The Problem with Fake Meat – Part 2

In last week’s blog post, we looked at the rise of fake “meat,” and the claims that these types of meat substitutes are actually healthier for you than real meat. We saw that the fake “meats” are created from a concoction of processed ingredients, leading towards a big question mark on the health front. A Harvard study that looked at whether plant-based meat alternatives can be part of a healthy and sustainable diet concluded that “the answer remains far from clear given the lack of rigorously designed, independently funded studies. Among the health-related concerns they raise are the high sodium and caloric content in several popular imitation burger patties, and that these products are highly processed, which can lead to loss of nutrients.”

This week, we’ll dive into the claims made by the fake “meat” companies surrounding the good that their product does for the planet.

Impossible Foods, says plant-based meat alternatives are better for consumers and better for the planet, requiring less land and water and producing fewer greenhouse gas emissions than meat from cattle. While there is some truth in this, the truth lies in the fact that they are comparing themselves to the conventional industry. So Impossible may be better than the current factory farming.

However, is it the best? According to Marco Springmann, a senior environmental researcher at the University of Oxford, “while their (Impossible) processed products have about half the carbon footprint that chicken does, they also have 5 times more of a footprint than a bean patty,” he said. “So Beyond and Impossible go somewhere towards reducing your carbon footprint, but saying it’s the most climate friendly thing to do — that’s a false promise.” And if it has 5 times more carbon footprint than a beef patty, it must be an exponentially larger carbon footprint than a regenerative burger, which actually sequesters carbon out of the air. 

With that being said, we do agree with and support some of the claims put forward by the fake “meat” camp.

For example, as Bruce Friedrich, the co-founder and executive director of the  Good Food Institute, a nonprofit think tank for cultivated meat and plant-based meat, said, “Industrial animal meat is treated with chemicals, and it tends to be contaminated with bacteria. I mean slaughterhouses, they’re just rank with meat contamination.” We wholeheartedly agree with this, however, we disagree with Friedrich’s answer to this problem: “The pressure on the planet would be impacted in a huge and positive way if everyone replaced meat with plant or cell-based alternatives.” 

As shown above, switching to meat “alternatives” may not be the planet-based solution it’s touted to be. To look towards a true, holistic solution to providing good, healthy food, while replenishing rather than depleting earth’s natural resources, look no further than regenerative agriculture. As we know, regenerative agriculture harnesses natural processes, and grows food the way nature intended: naturally. Remember, it’s not the cow, it’s the How.