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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

LocalHarvest Newsletter: Fake Meats, False Solutions

LocalHarvest Newsletter, January 23, 2017
Fake Meats, False Solutions

photo by Think Geek

Welcome back to the LocalHarvest Newsletter.

The production of meat brings with it all sorts of physical and mental baggage. As we have industrialized nearly every product of nature, animals were rounded up and industrialized too. Business interests are now trying to engineer the animal out of the meat. Just as vitamins can be synthesized, so too can meat.

There has been considerable media hype about how different fake meat products (and all imitation animal products, such as those trying to replace milk, eggs, leather, fibers, etc) are clearly more environmentally sustainable, better for human health, and better for the animals if they don't have to die to produce your food. In reality, things are not so clear. There is significant wealth and whole organizations tied up with convincing consumers that "meat analogues" and plant-based meat replacements are the ones you should be choosing. Just to be clear, none of these organizations or investors would make any money should people choose to just eat less meat or buy better sources of meat. They only make money if consumers shift to the new processed products that they have invested in.

Meat analogues or imitation meats can be produced in a variety of ways. Some of them are actually plant-based while others are grown from animal blood, serum, or cells. For the purposes of this short article, I am just going to lump them all together and call them "fake meats". Whatever technology they are made from, there are two indisputable facts. One is that they require ingredients, such as bovine fetal serum, or plant-based derivatives such as soybean roots, potato proteins, wheat proteins, and pea powder. Those ingredients were grown somewhere and transported somewhere else, just like the feed ingredients that make up the diets of most livestock. Those ingredients and their transport have an environmental impact. Secondly, the growing of meat cells in a laboratory or the various manufacturing processes of creating fake meat takes both energy and water. Lots of it. The raising of livestock can take a lot of water too, particularly if that livestock is fed grain that was irrigated. Yet the raising of livestock can also take very little water apart from the water that falls naturally from the sky. Likewise, livestock take energy to produce, but most of it is free solar energy in the form of plants they eat. Meat processing takes energy too, but the facilities tend to be highly energy efficient and use more human-powered energy than mechanical. The fake meat industry will tout how it has a lower environmental footprint, yet there is actually almost no scientific research that shows this. Most of the fake meat industry is incredibly opaque, full of trade secrets and very little data sharing. As a result, nobody actually knows the full life cycle impacts of these products. Yet we know very well the life cycle of a beef steer, of a sheep, or of a chicken. And we know that we can make tremendous improvements towards reducing the environmental footprint of meat by purchasing it closer to where it was raised, from rotationally grazed animals, from breeds that thrive in a specific environment, and by eating the whole animal so there is less waste.

Could fake meats replace some of the consumption of conventional, feedlot-based meats and thus improve animal welfare or the environment by reducing demand for cheap meat? A couple thoughts on why that won't happen. First, fake meats are still considerably more expensive than the cheapest feedlot meats. A 9.7 ounce box of Quorn Meatless Chik'n Cutlets is around $4 (more than $5.60 a pound) whereas conventional chicken may cost $1-2/lb. in the store. Or an Impossible Burger that is said to cost around $10-11/lb., more than three times the price of regular ground beef. Because of the steep price, these products are most likely going to appeal to people who have more money, people who are already able to buy higher quality meats and who probably don't eat a McDonald's hamburger every day. So instead of pulling business from conventional CAFO meats, it will probably pull business from more sustainable and ethical meats. Secondly, fake meats really appeal to the vegans and vegetarians, who obviously are not consuming conventional meat anyways. Therefore, it is unlikely that fake meats will make any noticeable improvement towards reducing the environmental footprint of meat production or improving the welfare of factory farmed animals. Yet if you look at the messaging of these companies, they literally think they are saving the planet. When in fact, the unintended consequences of fake meat production could be incredibly high, with farmers and their communities probably suffering the most from the disruption of their livelihoods. The fake meat companies don't care about that. That is not part of ‘saving the world' that they care about. They are out to grow a limitless supply of money, not food.

As if that is not enough, fake meats come from a few factories owned by corporations (most of them investor-owned). Real meat comes from hundreds of thousands of family-scale farms contributing to our rural communities all over this country (and 1 billion people globally raise animals as part of their livelihood). Do you see the clear difference here? Do we want more colonization of our food supply by venture capitalists or do we want democratized, small-scale farming businesses that invest in and give back to our communities? Do we need more food products that are divorced from nature and continue to erode our connection to it? The more we head down this road, the less resilient our food system becomes.

Next time you read about or hear someone touting the solution that is fake meats, ask them why they think it is a solution and what will it solve for? What data do they have to back up their claims? You will find, most often, they have nothing to say. It is just a seductive story with no substance.


Feel Better this Winter with Bone Broth

LocalHarvest is partnering with one of our favorite new companies, Kettle & Fire. They make 100% grass-fed bone broth that's delivered right to your door. Bone broth is nutritious and delicious, and you can heat and drink in less than 5 minutes. Each carton is made with organic ingredients and loaded with collagen. Kettle & Fire is offering LocalHarvest readers up to 3 free cartons when they make their first purchase. There's no commitment and you're covered by their 100% money back guarantee. Try this nutrient-rich superfood today.

From the LH Store

Last month I extolled the virtues of fresh citrus in winter. Keep buying those beautiful orbs of sunshine. But now my gaze shifts to coffee and tea, which I seem to drink a lot of in wintertime. Do you know that the Local Harvest store has US grown coffee- from the volcanic slopes of Hawaii? We also have a bunch of different kinds of herbal teas. Grown, harvested, dried, and blended with love. There are stress relief teas, sleepy teas, cold care teas, teas to beat the flu, and ones to warm your soul. Check out the rich variety.

CSAware and CSA Manager

As a former farmer, I can attest to the headache which is customer and account management, as well as order logistics. It can downright sap the joy out of farming altogether. But it doesn’t have to be that way. LocalHarvest has two software programs for different scale CSA farmers that can take a huge load of paperwork off your shoulders. Check out CSAware and the lighter version called CSA Manager.

Recipe: Sauteed Winter Greens

Adapted from Michael Twitty’s book The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South. Recipe...

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