Real Meat?


Part One of a Two-Part Series

One has to sympathize with Albertans. First the environmental movement tries to shut down their main industry. Now a second major industry is in the sights of the fake meat industry.

A recent CBC radio interview on The Current with Mark Bittman, a respected food writer, brought up some interesting points. Here’s what I got out of the interview, plus a bit more.

Three Basic Concerns

  1. Red meat in large quantities is not a salutary part of a good human diet.
  2. Present red-meat production methods are not good for the environment.
  3. Present red-meat production methods are not good for the welfare of the animals doing the producing.

Climate Change deniers and rabid carnivores aside, most Canadians are pretty much agreed on these points. Most of us would be happy to do something about the situation. As long as it doesn’t disturb our pleasant little lives too much. As in, cost us a bunch of money or inconvenience.

So, when a bunch of big burger chains jump on the “fake meat” bandwagon, we have to take a serious look at what they’re providing. Is it the solution?

  1. Health

Is an Impossible Burger better for you than a Whopper?

Any food that is created is completely under the control of the producer. Plant-based meat can be engineered to have more of anything we want it to: amino acids, vitamins, protein. Also less: fats, antibiotics, salmonella and E-coli. But will they do it? If more fat is required to give that burger the right sizzle, the commercial company is going to put it in. remember, they don’t care about you, they care about their bottom line.

The other downside is that more processing rarely adds to the nutrition of the food. We have a knee-jerk reaction to “processed” and for once, the public reputation is for the most part correct. High heat and other processes take out lots of nutrients – we don’t know which. Processing companies also add in stuff – we don’t know what.

The bottom line on nutrition is that Humans evolved eating certain natural foods. As experience over the last hundred years or so has revealed, messing with the genetic makeup and the preparing of food can introduce malignant factors. Look at gluten intolerance. Excessive crossbreeding of wheats for various qualities had the inadvertent effect of increasing the gluten content past what many people can tolerate. And that’s not even modern genetic manipulation.

So is fake meat better for you? Probably not. It’s really a matter of choosing how you want to die. The butter/margarine decision is a simple metaphor. If you want to die of heart disease, eat natural butter. If you want to die of cancer, eat processed margarine. Apply that to meat.

We should be eating more plants, less meat and even less processed junk. Fake meat takes us down the road of eating more junk.

Bottom Line: no progress.

  1. Environmental Footprint

Well, according to Bittman, the jury is still out on this one. Yes, beef production is about the most inefficient use per hectare of cropland. Cows do produce methane, a greenhouse gas. But is the footprint of Beyond Beef any better? Take a look at the huge list of contents and try to figure out the cost to the environment of producing, transporting, and processing them.

Bottom line: who knows?

  1. Animal Rights.

I won’t waste your time arguing this one. Compared to modern meat-farming atrocities?

Bottom line: hands down win for fake meat.

  1. Oh, Yes, the Fourth Point: Taste.

Fortunately that doesn’t really enter into the argument, because you can’t argue it. Taste is, after all, merely a matter of taste. Mr. Bittman says the Impossible Burger tastes awful. I rather like A&W’s Beyond Beef.

Bottom Line: You like it; eat it. End of discussion.

So, depending on your priorities and whom you believe, the jury is still out on fake meat. However, now comes the fun part.

This Is the Wrong Argument!

That’s right. There’s no point in arguing meat/fake meat, because both are the wrong solution. Proponents of both sides are making huge pitches to the consumer about making the right choice. The only reason they do that is because it gets them advertising ink. It’s not what goes into your hamburger that counts. It’s not what the consumer decides to buy that’s going to solve these problems.

And next week, in the second part of this two-part series, I’m going to discuss what both Mr. Bittman and I think we really should be doing to fix the meat industry.








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