🍔 Peeling back the bun
Health: According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the global appetite for meat is expected to double by 2050. In light of this new information, a number of biotech startups are striving to replace livestock with science labs. Companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat tout the environmental benefits of their ultra-processed substitutes with the goal of convincing consumers that “meat doesn’t have to come from animals.” However, new evidence suggests that the impact of mock meat on people and the planet could be more damaging than that of responsibly raised livestock.
In an era of clean labeling, faux meat companies artfully obfuscate the manufacturing processes that enable their mysterious products to look, cook, and taste like the real thing. Impossible's formula contains 19 patents and 21 complex components - including genetically modified soybeans, processed oils, and methylcellulose to act as a binder. The company’s secret weapon is soy leghemoglobin (heme for short) - a genetically modified organism that enables its patties to “bleed” like beef. In 2017, the Food and Drug Administration deemed heme unsafe for human consumption after uncovering that a quarter of Impossible’s “magic” molecule was composed of 46 unexpected proteins. The verdict was not reversed until July of 2018, more than a year after the product was commercially available. Following this decision, a separate study identified 11 parts per billion (ppb) of glyphosate in the Impossible patty. Exposure to even 0.1 (ppb) of glyphosate can damage and disrupt the human microbiome.
Contrary to what Impossible and Beyond want eco-friendly shoppers to believe, upending the livestock industry will not resolve our climate crisis. In 2018, a life-cycle analysis conducted by Quantis concluded that a rancher would have to produce one “regeneratively” raised burger to offset the 3.5 kilograms of CO2 emissions emitted into the atmosphere by one Impossible Burger. Proponents of an animal-free food system fail to recognize that ruminants, when deployed in a planned grazing system, can help to sequester carbon back into topsoil.
Instead of propagating risky food technologies that are problems disguised as desirable solutions, consumers should consider a more responsible method of livestock production - one based on eliminating chemical inputs and increasing ecosystem biodiversity. By investing in the regenerative and grass-fed sectors, we can support a food system that produces nutritious meat and elevates the world’s 640 million small farmers. To find purveyors in your area, check out this interactive map of ranchers that meet the American Grassfed Association’s strict certification criteria for meat and dairy products.
Listen: In this episode of the Mindbodygreen podcast, Jason Wachob and Diana Rodgers, R.D., unpack why meat isn’t the problematic factor in America’s diet. Instead of demonizing animal products, Diana stresses the importance of eating real foods and cutting out processed carbohydrates while unpacking her lifelong struggle with celiac disease. Along the way, she highlights the role that holistic planned grazing plays in regenerating soil and improving animal welfare. Want to watch Diana’s upcoming film about the nutritional, environmental, and ethical case for better meat? Join the Sacred Cow waitlist and be first in line during the fall preview week (Nov. 22-30) before it hits the mainstream streaming platforms.
Eat: Have you been on the hunt for 100% grass-fed and finished meat? Look no further than Wholesome Meats, a San Antonio-based company selling premium, regenerative beef. The team prides itself on offering grass-fed beef supplied by local Carbon Ranchers who use regenerative grazing to create a carbon-negative product that is as good for the land as it is for the consumer. Check out this link to get Wholesome Meats delivered straight to your doorstep. Don’t forget to use the code “REGEN10” at checkout to receive 10% off your order.