Matthew Prescott on Solving Our Biggest Problems Through Plant-Forward Eating: PYP 260

When Matthew Prescott was 12, his older sister came home from school one day and announced that she had decided to become a “vegetarian,” whatever that was.

In the grand tradition of little brothers everywhere, Matthew made sure to stick his forkful of beef under her nose at the dinner table while making mooing sounds. But he also tried her bean burritos, veggie burgers, and other plant-based alternatives to meat, and found that they were actually pretty good. And when he eventually looked at her reasons for ditching meat, he had to admit that they made a lot of sense.

From that humble beginning, Matthew has become one of the most influential voices in the animal welfare, plant-forward movement. He's Senior Food Policy Director for the Humane Society of the United States, and advisor to the Good Food Institute.

He's both contributed to and harnessed the stunning change in public perception and habits around reducing animal consumption by helping giant food companies alter and improve their supply chains.

And now he's pulled off an unlikely achievement: he's produced a beautiful, inspiring coffee table book about environmental degradation. A call for less meat featuring quotes by Emeril Lagasse and Wolfgang Puck. A meticulously referenced, wonky policy statement that's also a gorgeous cookbook.

The book, Food is the Solution, is a compendium of voices. Matthew includes essays by leaders of the world's major environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, the National Resources Defense Council, the Environmental Working Group, and Greenpeace. There's a story contributed by (non-plant-based) actor Jesse Eisenberg. A foreword by James Cameron. Quotes by Pope Francis, Bill Gates, Barack Obama, Jamie Oliver, and Martha Stewart.

And yet, this book isn't about them. It's not about the powerful or the wealthy or the influential.

The real protagonists of Food is the Solution are the vulnerable and the voiceless.

People like Lisa and Joe Inzerillo, whose home and neighborhood in Maryland's Delmarva Peninsula have been rendered uninhabitable by dozens of industrial poultry complexes.

Like the thousands of North Carolinians whose health has been harmed by the millions of gallons of liquid hog waste dumped into their drinking water sources.

Like the workers in poultry slaughterhouses, many of whom are undocumented, who spend their days in Dantean misery and have the highest turnover rates of any occupation.

Like the impoverished peasants forced by economic necessity to clear cut their Amazon rainforest in order for wealthy multinationals to graze cattle.

And like those cattle, and pigs, and chickens, spending unimaginably miserable lives treated as machines in the factories that feed our harmful addictions.

And like the earth itself, source of all life, groaning and shuddering under the weight of all the indignities and injuries we her rude and ungrateful children have visited upon her.

These are the voices that are centered and amplified by those like Matthew who do have voice and standing and influence in our society.

I had a wonderful conversation with Matthew about his life, his work, and the book. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. We covered:

  • why Matthew wrote the book
  • why he shifted from a self-righteous to an inclusive stance
  • the cow shit statistic I just couldn't believe
  • environmental degradation is global, and the problems are felt locally
  • why each chapter focuses on individuals and their stories
  • the Orwellian language of the animal ag industry and their governmental enablers
  • the lack of environmental arguments for meat eating
  • the incredible 53-gallon egg
  • the importance of a visually appealing book
  • including celebrities and chefs who are not plant-based in the orchestra of voices
  • why compassion for animals often precedes compassion for other humans
  • the NIMBY problem and environmental racism and classism
  • why you should buy Food is the Solution at Costco, if you can
  • and much more…

Enjoy, add your voice to the conversation via the comment box or audio recording box below, and please share – that's how we spread our message and spread our roots.

Talk Back

Links

Food is the Solution (if you can't access a Costco, you can get it from amazon)

Matthew's Website

USDA web page advocating use of Orwellian language about animal waste

Vegan Goodness cookbook (by Food is the Solution photographer Jessica Prescott)

Plant Yourself Podcast with Rody Hawkins, founder of Improved Nature

Plant Yourself Podcast with Eric O'Grey, author of Walking with Peety

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Music

The Plant Yourself Podcast theme music, “Dance of Peace (Sabali Don),” is generously provided by Will Ridenour, a kora player from North Carolina who has trained with top Senegalese musicians.

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