By: Engr. Edgar Mana-ay
HOUSTON, Texas – For two years now, the plant-based meat “fake animal products” revolution in the United States is exploding. Back in the 60s, the dream of a plant-based hamburger that could satisfy meat eaters was practically inconceivable. Now many companies produce burgers, chicken, and even chicken wings (of course, without bones) sausage, and hot dogs that COOK, SMELL, TASTE, AND BLEED like real meat.
The use of plant-based foods and plant-based meat is not really new. The 7th day Adventists have been using lentils, red beans, corn, or wheat as an earnest imitation of meat, since their religious belief prohibits them from meat intake.
Nowadays, inspired by health, ethical and environmental concerns, more and more people (mostly here in the US) are now eating plant-based foods and plant-based and lab-created meat alternatives.
The biggest technological stride is on PLANT-BASED MEALS. For burgers alone, the Americans consume 50 billion a year, that’s 137 million a day! If just 10 percent Americans shift to the plant-based burger, then these beyond meat companies will have to supply 14 million a day of substitute burger meat.
Many companies are already making a bonanza with this new trend of plant-based meat. In their new menu, KFC in Houston had come out recently with a plant-based chicken calling it “Beyond Fried Chicken” in partnership with Beyond Meat Company in California.
California-based Beyond Meat, the leading company in this new venture, went public at $25 a share. Six months after, a share was trading at $168! Food chain companies like Carl’s, Red Robin, Del Taco, Burger King and McDonald’s in the US now carries these plant-based meat products with tremendous success. It is projected that in three years’ time, Burger King and McDonald’s in the Philippines will be offering burgers and chicken that come from plants and the lab.
Is this really a healthy trend or just another way to grow heart disease and obesity? As mentioned above, we have to base our analysis on three factors: Health, Environmental concerns – reducing our carbon footprints by not rearing cows and chicken and finally, Ethical – a very narrow-minded and the weird concern of animal lovers not to slaughter cows and chicken.
In 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that red and processed meats are carcinogenic. Impossible Foods in Redwood City, California had come out with “Impossible Patty” for a burger that was researched and developed in the laboratory. The “plant-based” moniker gives it an air of healthfulness but its main mission is really to make it taste as close to meat as possible. While there are concerns that Impossible Burgers are over-processed because they are liberally created from a test tube, animal-based burgers are highly processed as well. So how nutritious is Impossible Burger? Impossible has the same protein as a lean meat patty.
Some other comparison: Ground Beef Impossible Burger
Calories 287 240
Total fat 23 g 14 g
Saturated fats 8.6 g 8 g
Cholesterol 80 mg zero
Sodium 75 mg 370 mg
In 2018, greenhouse gas experts announced that avoiding meat and dairy is the “single biggest way” to reduce your environmental footprints. This author is also at a loss of how this is so. We knew all along that cow and chicken dung gives off methane (CH3) that is 25 times more destructive than carbon dioxide (CO2) as a greenhouse gas. But so far there is no reliable study of worldwide quantity methane emission from the wastes (cow and chicken manure) of the dairy industry as to how much it contributed to total greenhouse gasses that cause global warming.
Much of the conversation about mitigating the effect of climate change FAILS to recognize that in many parts of the world there is prevalent UNDER NUTRITION. Therefore poor countries need a more nutritious diet with adequate calories and that will require a substantial increase in greenhouse emission and water use. It is the high income and advanced countries that consume more animal products than the global average that should accelerate towards plant-heavy diets.
The veggie burger appears good for the environment and contains good ingredients like peas, beans, lentil, soy or gluten in place of animal tissue and certainly doesn’t trigger the particular health, environment and ethical concerns that are associated with animal meat. On the other hand, many commercially prepared veggie burgers also have disadvantages. They’re highly processed foods, typically high in sodium, which could be a problem for people with high blood pressure. Many brands use refined oils, saturated fats, “natural” flavor, sugar, genetically modified ingredients, and other less healthy additives.
As a compromise, there are people who advocate reducing animal food by 2/3 only, not total. Going “2/3 vegan” assumes a vegan diet for 2 out of three meals a day; this is by the western standard but not in the Philippines where the average Filipino eats meat and dairy products at about 5 to 6 meals a week only. This writer eats meat and dairy products for only 3 to 4 meals out of 21 meals a week, it’s mostly fish, hence a very low climate and water footprint plus a very good effect on my health.