Blame Processed Food
Don’t blame the cows for fourteen-and-a-half percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions; blame the Americans who eat an average of three beef burgers a week. And don’t for a minute think that replacing hamburgers with Impossible Burgers or Beyond Meat is going to solve the problem. The problem is processed food.
Vegan Burgers Are Highly Processed
Pat Brown, the biochemist spearheading Impossible Foods’ plan to develop plant-based chicken, pork, lamb, dairy and fish “to wipe out all animal agriculture and deep-sea fishing by 2035” thinks he’s saving the planet by developing plant-based burgers, but I have my doubts.
Brown’s chemists have created the Impossible Burger. It mimics the flavor, texture and aroma of a beef patty. Instead of beef, it’s comprised of twenty-one different ingredients. It’s kosher and halal certified, but it’s not organic; it’s not even natural. Another vegan burger alternative is Beyond Meat’s Plant-based patties. They have twenty Non-GMO ingredients, none of which are soy or gluten.
I recently gave Beyond Meat a try. An eight-ounce package containing two quarter-pound patties cost nine dollars – on sale. I cooked them according the package directions and served them at home, where my discriminating taste tester damned them with faint praise.
“Tastes like an indeterminate commercial hamburger,” Tim said. “Not distinguished, but nothing wrong with it.”
At eighteen dollars a pound, I expected something better – and economically sustainable.
A few nights later, we did a taste comparison with venison burgers made from the deer I shot last season. They were local, organic and unprocessed. They also tasted really good.
I have no problem with people choosing to follow a vegan diet. My problem – and the problem with our entire food system – is how we’ve moved from eating food that remembers the dirt it was grown in, cooked at home, and eaten sitting around a table with others.
Don’t Blame the Cows. The Blame’s On Us.
The problem is not that cows fart, spewing methane into the atmosphere; the problem is that we eat too many burgers grown by unsustainable methods and eat them in unsatisfying ways – i.e. while driving in our cars, or at our desks, or even in restaurants, where food waste is rampant.
Eat Real Food
Vegans, vegetarians and omnivores alike would be doing themselves and the planet a favor if we all ate food that comes in the containers it naturally grows in. Think: banana peel, eggshell, potato skin.
Carnivores can do better, too. Not every meat eater has to raise her own poultry or shoot her own deer, as I’ve chosen to, but even buying whole chickens instead of a tray of parts is a small step away from industrial food. Buying locally or regionally raised meat is a larger step. Yes, it costs more in the short run, but it is usually more humanely raised (smaller farms, more pasture); is more lightly packaged (no Styrofoam tray); and healthier for humans (less handling, no antibiotics) and for the planet (less transportation to market).
Food Ethics are Complex
The ethics of food in our industrial age are complex, and ultimately, we each must make choices based on availability, beliefs culture, diet, economics, and so on through the alphabet. Economically, there’s no question that while our industrial food system makes food inexpensive, it carries a high carbon cost, one we’ll all pay for sooner than later.
But cows aren’t the problem; we are. There are lots of steps we can make that will be healthier for us all, starting with buying real food. Food less traveled and food less packaged is even better.
My recommendation is that we all eat mostly locally produced, minimally packaged, in-season food, cook it at home, and eat it with ceremony.