Chang­ing tastes present a big op­por­tu­nity for farm­ers

Irish Independent - Farming - - RURAL LIFE -

I WENT to Amer­ica for the first time in 1978. It was also my first time on a plane and my first time to travel abroad on my own. The day I left, the lo­cal post­mistress gave me great ad­vice about trav­el­ling by air: “The minute they come around with the drinks trol­ley, have a brandy, ’twill set­tle you for the rest of the jour­ney.”

I was just above the le­gal drink­ing age so as soon as the Jumbo was air­borne and head­ing west over the Cliffs of Mo­her, the drinks trol­ley ap­peared and I had my­self a stiff brandy. When­ever I fly, I re­peat the dose as pre­scribed by my post­mistress and it works ev­ery time.

As a young man from 1970s Ire­land land­ing in Chicago was like be­ing dropped into a movie set — ev­ery­thing was big, noisy and brightly lit.

My aunt picked me up in an Oldsmo­bile Cut­lass Supreme, a car that was as wide as a Bed­ford truck and as long as a Tran­sit van. Later that sum­mer, I de­cided to put the eight-cylin­der mo­tor to the test on a Texas high­way and ended up a guest of the Texas High­way Pa­trol. I had to bail my­self out and face the lo­cal judge for my ef­forts. That’s an­other story.

There was a lot more about Amer­ica that sur­prised me — the heat, the size of the por­tions in restau­rants and the straight talk­ing Yanks where ‘yes’ and ‘no’ were taken at face value. There was a dis­tinct lack of Mrs Doyles to ca­jole you into chang­ing your mind.

One of the stand­out mem­o­ries was the at­ti­tude to smok­ing. I was shocked when, at the house of an­other aunt, I lit up a cig­a­rette only to be asked to go out­side and smoke on the deck. I thought this was bar­baric, the height of bad man­ners. I was ap­palled at be­ing sent out to en­joy my nico­tine.

How things change. Who would have imag­ined that within a few decades smok­ing in­doors would be for­bid­den, even in pubs? Such a prospect would have been re­garded as the stuff of sci­ence fic­tion only a few years be­fore. But it hap­pened, and it hap­pened first in Ire­land. Now smok­ers the world over slink away qui­etly and in­dulge their habit un­der the el­e­ments.

This pre­am­ble has af­forded me a cir­cuitous route to the topic I want to broach to­day, a topic that will cause some farm­ers to go pale and oth­ers to go green around the gills — I’m re­fer­ring to the rise of veg­e­tar­i­an­ism.

Up un­til re­cently, a veg­e­tar­ian was a rar­ity, an ex­otic bird in a flock of crows. The prac­tice was seen as a fad, a thing that ‘al­ter­na­tive types’ did, a no­tion taken by peo­ple with woolly heads, woolly jumpers and san­dals in or­der to make them stand out even fur­ther from the crowd and the con­sen­sus.

How­ever, things have changed and what was once a mar­ginal fad is more and more ac­cepted as a main­stream and valid life choice. Con­cerns about cli­mate change are giv­ing the move to veg­e­tar­i­an­ism in­creased im­pe­tus and as these con­cerns take on greater ur­gency, ev­ery hu­man ac­tiv­ity is com­ing un­der scru­tiny, none more so than the prac­tice of in­ten­sive farm­ing. Those of us with a pass­ing in­ter­est, a keen in­ter­est, or a vested in­ter­est in agri­cul­ture would be well ad­vised to take note and not find our­selves like the pub­li­cans in the wake of the smok­ing ban, reel­ing from the sud­den, per­va­sive and ir­re­versible na­ture of the even­tu­al­ity.

The re­cent an­nual food and drink re­port com­piled by UK su­per­mar­ket chain Waitrose found that one in eight Bri­tons are now veg­e­tar­ian or ve­gan. The re­port also found that an­other 21pc are in a cat­e­gory called ‘flex­i­tar­i­ans’ who eat meat on an ir­reg­u­lar ba­sis but mainly fol­low a veg­e­tar­ian diet ( be­low), while many more are con­sciously re­duc­ing their meat in­take.

More wor­ry­ing for a wider range of farm sec­tors is the rise in ve­g­an­ism that avoids the con­sump­tion of any an­i­mal prod­ucts, in­clud­ing eggs and milk, and also shuns the con­sump­tion of fish and fish prod­ucts.

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