Ponderings of an omnivore

August 31, 2016 11:26 am
View Article

If you are a Buddhist and believe that any creature could be your mother from your past or in future, being vegetarian probably makes an awful lot of sense. But from a health and well being standpoint, could vegetarianism equate to a longer life, like that which can be seen in the Seventh Day Adventists who are vegetarians and among the longest-living people on the planet?

On the other hand, contrary to numerous reports citing meat as the most recent anti-Christ, could eating meat actually be the key to longevity? It seemed to be for the Plains Indians, who lived on buffalo and had the highest number of centenarians in history.

Ever since I (accidentally) booked to stay in a ‘Holistic Vegan Retreat’ during my honeymoon (believing it to be a spa hotel; the website was misleading!), the concept of veganism, as well as vegetarianism, has always slightly intrigued me. I still laugh out loud when I think of the shock (then anger) on my husband’s face when, upon arrival, we had a beetroot juice thrust into our hands before being herded off to our first ‘Sacred Yoga’ class. And I can’t help but cringe when I recall sitting in a tent waving crystal wands around while simultaneously hyperventilating and pretending to be a tiger. But aside from all the craziness, the vegan food wasn’t actually that bad – in fact it was surprisingly good if I’m honest. And the more I spoke to other guests (none of whom had been ‘duped’ by the website in the same way I had), the more the concept of veganism started to make sense and sound like a good, if not extreme, thing to do.

Anyway, four years on, I am still a meat eater, coming from a long line of meat eaters (everybody in my extended family and friendship group eats meat). My father claims that any meal without meat is ‘not a proper meal’ and would describe vegetarianism as an eating disorder. So rest assured when I say this article is not aimed at converting you, as that would be rather hypocritical.

So first thing’s first, what is a vegetarian, and what is a vegan? I didn’t know the difference until four years ago, but a vegetarian is someone who eats no meat at all (including fish) but does eat dairy products and eggs. A vegan is someone who does not eat meat, fish, dairy, eggs, or any other animal-derived product (e.g. honey or gelatine). Then there are lacto-vegetarians who are vegetarians that don’t eat eggs but do eat dairy, and ovo-vegetarians who are vegetarians that don’t eat dairy products, but do eat eggs. Finally, there are pescatarians, vegetarians that do eat fish, as well as dairy products and eggs. And just when you thought that was it, last but not least there are now ‘flexitarians’, followers of an increasingly popular ‘hybrid’ diet who do not want to commit to a full vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. Flexitarians avoid meat most of the time but allow themselves the odd animal indulgence, be that a tasty steak or a Sunday roast, and generally try to make sure their occasional pound of flesh is ethically sourced and environmentally friendly.

The reasons for being vegan or vegetarian are numerous: rising meat prices, health concerns, compelling moral arguments, and an increased environmental awareness. With estimations that the world population will rise by more than 30% by 2050, the demand for meat is unlikely to be met. According to the Food and Agriculture Association of the United Nations (FAO), 40% of food grown in the world today is feed for animals, and this figure is likely to rise. Approximately 23% of the planet’s arable land is used for cattle to graze, and it takes 7kg of grain and 15,415 litres of water to produce just 1kg of beef. In addition, that same quantity of beef produces 27kg of CO2 as a by-product! Wouldn’t it make more sense if humans simply ate the grain themselves thereby leaving more food to feed the world population while causing less damage to the environment? A country taking this matter into its own hands is Denmark, which has this year announced a proposal to introduce a tax on red meat with the aim of positively impacting climate change. It is well known that the Danes love their meat, but with reports that cattle contribute at least a tenth to global greenhouse gas emissions, and considering Denmark’s commitment to a 40% carbon reduction target by 2020, the Danish Council of Ethics decided that consumers alone cannot be relied upon to curb their own consumption of red meat. Thus it would be encouraged by way of a climate tax. Will other nations be inspired to follow suit?

Aside from the very real concerns surrounding the impact that meat-eating has on the environment, there is also the ever evolving debate on the medical and health issues posed by meat consumption.  A recent report by The World Health Organisation (WHO) stated that processed meat and bacon are carcinogenic and that most likely so too is red meat. This association between red and processed meats with cancer mortality (colon cancer in particular) and cardiovascular disease mortality have long been recognised. A 2010 study carried out by Oxford University’s department of public health reported that eating meat no more than three times a week could prevent 31,000 deaths from heart disease, 9,000 deaths from cancer, and 5,000 deaths from stroke, as well as save the NHS £1.2 billion per year. In addition, there is mounting concern that the use of antibiotics in agriculture is driving up antibiotic resistance in humans, which could potentially lead to ‘superbugs’. Antibiotics are used in intensive animal farming in order to prevent disease, promote growth rates, and improve feed efficiency in the animals. However, the overuse of these drugs means that bacteria become resistant to them through overexposure, and the prospect of death from common infections which were once easily curable, suddenly becomes very real.

Another big motivation to become vegan or vegetarian is to prevent the unnecessary pain and suffering of animals. Many believe that if it is wrong to hurt a cat or a dog, then the appalling treatment which we inflict upon other (often just as sentient) creatures can surely not be justified. I wouldn’t consider myself to be a great animal lover but the thought of billions of animals being raised in intensive factory farms, caged in cramped and overcrowded conditions with no access to daylight or fresh air, and often diseased, injured and dying due to the unnatural conditions they are kept in, makes me think twice before biting into that double cheeseburger. At this point my father would dispute that it is a fact of life: animals kill and eat other animals therefore it is no different if a human does the same. Except I think it is. I imagine alien invaders one day discovering humans as a less intelligent life form, herding us into cages, separating us from our mothers and killing our friends and family in front of our eyes, before turning us into a pulled person burger. In a century’s time, or less, will people look back on our treatment of livestock as cruel and primitive, and those of us who eat meat as inhumane and immoral? I wonder if, in my defence when confronted by these aliens, I could plead my case as a mere ‘occasional’ consumer of meat, and one which only partakes in the organic variety. But the truth is, organic food probably isn’t as sustainable as we think. It is expensive and therefore not economically viable to a large proportion of the population, plus the large amount of space required means that there simply wouldn’t be enough land in the world to make everything free range. Unless of course, we all ate a lot less meat…

One particularly famous family trying to encourage the movement towards vegetarianism (at least once a week) are the McCartneys. Paul, Mary and Stella who, since 2009, have campaigned for us to partake in meat-free Mondays. The idea is that by abstaining from eating meat for one day a week we will benefit the environment, preserve the world’s natural resources, reduce certain health conditions, and make a positive financial impact through lower cost meat-free staples such as beans, rice and corn. Although the McCartneys are really championing this movement, the concept of not eating meat for one day a week is actually an old one. Alongside ‘Wheatless Wednesday’, ‘Meat-free Monday’ was originally started as a way of reducing the consumption of key staples during World Wars I and II. And even before that, people in medieval Britain had to ration their consumption of meat due to the expense, availability, and difficulty in preservation. But for those who can’t stomach a day without meat every week, there is always ‘World Meat Free Day’ on 13th June, which I’m sure even my carnivorous father could stretch to! A slightly more futuristic approach to a meat-free diet is the development of cultured meat, also called in vitro meat, which is the production of animal meat by means of ‘tissue-engineering’. The process involves cells being painlessly removed from animals, nurtured in a lab, and multiplied to create muscle tissue. Researchers claim that it is a sustainable way of meeting the global demand for meat, albeit an incredibly expensive one due to the infancy of the technology. It is, however, hoped that in 20 years’ time, cultured meat will be as common in our supermarkets as animal meat is today, with the added appeal of being environmentally friendlier, more ethical, and without associated animal suffering.

As omnivores consuming both plants and animals, human beings reap numerous benefits from a varied and balanced diet which incorporates everything from bacteria, fungus and plants, to crustaceans, birds and mammals. Despite our omnivorous nature leaning more towards plants (knowledge of early humans shows a more agricultural, plant eating dietary tendency than it does hunting and eating animals), it is highly unrealistic to expect everyone to stop eating meat completely. I think that the desire to eat meat is undeniable (indeed our hunter-gatherer ancestors were hugely desirous of it) and there is much research suggesting that the killing of animals and consumption of their meat played a large part in the evolution of human intelligence. Clearly, as a meat-eater myself, I don’t really have a leg to stand on in the argument for a meat-free future. While I battle with a myriad of emotions relating to my carniverous habits, I seek comfort from the knowledge that a bacon sandwich has been the downfall of some of the most dedicated of vegetarians. The unethical treatment of animals, the unsustainability of livestock farming, the gross use of antibiotics in agriculture, and the alleged health implications all associated with eating meat don’t sit quite so well though. In my journey to vegetarianism (or not) I shall adopt the term ‘flexitarian’ for my own eating habits. I hope that by reducing my meat consumption, as well as supporting small ethical farms equally appalled by modern industrialised meat production, I can influence the industry from the inside and be a small part of steering it towards more ethical and less cruel ways of farming. There are some who criticise flexitarianism for having the best of both worlds (I can’t disagree) and ‘cheating’, but I believe it also serves as a valuable gateway diet, ushering the half-hearted like myself towards a much healthier, sustainable diet where meat needn’t always be the ‘plat du jour’. And maybe, just maybe when the aliens come, they may acknowledge my good intentions and I’ll be towards the end of the queue for the human meat-grinder!


Written by Lyndsey Rose, Coriolis Ltd





How to: KISS when writing SOP

August 25, 2016 1:20 pm
View Article

How many of us discovered our inner engineer by tinkering around with the mechanical nuances of our first car? The car might have required a standard service and advice was needed on how to set the points gap in the distributor cap. Or for the more adventurous, the cylinder head needed removing and tappets adjusted. The job was likely made a whole lot easier by the ‘Haynes Manual’, or that which is more affectionately termed – the engineers bible.

Photographs & step-by-step instructions gave the amateur mechanic the knowledge & the confidence to tackle tasks which instilled an element of technical expertise ensuring a job well done.

‘Pictures speak a thousand words’ is an old adage, but John Haynes’ simple and effective method of conveying work instructions seems to be on the decline. The focus has shifted to more of a ‘tick box’ exercise to ensure project audits are satisfied. So is this due to laziness of the author? Or, are the author-engineers just trying too hard?

I’m constantly disappointed when I see Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) or Safe Systems of Work (SSOW’s) which resemble an essay. The authors have seemingly spent more time displaying a fantastically diverse and extensive vocabulary than focusing on producing an easy to understand reference guide which will enable the reader to carry out a repeatable process.

A picture can be meaningless & misunderstood, likewise words on their own can be difficult to interpret in a practical sense. Striking an effective balance is the key:

  • Identify what’s important
  • Combine pictures with bullet point instructions
  • Number them in the sequence of operation
  • Use arrows & colours for emphasis

Considering the above as well as the reader enables succinct conveyance of information in a format that the reader will want to view and not find bland to read. Standardising & simplifying the approach will allow quick investigative reference of differing work instructions whilst portraying a professional looking document which compliments the visual factory. A little forethought whilst placing oneself in the shoes of the reader can save a lot of angst, future reworking and operational errors.

In summary, don’t try too hard, be effective, and compile an easily understood method of getting instructions across. Do what John Haynes did and don’t forget to KISS! (Keep It Simple, Stupid).


Written by Paul Street, Coriolis Ltd

References: https://haynes.co.uk/?gclid=CILjz7bi8M0CFZcy0wodRIINhA

Recurring Olympics fever: why do so many of us suffer from it?

August 16, 2016 9:09 am
View Article

I’m definitely not one for following the sporting calendar usually. I barely watch TV at the best of times. And I don’t like, play or watch any sports unless coerced. Yet I am completely and utterly OBSESSED by the Olympics. So much so that I can identify with at least 15 of these.

I’m writing this blog post ten days into the games on the first day back after a scorching weekend. The sun is still shining, and Team GB have crept up to 2nd place in the medals table overnight. Our little nation is second only to the USA, which has five times the population of Great Britain, nay five times as many potential athletes… Before we shimmied up the leader board overtaking China we were lying in a highly satisfactory 3rd position. We were tailing two huge nations renowned for their Olympic success and athlete prowess.

I joined the BBC a couple of months before the London 2012 games commenced and the buzz in the office was palpable. Events were screened all over the office and colleagues lingered to watch the favourites in their respective finals. I’d almost forgotten about my Olympic’s obsession by the time Rio came around. However, for the best part of a week now, I’ve satiated my appetite for the games by scouring News apps as soon as I wake up. All social media accounts have taken a backseat. All I really need to know is this; how many medals did we achieve overnight? Where are we sitting in the medals table? And who were the unexpected victors/who lost out? My voice chokes and falters with emotion when I tell the story of a victory I’ve witnessed in live coverage. I’ve felt overwhelmingly emotional when hearing of the inspirational stories of life-threatening illnesses, family loss, or when witnessing the athlete’s joy.

My husband works for British Swimming and is so proud of everything the swimmers, divers and their teams have achieved. Despite the murky green, bacteria-leaden waters they’ve had to contend with, they’ve smashed world records and will bring the medals home in droves. It certainly feels as though the Olympics has arrived at the perfect time to boost our mood. Many of us were left feeling disillusioned, uncertain and rather unpatriotic after Brexit, and there’s some positivity in the air now. Despite my best efforts and Boolean search skills on Google, I couldn’t come up with many credible reasons for why I, or indeed many of us, suffer from recurring Olympic fever. Unfortunately, conclusions seemed to have been drawn for ‘why women watch the Olympics’ (apparently it’s because we like the back stories!). Other studies suggest we watch either for patriotism and pride, or because we appreciate the sense of belonging. These are honest reasons, but I think we also watch because we enjoy witnessing somebody achieving a great goal or lifelong ambition, often against huge odds; it is a completely tangible accomplishment, awarded on points by an expert judging panel in the field. Many of us have goals we are working towards, both in our personal lives and in our careers. Seeing the medal winners achieving their goal gives many of us the boost we need and the confidence to keep striving for ours. After all, it’s unlikely we are competing against the best in the world for that promotion, so it makes our goals seem even more achievable.

I played doubles tennis yesterday and I’m off on a run tonight. My husband suggested we go kayaking on the way home from Sunday lunch and I thought it was the best idea he’s ever had. I hope I can continue to ride the Olympics wave for a while longer yet and always keep in mind that you can achieve your goals with hard work, dedication and belief, even after Olympics fever has subsided…

Written by Kayleigh Tarrant, Coriolis Ltd







When is it a project? When is it a programme?

August 11, 2016 10:49 am
View Article

When it comes to instigating a step change improvement, there are a multitude of different ways in which you can do this. A popular one is by commencing a Project. But does managing an activity this way always ensure the overall aim is achieved? Surely if all projects deliver then the overall outcome has been met?

If you manage projects in isolation this isn’t necessarily the case.

A project allows you to set out exactly what you’d like to do (the scope) and gives the tools and techniques you can use to achieve these outcomes, such as the governance and the project life cycle.

Projects are great, but taking a step back and managing your project through a programme (which manages several related projects) is often the better solution, here’s why:

  1. You can accelerate or pause projects within the programme, or even cancel them altogether
  2. You can manage resource and balance demands and conflicts from different projects
  3. You can focus on the vision and keep in mind why you are running the projects, not just focus on the deliverables themselves
  4. You can manage risks and changes more effectively across the programme
  5. You can see and manage the interdependencies between projects, and also their effect on day-to-day operations

All of these increase the likelihood of not only the project, but the programme and the stakeholder’s objectives being met, and ultimately the project being a success.

Putting the theory into reality, many of us have experiences where a project can be said to have delivered the desired outcomes for the individual task, e.g., reducing the cost of manufacture. In reality it may have been part of something bigger which didn’t materialise, such as the unit cost of the product being reduced. So for the sponsors, the overall strategy or objectives may not have been achieved, maybe because the raw material price went up and we didn’t have any activity to manage this headwind as it wasn’t in scope. This factor is what makes managing projects through an effective program really important.

Want to know how Coriolis can help you achieve this, then get in touch.

Driving demand for healthy food

August 11, 2016 10:21 am
View Article

The last 7 years have been something of a roller-coaster ride within the food manufacturing and retail industry. Between the big four supermarkets seeing their current market share under threat, concerns around the labour force, the horse meat scandal, and increasing legislation and scrutiny, the next 12-24 months are going to be an exciting time for operating in this sector.

One of the biggest movements over the past 5 years has been a significant shift in both North America and Europe towards the healthier and also more “indulgent” products by manufacturers and retailers.

You might think this is at odds with my previous article on the obesity epidemic, but in reality we’ve seen efforts from manufacturers advising consumption of their products only on an occasional basis, such as Mars with Dolmio and Nestle with pizzas. Significant effort is being made to reduce unhealthy aspects of past staples, with Nestle again removing high fructose corn syrup from a number of recipes in the United States. Mars is looking to reduce the sodium content in all of its products by a further 20% on top of the 25% already achieved. Tyson’s Food are removing human antibiotics from all of their poultry. All in all, we’re seeing a serious effort being made by food manufacturers to remove artificial additives, GMOs, cholesterol, sodium to offer a healthier product all round.

To ensure that suppliers, manufacturers, retailers, service supporters and entrepreneurs are best placed to meet these current trends, and ultimately place themselves in a strong position within these markets, it’s important to understand why this is happening:

  • Corporate Social Responsibility – With 25.6% of the UK adult population currently obese, as well as being overweight contributing to the leading causes of preventable death, it is only natural that an industry instrumental in bringing the population to this point would want to ensure that their products are not worsening the situation
  • Legislation – One of the biggest changes in recent years has been the governments’ willingness to step in and adjust behaviour through legislation. Mexico introduced a tax on fizzy drinks after years of significant health impacts, with the UK government recently introducing a sugar tax too. Chile has introduced warning signs on packaging when a product is high in salt, sugar or calories. If governments can work with manufacturers and suppliers from the food industry, further schemes like these could be seen
  • Consumer Behaviour – Ultimately this is going to be the key motivator as it will dictate where revenue is generated, and the good news is that this seems to be where the market is headed. According to Nielsen’s global survey, overwhelming numbers are looking to improve their diets and begin purchasing healthier food, most notably in developing markets where consumers are increasingly willing to pay a premium if food is healthier. And this is where the real market opportunity lies. With younger participants in the survey expressing a strong desire for healthier food which has been ethically and sustainably sourced, and with purchasing power in these regions increasing, larger firms are well placed. Alongside sound advice as to the state of the markets they are entering as well as local partners, moving in and gaining consumers early is theirs for the taking.

Ultimately, the reasoning behind this shift in behaviours is always going to be multi-faceted, and the above are just a few reasons for the shifts in their output. With the increasing demographic burden in Europe and North America, alongside the reduction in smoking and alcohol consumption, food is the source of the next big health challenge.

Written by Alex Fitzgerald, Coriolis Ltd