Column #129

Drum roll pleeeease . . . .

Coming down the red carpet at your local fast food restaurant and even in the meat section of your favorite grocery store is . . . meatless meat!

Yes, in order to save you and the planet, the pied pipers are grooming another round of unsubstantiated gobbledegook to ram down the throats of clueless consumers.

They’re using several marketing angles to sell us on the idea that eating vegetable proteins versus actual meat is a better option. They say their concocted artificial meat provides food that’s healthier than real meat and saves the planet at the same time. Naturally their hardcore pitch starts with: “animals are killed.” Then they claim:

●    51% of global greenhouse gas emissions are driven by livestock rearing and processing
●    29% of agricultural water use is for animal production
●    45% of global surface area is used for livestock systems

When casting about for data, one finds it on all sides of the aisle. But one needs to read the reports with a critical eye. For starters, there’s no question that everything we eat was alive at one time. Plant or animal, at one time it grew before it was harvested. And it’s been an “eat or be eaten” world since the beginning of sustainable life.

When it comes to gas emissions, measuring them is a big, complicated puzzle. But for sure, whenever animals (including people) exhale, burp, or pass gas, the gas usually includes a carbon atom that came from something they ate or, to a lessor extent, inhaled. To understand this, one needs to know about the carbon cycle. Carbon is everywhere and everything alive has carbon in it. Carbon is also a part of the ocean, air, and even rocks.

For hundreds of millions of years, as animals ate vegetation and/or animals and as vegetation died off and rotted, those processes released gases. Then as plants grew back, they sequestered the carbon from water, air, and soils. This is the animal/vegetation carbon cycle. People are now telling us that this ancient carbon cycle between livestock and plant material is unsustainable for the health of the planet. In so doing they are minimizing the impact of the many other sources of carbon releases into the environment that do not have offsetting carbon sinks. One is burning fossil fuels. Plowing fields is another and there are plenty more.

There’s a big difference in terms of planet health when livestock on pastures are compared to farming vegetables. Pastures are relatively low quality grasslands and even high desert ranges that are rarely irrigated. As Alan Savory explained in his incredibly famous Ted Talk, grazing action actually improves the soil ecology and vegetative regrowth that sequesters gases released by the animals. Vegetable farming exposes soil that releases gas and requires huge quantifies of water and fertilization. Planting and harvesting requires considerable energy, machinery, and labor. Obviously, livestock on pastures beats vegetable farming hands down for saving the planet.

Now let’s compare the nutrition of concocted burgers versus grass-fed meats, Omega-3 meats, and wild-caught seafood.

As with any concocted food, artificial meats have ingredient lists that need review.

Beyond Burger Ingredients
Pea Protein Isolate, Expeller Pressed Canola Oil, Refined Coconut Oil, Water, Yeast Extract, Maltodextrin, Natural Flavors, Gum Arabic, Sunflower Oil, Salt, Succinic Acid, Acetic Acid, Non-GMO Modified Food Starch, Cellulose From Bamboo, Methylcellulose, Potato Starch, Beet Juice Extract (for color), Ascorbic Acid (to maintain color), Annatto Extract (for color), Citrus Fruit Extract (to maintain quality), Vegetable Glycerin.

Beast Burger Ingredients
Water, Pea Protein Isolate, Expeller-Pressed Canola Oil, Refined Coconut Oil, Cellulose from Bamboo, Natural Flavor, Methylcellulose, Apple Fiber, Salt, Vegetable Extract Blend (Spinach, Broccoli, Carrot, Tomato, Beet, Shiitake Mushroom), Beet Juice (For Color), Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin), Vitamin A (Palmitate), Annatto (For Color).

Southwest Style Chicken Strips Ingredients
Water, Non-GMO Soy Protein Isolate, Pea Protein Isolate, Southwest Chicken Flavor† (Yeast Extract, Potato Maltodextrin, Natural Flavoring, Salt, Sunflower Oil, Citric Acid), Rice Flour, Non-GMO Expeller-pressed Canola Oil, Soy Fiber, Carrot Fiber, Spices, Contains 0.5% or less of: Lime Juice Concentrate, Dipotassium Phosphate, Salt, Titanium Dioxide (for color), Sugar‡, Potassium Chloride, White Vinegar, Chili Pepper Extract, Onion Extract, Paprika Extract, Garlic Extract.

Vegetable Protein isolates are vegetables that have had most of the minerals, fat, carbohydrates, and fiber removed. The remaining product is mostly protein with amino acids and is actually a good protein source. Added oils are nearly 100% fat without any vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, or amino acids. Fibers and cellulose are basically nondigestible bulk.

Are the concocted veggie “burgers” composed of real, natural vegetables? No, they are vegetable derivatives that do not duplicate the nutrient density and diversity of green leafy vegetables--the foundation food for all animal life. None of the concocted burgers I’ve seen have the nutrient density and diversity of kale. Alarmingly, most veggie burgers have rather high ratios of Omega-6 to Omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFAs) of about 10:1. Consequently, in terms of providing total nutrition capable of sustaining a healthy life, veggie burgers are not even close to replicating grass-fed meats, Omega-3 meats, and wild-caught seafood.

Once again, buyer beware. The health food marketers are at it again with their mumbo jumbo and maybe the drum roll we’re hearing is a threat to health and not one that’s heralding a positive breakthrough.

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.

For additional reading:

Alan Savory’s Ted Talk: How to Fight Desertification and Reverse Climate Change

Alan Savory’s Ted Talk: Avoiding Desertification

Freshwater Methane Emissions Offset the Continental Carbon Sink by David Bastviken et al.

The Carbon Cycle from Kid’s Crossing

Carbon Cycle from Wikipedia

Timeline: The Evolution of Life by Michael Marshall

TGI Fridays Adding Beyond Burgers to Menu by Amanda Radke

Beyond Meat Announces Launch of Beyond Sausage, a “Revolutionary Plant-Based Breakthrough” by Jill Ettinger

TGI Fridays to Run Meatless Monday Campaign After Vegan Burger Launch by Jill Ettinger

Don’t Call It “Fake”: Beyond Meat Makes Real Meat (from Plants) by Jill Ettinger

On Bill Gates, Clean Meat, Sustainability & Improved Livestock Genetics by Amanda Radke

Beyond Meat