Will There Be Meat In Your Future?
Updated: Dec 19, 2019
I was watching the news this morning when on came a commercial for a popular coffee stop. The commercial was announcing the nationwide release of a new plant based breakfast sandwich to mimic their sausage patty. Same look, taste and texture of a sausage patty but without the "meat". This raised the question... What's going on with meat?
The demand for meat has increased over the past 10,000 years when we started domesticating animals for eating. At any given moment world wide there is an estimated 1 billion pigs. 1 billion sheep. 1.5 billion cows and 23 billion chickens, all for our consumption. Rightly so, there are a lot of wonderful benefits to eating meat. The following are all essentially required by the body to carry out metabolic reaction:
I would like to play devil's advocate here. Roughly 3 percent of the United States are vegetarians. That's 6-8 million people. Yes, everyone has their own opinion about why not to consume meat, but I was setting out as a meat eating lover to see what could be so bad about it. Brace yourselves folks, there was a lot of information out there.
Did you know?
The cow evolved to simply be a cow and make more cows, not to be eaten by humans. It takes an enormous amount of, food, water, and other resources to turn a cow or pig into our dinner. Water footprint was one of the first things I came across that really peaked my interest.U.S. agriculture accounts for 87 percent of all the fresh water consumed each year. To produce one pound of beef is 1,799 gallons of water; one pound of pork takes 576 gallons of water. As a comparison, the water footprint of soybeans is 216 gallons; corn is 108 gallons.The large water footprints for beef, pork and other meats indicate the large volumes of water used for their production. My friend's at Food Tank were able to explain how this water foot print is determined. Why is raising livestock and poultry for meat so resource-intensive? The answer is mainly based on the food that livestock eat. What the water footprint reveals is the magnitude of water “hidden” in meat as a tally of all the water consumed at the various steps during production.
Grain and Land Impact:
If you take all the grain currently used to feed live stock in the United States alone and feed it directly to consumers, we could feed 800 million people. On top of that, if those grains were exported, it would boost the U.S. trade balance by $80 billion a year! Grain-fed livestock farming is a costly and non sustainable way to produce animal protein. Animal protein production requires more than eight times as much fossil-fuel energy than production of plant protein while yielding animal protein that is only 1.4 times more nutritious for humans than the comparable amount of plant protein Tracking food animal production from the feed trough to the dinner table, it has been found that a broiler chicken to be the most efficient use of fossil energy, and beef, the least. Chicken meat production consumes energy in a 4:1 ratio to protein output; beef cattle production requires an energy input to protein output ratio of 54:1. (Lamb meat production is nearly as inefficient at 50:1, according to the ecologist's analysis of U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics. Other ratios range from 13:1 for turkey meat and 14:1 for milk protein to 17:1 for pork and 26:1 for eggs.) Livestock are directly or indirectly responsible for much of the soil erosion in the United States, the ecologist determined. On lands where feed grain is produced, soil loss averages 13 tons per hectare per year. Pasture lands are eroding at a slower pace, at an average of 6 tons per hectare per year. But erosion may exceed 100 tons on severely overgrazed pastures, and 54 percent of U.S. pasture land is being overgrazed. More than half the U.S. grain and nearly 40 percent of world grain is being fed to livestock rather than being consumed directly by humans. Although grain production is increasing in total, the per capita supply has been decreasing for more than a decade.
Another point that has always bothered me is the astounding amount of antibiotics used on the animals we consume. 75% of all antibiotics made are going to livestock. In turn once consumed, are going into you. With a high rise of autoimmune disorders, gut and brain concerns people are experiencing, we need another alternative.
Armed with this new information the curiosity of lab grown meat was slightly more appealing to me. The process to make such a thing, on the other hand, was a little over my head. Let me try to explain.
For sake of keeping this simple-ish, we are going to take a look inside The Impossible Burger Company. After being frustrated on the talking circuit about how using animals for food harms the environment, Patrick O.Brown started The Impossible Burger Company a plant based alternative to your well loved burger. Dr.Brown is a scientist and professor emeritus at Stanford University. He holds a medical degree and Ph.D. The original Impossible Burger contains the following ingredients:
Water, textured wheat protein, coconut oil, potato protein, natural flavors, 2% or less of leg-hemoglobin (soy), yeast extract, salt, konjac gum, xanthan gum, soy protein isolate, vitamin E, vitamin C, thiamine (vitamin B1), zinc, niacin, vitamin B6, riboflavin (vitamin B2), and vitamin B12.
In 2019, the company introduced a new recipe featuring the following changes:
Uses soy protein instead of wheat protein, making it gluten-free.
Contains a plant-based culinary binder called methyl-cellulose to improve texture.
Replaced a portion of the coconut oil with sunflower oil to reduce saturated fat content.
Heme, or soy leg-hemoglobin, is the ingredient said to set the Impossible Burger apart from other plant-based burgers. It adds to the flavor and color of the burger and makes it “bleed” like a beef burger does when cut. How could you enjoy a "burger" without the bleed? Below there is a comparison between the Impossible Burger and a Beef Burger:
It's important to note that these nutrients are added to the product, unlike the nutrients found in beef. Impossible Burgers also contain a high amount of added salt, packing in 16% of the daily value for sodium in one 4-ounce (113-gram) serving. Some of these nutrients, such as vitamin B12, iron, and zinc, are especially important for those who are vegans and vegetarians.What really sets the Impossible Burger apart from other vegan and vegetarian foods enriched with iron is that it provides heme iron. Heme iron is better absorbed by your body than the non-heme iron you get from plant foods.Moreover, soy leg-hemoglobin has been shown to have an equivalent bio-availability to the iron found in meat, making it a potentially important source of highly absorbable iron for those who don't consume animal products.The iron in the Impossible Burger has been approved by the FDA for use in food, although it's long-term safety is still unknown.
Like anything that is new to the food industry, time will tell if there is a need or desire for such a product in this marketplace. Long term effects of the product are also a mystery. As stated above, the FDA has approved the iron based source of the Impossible Burger but long-term safety is unknown. Proceed at your own risk. One thing for sure is this: We obviously have a problem with the demand of meat in all forms. Something needs to change. If this or other products like it, is one of the answers, I will take mine medium, on a gluten free bun.