In this file:
· Opinion | The Impossible Burger is a wake-up call to the meat industry
Has America reached Peak Meat?
· Opinion | Falling in love with meat all over again
“Cows are much more complex than they look,” she said. “If you see a bunch of cows grazing, the social relationships play a big part in how they distribute themselves. … And when they are upset, they want to be with their friends, just like us.”
Opinion | The Impossible Burger is a wake-up call to the meat industry
Has America reached Peak Meat?
David Von Drehle, Opinion, UniversalStickUp
Apr 7, 2019
Missouri Farm Bureau members were likely startled by the recent “Commentary” in their email queues. The farm bureau’s Eric Bohl reported on his visit to a St. Louis-area Burger King, where the fast-food giant is testing a version of the Whopper made entirely from plants. “If I didn’t know what I was eating, I would have no idea it was not beef,” Bohl wrote.
Given the farm bureau’s role in last year’s Missouri law banning use of the word “meat” to market plant-based products, Bohl’s praise was unexpected. An explanation soon followed.
“Raising cattle is a way of life in rural Missouri,” the food critic allowed. “So why write an article taste-testing a plant-based ‘burger’? As a wake-up call to our industry.”
But not every alarm heralds a bright new day. Cattlemen are waking to the very real possibility that they have nowhere to go but down. America may have reached Peak Meat.
I say this as a rock-ribbed, 100-percent, Fred Flintstone carnivore. What the madeleine did for Marcel Proust, so the aroma of grilling meat unlocks a lifetime of memories for me. By contrast, I’ve detested the idea of veggie burgers ever since my family was cursed with a carton of frozen soy patties in those ghastly times known as the 1970s.
Like Bohl, though, I was impressed by the burger my son and I shared the other day at a Red Robin restaurant in suburban Kansas City. We ordered identically tricked-out sandwiches, one with a plant-based patty from the same company that supplies Burger King — Impossible Foods — and the other with traditional ground beef. Tasting them side-by-side, we could discern an ever-so-slight difference. But they were equals in terms of yumminess and burgerismo.
I waddled away thinking this is a tipping point. Today’s meat alternatives aren’t aimed at the relatively small market of dedicated vegans and vegetarians. They’re targeted to the likes of me: people who will only give weight to the environmental impacts of large-scale animal farming if given meaty-tasting, meaty-smelling, meaty-looking alternatives.
If the plant patties hit their targets, in a nation that consumes 50 billion burgers a year, imagine the impact of cutting out just one in five. Or two. Try four. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, agriculture — especially cattle — generates nearly 10 percent of heat-trapping emissions in the United States. Even that number may greatly understate the toll of livestock on the environment.
No less a force than Bill Gates is backing the revolution. The Microsoft founder has money in both Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, two well-funded companies with slightly different approaches. Scientists at Impossible Foods have isolated a molecule, called “heme,” that they credit with giving meat its meatiness. By creating soy-based heme, they’re able to infuse the essence of meat into a mixture heavy on wheat, potato and coconut oil. Beyond Meat, meanwhile, scorns the heme recipe as an example of genetically modified food. The company insists that culinary magic alone can produce beef-like burgers and pork-like sausages.
(Close behind them are outfits experimenting with meat grown from animal cells without need for pastures, hoofs or hides.)
The new burgers aren’t health food. Plant patties are high in sodium and saturated fat — I told you they were yummy! — and roughly equivalent to beef in calories, though lower in cholesterol. Still, the results are sufficient for burger chains to take them seriously and threatening enough that such major players in the livestock industry as Tyson and Cargill have bought stakes in them.
And then there’s the cool factor. Hip-hop artist Questlove, a Philadelphia native, has created a cheesesteak sandwich using Impossible Foods meat and debuted the product on Opening Day at Citizens Bank Park. Actor brothers Mark and Donnie Wahlburg promote Impossible burgers at their family’s Wahlburgers restaurant chain. NBA stars Kyrie Irving and Shaquille O’Neal head a list of athletes — including Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn and free climber Alex Honnold — investing their money and fame in Beyond Meat.
Faced with this rising wave, the Missouri law to restrict use of the word “meat” in packaging and promotions to apply only to livestock and poultry seems paltry even before First Amendment lawyers start whacking it in court. Mincemeat, anyone?
But count on America’s great dividers, the hot-button jockeys of politics and cable TV, to make meat the next cultural battlefield. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) set the tone when he once cooked bacon on the red-hot barrel of a gun. Right-wingers interested in politicizing food might take a lesson from partisans on the left. Their protests against Chick-fil-A, owned by the conservative Cathy family of Georgia, have done nothing to dent sales.
Face it: Tastes change. Bottled water is now more popular than soda pop. A new day is dawning for the meat industry, and the Word of the Day is: smaller.
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Falling in love with meat all over again
by Faye Flam, Commentary, Bloomberg
via The Japan Times - Apr 6, 2019
NEW YORK - Can science tell us anything about the wisdom of ordering Burger King’s newly introduced Impossible Whopper burger, invented in Silicon Valley and made from vegetable matter and a lab-produced protein?
Nutrition has recently changed course, reversing the late 20th century anti-fat dogma, and acknowledging that some kinds of fat found in animals can be good for you. If anything, the beef is the least unhealthy item in a fast food meal — compared with the bun, the pile of fries and the soda.
And yet, there’s evidence from the earth sciences that beef production increases water pollution and global warming. And now there’s research that backs a major moral argument for going vegetarian or vegan: Some of the animals we consider livestock are sentient beings with complex mental, social and emotional lives.
Science isn’t sufficient to tell us what’s right or wrong, but it can give us important insights — telling us, for example, that if we think a dog is too smart and too full of personality to eat, then the same argument might apply to sheep and cows. We just hadn’t bothered to get to know them.
Neurobiologist Lori Marino, an expert on marine mammals, was asked by a farm sanctuary group to look into the cognitive abilities of some of our popular livestock. She said she found remarkable evidence for brainpower and emotional richness among sheep and cows. She recently co-authored a review paper on sheep — on what they think, how they think and what it might feel like to be a sheep.
There’s this popular image of sheep as mindless followers, she said. But a closer look shows “they have the ability to make decisions, toss around ideas and mentally represent ideas to solve a problem.” Sheep are also discriminating. They have a powerful sense of taste to help them distinguish more nutritious plants from less nutritious ones.
And they are aces at face recognition, distinguishing pictures of up to 50 other sheep and remembering faces for up to two years. They they can also distinguish different emotional states among sheep and human faces. In other experiments, they were able to recognize pictures of humans they knew, as well as distinguish images of different human celebrities.
If we think sheep all look alike, that’s a function of our shortcomings. They show distinct personalities; some are more gregarious, others more introverted, some are more novelty-seeking, some are more set in their ways. And sheep form friendships. When we see a flock of sheep, we might think it’s just a mindless grouping, but Marino said the sheep are hanging out near their friends, just like any crowd of people.
Cows too have strong friendships, as well as powerful bonds between mothers and their calves. “Cows are much more complex than they look,” she said. “If you see a bunch of cows grazing, the social relationships play a big part in how they distribute themselves. … And when they are upset, they want to be with their friends, just like us.”
The scientific understanding of animals has shifted dramatically in the last 30 years. For most of the 20th century, biologists considered anthropomorphism a cardinal sin. They wanted to guard against making unjustifiable assumptions, projecting humanlike motives such as love or revenge to animal behavior.
But somehow this got distorted into a much more outlandish and unjustifiable assumption — that nonhuman animals are unthinking, unfeeling robotlike entities, despite their known evolutionary relationship to us.
There have been scientists pointing out the fallacy of this way of thinking for years, but until recently the mainstream scientific community wrote them off as sentimental, soft-hearted types. I once asked evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins about animal rights, given that he’s someone who doesn’t suffer irrational ideas gladly. He became a little incensed that anyone could deny the clear evidence that other animals feel pain and fear. And not just intelligent animals, he said. Perhaps animals we deem less intelligent would feel even more terrified when subject to painful lab experiments or the slaughterhouse.
Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” exposed a number of cruel factory farming practices...