Column 358      July 15, 2022Consumer Reports June 2022 Cover

The June 2022 Consumer Report (CR) magazine did a review article titled “The Meat Lovers' Guide to Plant-Based Meat.” A teaser headline on the cover said “The Best-Tasting Veggie Burgers.” It made me wonder, how can a meat lover be interested in fake meat? Is it only taste that he wants?1

So I turned to the article and the opening statement was; “CR analyzed 32 faux (i.e., a very chic fake) burgers, nuggets, fillets, and sausages for taste and nutrition, and talked with experts about whether they’re better for the environment. Here’s what you need to know.”

Right off that sounded to me like CR was going woke with a vegetarian-based, climate-warming, fake-meat-promotional that’s geared to do a hatchet job on real meat. That was only partially the case because CR did a fair job of explaining nutritional comparisons between fake and real meats.

“These mock meats are plant-based—but they’re not whole foods,” CR stated. “And that raises concerns among nutrition pros because growing research links ultraprocessed foods to increased risks of heart disease, weight gain, and more.

“It’s not clear whether processed ‘meats’ pose the same risks, says Stephan van Vliet, PhD, of the Center for Human Nutrition Studies at Utah State University in Logan. ‘Not all ultraprocessed foods are bad,’ he says, citing soy and almond milks as healthy examples.

“Still, van Vliet, the lead author of a study comparing grass-fed and plant-based burgers, sees important differences between the two. Notably, whole foods contain thousands of compounds in addition to those listed on nutrition labels. ‘Foods are more complex than the sum of their parts,’ he says. ‘It’s challenging to put together a replacement that contains them all.’

It can be a struggle to include even some familiar nutrients. One study found that swapping animal products with plant-based meat and dairy makes it harder to get enough calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and—especially—vitamin B12, which is found naturally only in animal foods.”

Challenging” and a “struggle” is an understatement. It’s impossible. It’s pretty far fetched to believe that, of the thousands of various plant nutrients, some of them can be extracted and then recombined into an exact replica that makes up a particular animal species. If that was actually possible, the product would be identical to meat but far more costly because of the required technology. In actual fact, fake meats are made by combining different parts of various plants which, after being combined, come closest to replicating the texture and taste of meat while trying to replicate the basic Nutrition Facts label for real meat.2

CR did develop a nutrition scoring system to rank the fake meats. They did it by evaluating products based on calories, fiber, protein, iron, vitamin B12, saturated fat, and sodium which are the standard data found on governement mandated Nutrition Facts labels. But we all know those labels are worthless because reading them is like evaluating a car based on info limited to stating whether or not it has tires, engine, radio, heater, transmission, and speedometer. It tells you basically nothing even when comparing fake with fake. It’s especially worthless when comparing fake with real.

But nutrition aside, where CR really fell apart was with the woke environmental perspective that it has swallowed hook, line, and sinker. “‘Starting with plant meat might make sense if you’re not relying on it every day and you’re including whole foods,’ nutritionist Enahora says. Shanika Whitehurst, associate director of product sustainability, research, and testing at CR, agrees, especially on the issue of climate change. ‘Even being heavily processed,’ she says, ‘plant meat has less of an environmental impact than industrial animal production.’”

I’ve used up a lot of ink over the years explaining why raising livestock on prairie land is natural and farming is not natural. Farming was invented by man about 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. It involves plowing, fallow fields, planting, fertilization, irrigation, harvesting, storage, and machinery. Herbivores grazing pastures and rangeland is totally natural. There is little if any plowing, fallow fields, planting, fertilization, and most of the irrigation is rainfall. There’s no storage because animals are harvested on an as needed basis.

Pastures and rangeland that are covered with trees, grasses, forbs, and shrubs are natural carbon sinks nearly all of the time. Plowed fields and fallow fields release carbon into the atmosphere. The growing of plants (vegetables and crops like cotton) and their removal depletes the soil of its nutrients at a far faster pace than does the harvesting of herbivores.

Where the environmentalists really get grazing wrong is when it comes to methane gas releases caused by herbivores digesting forages. Yes, herbivores burp and pass gas. But their methane releases do not accumulate in the atmosphere because this year’s releases will have dissipated to zero in about ten years. So, unless the number of herbivores increases in those ten years, the methane in the atmosphere that’s attributed to them is a constant. And how far back does that methane constant go? Well, at least several hundred thousand years! That’s because North America was teeming with herbivores long before man showed up.

A couple of years ago I wrote several columns debunking the methane, water, and other anti beef arguments. One was titled “You’ve Been Lied to: Methane & Cows” and there were others.3 4

When it comes to the environmental argument regarding agriculture, I can tell that CR’s “professionals” are about as smart as a sack of hammers. What they don’t know would fill most of the genuine agricultural scientific textbooks in existence. CR is more concerned with myths based on political correctness than science.5 6

Also, as we can see from the image of the June CR cover, the issue also includes an article about boosting your brain power. Unfortunately, it has become almost commonplace for Americans to say they’ve noticed signs of forgetfulness significant enough to worry them. In answer to that, rather than look to CR for the answer, I recommend my article: “Reversing Cognitive Decline.” It has a link to a report by Dale E. Bredesen, MD. In his report he explains the supplements to take and regimens to adopt to improve brain function. It’s more extensive than the suggestions provided by CR’s article.7

To your health.

Ted Slanker

Ted Slanker has been reporting on the fundamentals of nutritional research in publications, television and radio appearances, and at conferences since 1999. He condenses complex studies into the basics required for health and well-being. His eBook, The Real Diet of Man, is available online.

Don't miss these links for additional reading:

1. The Meat Lovers' Guide to Plant-Based Meat by Brian Vines from Consumer Reports

2. Problem with Faux Burgers: a Few Minutes with USCA's Graner by Chuck Jolley from Feed Stuffs

3. You’ve Been Lied to: Methane & Cows Column #233 by Ted Slanker

4. 42% Vote to Ban Beef! Column 236 by Ted Slanker

5. Don’t Blame Cattle – It’s Humans Who Caused Methane Levels to Skyrocket by Robert Howarth David R. Atkinson Professor of Ecology and Environmental Biology at Cornell University

6. For Methane, GWP100 Not Measuring Up by Frank Mitloehner, Ph.D. | UC Davis Department of Animal Science

7. Reversing Cognitive Decline by Ted Slanker