Pyeongchang 2018: What’s on the Menu?

Pyeongchang 2018: What’s on the Menu?

Highway billboards for Korean beef at 2018 Winter Olympics

In the eastern province of Gangwon-do in South Korea, preparations are underway for the 2018 Winter Olympics, which will be held in Pyeongchang-gun. Infrastructure upgrades including highway expansions and a new subway rail line are all in the works. And beef, it seems, is on the menu. Along National Highway 50, near the Daegwallyeong pass across the Taekbaek mountains, a billboard reads:

“2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics
Together with Daegwallyeong Korean Beef”

Brighter Green’s blog recently covered food and sustainability concerns at the London Olympics. Given the role of meat production in contributing to climate change and its global threat on the environment and public health, future host cities might want to rethink what is an appropriate meal for the world’s stage.

I had written before about animal agriculture issues in Korea including national beef campaigns in response to the Korea U.S. Free Trade Agreement. In addition, two years ago, farms across the country, including some not too far from Pyeongchang were hit hard by foot and mouth disease and avian flu. In the course of a few months, over 3 million pigs were killed across the country in 2010.

The strains of industrial animal agriculture continue to show. In Anheung in Gangwon-do, where tens of thousands of pigs were buried alive, water supplies have become contaminated. The government is currently installing tunnels and pipes to transport water from a different region to each home in this area.

In the summer of 2012, the heat wave has led to the death of over 830,000 farm animals in Korea, mostly chickens. The recent drought in the U.S. has also affected Korea. With decrease in production of U.S. crops used in animal feed, there has been less available for export, and prices for animal feed are soaring in Korea. The cost of beef in Korea, interestingly though, has been going down because farmers can no longer afford to feed their animals, so they are selling them off. There’s currently a surplus on the market, driving the price of beef down.

What will the next few years leading up to 2018 bring in terms of climate and agriculture? Pyeongchang sits between Hoengsang, an area prided for its beef and Chodang treasured for its sundubu, soft tofu. (In the 1500s, a government official and poet Heo Yeop (pen name Chodang), was credited for preparing tofu with purified seawater instead of salt, creating a unique tasting local specialty. )

With rising temperatures and erratic weather patterns, the choice between tofu and beef perhaps is not just one to consider for future world games but for our future world.

Photo courtesy of Wan Park