'It is a real shame': Food Science Expert on Departure of NZ Plant-Based Meat Company

'It is a real shame': Food Science Expert on Departure of NZ Plant-Based Meat Company

Katie Henderson is not just an informed consumer and student of food science and marketing, her academic work is actually focused on attitudes towards the genetic modification of food.

Henderson offers a comprehensive view of the changing perceptions and realities surrounding the country's agri-food sector, dissecting the public's understanding and the industry's direction. A central point of discussion revolves around the departure of a New Zealand plant-based meat company from the market, reflecting broader consumer attitude shifts. 

"It is a real shame to see that... [it's] indicative or symptomatic of a much wider story, and that is in regards to this was not a silver bullet or a panacea for responsible food production, as it was probably viewed at the start." 

This departure exemplifies the complexities of the agri-food landscape and the dynamic nature of consumer expectations. The conversation also delves into genetic modification (GM) and gene editing (GE), with Henderson clarifying public misconceptions. 

"When it came to those technical differences between GM and GE, people did think that they were quite similar but they were quite curious to know more." 

Her research indicates a mix of misinformation and eagerness for knowledge among New Zealanders, who are generally unaware of the country's GMO status yet interested in the implications of these technologies. Furthermore, Katie reflects on her personal journey, highlighting her shift from a food science background to a focus on the social aspects of agri-food. 

"I realised that I was much more interested in the social aspect of it... which again is more social science and looking at consumer and stakeholder engagement for gene editing technologies." 

Her insights underscore the importance of engaging with different stakeholders, from farmers to industry experts, to shape a well-rounded understanding of agriculture and food systems. In addition to discussing the broader issues, Henderson touches on her anticipation for an upcoming case study competition in Spain, her transformative experience with the Strategic Thinking and Agri-food Management program, and her involvement with the Future Farmers Group. 

These engagements represent the proactive steps being taken by young leaders to address challenges in agriculture and animal welfare, as well as land stewardship, contributing to a future of more sustainable and informed food production.

Listen to the full chat between Katie Henderson and Dominic George above.

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