only food option, and won’t be compulsory. It is a choice for Air New Zealand customers, who are using a US product when stocking up when in the US.

But for some reason it has irked some politicians here.

NZ First MP Mark Patterson put out a press release: Air New Zealand needs to review its decision to promote synthetic proteins

Air New Zealand has dealt another blow to regional New Zealand by promoting the meat substitute ‘Impossible Burger” says New Zealand First Primary Industries spokesperson, Mark Patterson.

Mr Patterson described the decision as a “Slap in the face” for New Zealand’s Nine Billion dollar Red Meat Sector. “The National Carrier should be showcasing our premium quality grass fed New Zealand Red Meat not promoting a product that has the potential to pose an existential threat to New Zealand’s second biggest export earner”.

“There has been widespread concern in the regions at the loss of services from provincial airports and now we have Air New Zealand actively promoting synthetic proteins which have a genetic modification component to them. This is not a good example of New Zealand Inc working together for the greater good.”

I don’t think regional New Zealand could economically supply food to flights originating in the US.

“Promoting a product that has the potential to pose an existential threat to New Zealand’s second biggest export earner” is a bit over the top.

NZ First leader and acting Prime Minister was also critical – RNZ Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters hits out at fake meat burger

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters said he would not eat a burger with lab-made meat, particularly if there’s one with the real thing available.

“I’m utterly opposed to fake beef,” he said.

That’s his choice. No one is making him eat it.

Mr Peters said the farming industry was made up of New Zealand taxpayers who wanted to ensure they get the top end of the product market offshore.

“Our airline should be its number one marketer.”

Generally Air NZ does a very good job of promoting New Zealand and New Zealand produce.

It isn’t just NZ First MPs complaining.

A different response from Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor:

“Customers will ultimately make the decision as to whether they like this burger. In fact it may be a really good positive thing for the meat industry if people taste it, don’t like it and eat real meat.”

He’s right that customers, and businesses like Air NZ, should be able to decide for themselves, but he’s being a bit lame suggesting a positive from a negative response.

I thought that the Greens might be opposed to a GE meat substitute but apparently not.

However, the Green Party said a move away from eating so much meat would ultimately be a huge plus for the planet as it would help cut emissions, lead to less intensive farming, and improve animal welfare.

Would the Greens be happy with GE meat substitutes being grown in New Zealand laboratories?

I have concerns about concocted food products myself, but simple meatless burgers can be delicious and healthy without needing to be manufactured.

But, why the sudden interest in trying to act as nanny to airline menus?

I think that our MPs should have better things to do than manufacturing outrage over a non-problem that really is no of their business.

Minister: ‘limit to further dairy intensification’

Nathan Guy, Minister for Primary Industries has said there is a limit to further dairy intensification.

That limit may have already been reached as the environment, especially waterways, has not coped with the surge in cow numbers.

NZ Herald: NZ dairy expansion will hit limits as environmental impact grows, must chase value, Guy says

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy says there is a limit to further dairy intensification in New Zealand and growing exports in the future will depend more on increasing the value of products rather than the volume.

The number of dairy cattle in New Zealand has surged as farmers were lured by higher prices for dairy products while demand for sheep meat and wool waned.

That price lure has been wound back with the slump in dairy prices since 2013 (currently running at about two thirds of what they were at their peak).

The latest agricultural statistics for 2016 show New Zealand had 6.5 million dairy cattle, up from just 2.9 million four decades ago.

Dairy products are the country’s largest commodity export worth $11.3 billion in the year through February, and the government aims to double the value of primary sector exports to $64 billion by 2025 from $32 billion in 2012.

In the past two months, New Zealand’s worsening environmental record has come under the microscope of the OECD, Vivid Economics and the Prime Minister’s chief science adviser Peter Gluckman, adding weight to previous reports by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright.

Today, New Zealand published its first Fresh Water report under the Environmental Reporting Act which showed urban areas have the biggest problem with polluted freshwater, but rural areas are showing a faster-declining trend in the quality of fresh water in lakes, rivers and streams.

While efforts have been made to reduce dairy related pollution more has to be done, and it makes sense economically and environmentally to wind back cow numbers and aim to add more value to milk products, and aim for optimal herd numbers rather than just adding more and more.

Government must act on Invermay

Plans by AgResearch to create hubs and gut regional research facilities is contrary to advise from within their own organisation. They seem to be hell bent on empire building regardless of expert opinion from within their own organisation, ignoring a risk of serious degradation of agricultural research.

The ODT has obtained leaked documents: AgResearch executive overrules review team

There is anger in the South after leaked documents revealed AgResearch has ignored recommendations to save key parts of the Invermay agricultural research centre in Dunedin.

The documents, obtained yesterday, showed strong opposition to AgResearch’s ”future footprint” restructure proposal from more than 200 staff, including at Invermay.

It also showed AgResearch’s own change management team (CMT), appointed to consider the 245 staff submissions, agreed with many of the concerns.

Its recommendations included that key genomic, animal productivity and deer research scientists should remain at Invermay, rather than being concentrated at Lincoln.

The response from AgResearch’s executive team, contained in a separate leaked reply to the recommendations, was to reject them.

This sounds very shonky.

The ODT also rips into AgResearch in their editorial: AgResearch’s Invermay blunder

AgResearch, in its determination to concentrate research and administration in hubs in Palmerston North and Lincoln, is making a mistake.

From a purely parochial Otago point of view, the gutting of Invermay is bad enough. But, as is made clear in leaked documents obtained by this newspaper, AgResearch’s own change management team says it would be much wiser in a scientific sense to concentrate animal programmes at Invermay.

After receiving and analysing hundreds of submissions from staff, the change team came up with several recommendations which differed from AgResearch’s original proposal.

Yet, despite being charged with the task of considering in detail the plans, the group’s recommendations have largely been ignored by its own executive. AgResearch announced to staff this week that the original twin hub proposal stands, almost in its entirety.

The AgResearch executive seems to be at odds with everyone.

After all, as the change management team said about animal productivity, for example, ”location at Lincoln is likely to put capability at risk without yielding significantly greater benefit”.

Perhaps even more telling was the comment ”locations should be determined by science benefits rather than location head counts”. Surely no-one can disagree with that.

Not even the Government and it’s ministers should be able to disagree with that. Time for them to step in. Nathan Guy? Steven Joyce? Bill English? Michael Woodhouse? Jacqui Dean?

“Mountain of persuasion” on boat people jail plan

National’s Nathan Guy is struggling to get support for his bill to lock up non-existent boat people. From Stuff:

Human Rights Watch refugee programme director Bill Frelick called the Immigration Amendment Bill a scare tactic rather than a rational plan, saying Guy’s belief the legislation sent a signal that queue-jumpers wouldn’t be tolerated was “fundamentally flawed”.

“First, there is no queue. And second, the legislation does punish people who might indeed have genuine claims for refugee status.”

The bill got past the first reading to committee stage but Guy doesn’t have sufficient support to get it past the second reading. He would need the support of either United Future’s Peter Dunne, or a New Zealand First or Maori Party MP.

United Future leader Peter Dunne has called the plans inhumane and said he would need a “mountain of persuasion” to change his mind.

The Maori Party still discussing the issue.

NZ First leader Winston Peters refusing to give any assurances.

Priorities?

Bill English has been using the “not a priority” excuse for dismissing  bills like Paid Parental Leave and dismissing discussion dealing with Super. They are both issues that deserve attention (Super demands attention).

So why are National promoting a bill that would draconally protect New Zedaland froma threat that doesn’t currently exist?

This bill should be well down the priority pecking order.