Now a new food product is entering the market that truly — reportedly — tastes like real meat but has no animal produce in it at all. Good news for vegans, for cows, pigs, chickens, and salmon, for the environment, and for our health? Not so quick.
It is true that the meat industry is a huge component of us ruining the planet. Flatulence from these animals adds up to unbelievable quantities. Precious, irreplaceable life-saving tropical forests are destroyed to make way for grassland for grazers. Also, much meat is injected with antibiotics and may hold bovine microbes and excessive hormones. Natural fish has much sea pollution. Less animal stock means less deadly diseases (pigs flu, corona). Industrial slaughter, even the kosher variety, and animal farming are hard to do humanely. Non-meaty meat is handy in the kosher kitchen. Fake-meats possibly would help new vegans kick the carnivore habit.
Yet, the number of problems with this fake meat is enormous. Sadly, reporters of such news function as marketing agents rather than critical inquirers. They team up with the salespeople to hide flaws and problems.
I blogged about this at length before. Let me try to make an up-to-date list.
This fake meat is extremely expensive. They start marketing this artifact only to posh restaurants and only the cow meat variety, no doubt because beef is already pricy. I don’t believe their “We start with cow meat because bovines pollute so much.” Sheep and goats are in the same category. But their meat is much less expensive so their doubles would reveal how expensive this fake meat is. There is no reason to make our food so expensive. Vegan food that won’t masquerade as meat can be extremely tasty and affordable. If this new product is only affordable to the super-rich and the super-wasteful, then it’s not even close to an alternative to the offensive amounts of meat mankind consumes presently. To add pain to injury, they claim this as a good backup for when the meat supply chain breaks (corona). You can’t have it both ways: being an alternative to meat and rescuing the meat industry in times of crisis! Eating well doesn’t need to be so costly. Meat, milk, eggs, butter, fish, and honey all are extremely expensive, while much more economical produce is readily available, naturally tasty, and more supportive of health and the environment. Much of the taste of both meat and fake meat comes from salt and other stuff we don’t need, our health doesn’t need, and real food doesn’t need.
You can’t expect and don’t need to expect the poor person who lives far away from civilization and owns three chickens and two goats to go vegan. He’s not ruining the environment and he has no economic alternatives.
Also, people who barely (or not) get by are exempt from expensive food alternatives — but not from being activists demanding subsidies on whole-wheat bread instead of on white bread.
Also, we can’t just criticize overwhelmed poor people for drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, watching TV, eating meat. First, we should empathize with them before telling them to sport and be activists instead.
The producer charmingly says that the ‘printer’ (that stacks meat element on meat element like an ink printer puts letter for letter on paper) uses the same ingredients to make the fake meat as the cow eats. Sounds sweet, no? In truth, this machine is incredibly wasteful regarding the water and energy it uses compared to if we’d just eat like a cow: the lentils and the lattice. (Humans cannot digest grass.) Surely, growing a cow and then killing it is much more wasteful, but that’s the wrong comparison. Plant-base lab-meat must be compared to vegan food, not to meat.
These fake pieces of meat do not come from animals injected with antibiotics but surely will contain their ‘fair share’ of preservatives and anti-fungus stuff, because they don’t have an immune system. Something veggies don’t need.
Contrary to popular propaganda, meat is a non-food. It has protein and iron (except kosher meat) and vitamin B12 but for the rest, it’s really not much better than sugar or white flower. It has no taste and needs to be heavily salted, spiced, and burned (seared) to give it some taste, which procedures are bad for health too. (The latest food atrocity of meat eaters salting every dish, even hummus.) Why in the world then would we need a fake non-food?! It’s like making fake tobacco or fake heroin. While veggies naturally have a good taste and don’t need to be scorched, salted, or spiced (for those who got rid of their meat addictions). If iron and B12 are important, then add them to real food instead of to artificial culinary boring emptiness. The argument that fake meat could be healthier meat because the amount of fat could be reduced is like saying that less-refined sugar is better than refined sugar. The difference is negligible. Alcoholics suffer most (in the first decades) from not having bread vitamins in their diet. The idea of adding those to strong drinks was rejected by medical specialists because soon people would claim that drinking alcohol was actually advantageous and healthy because of having vitamins in them. Here the same thing. This also promotes the use of commercially available fake milk products which generally only taste milky but have no nutritious value and are way too expensive also. What is rather needed is to go off the white (pasta, rice, meat, flour, milk) tasteless non-foods and switch to real varied nutritious healthy tasty satisfying foods. Methadone is a substance similar to heroin but less addictive (they claim) so it is sometimes used to get people off of heroin other than cold turkey (pardon the pun). Artificial meat could be used the same way for meat addicts but it should only be available on doctor’s prescription and for a limited time.
Legitimizes the Habit
Consuming fake meat keeps the habit of eating meat (and other animal produce and non-foods) alive (pun intended) and normative. Even if eating meat would not be a problem at all for some people, the overconsumption and the fixation on meat (56 billion animals are presently globally slaughtered for food every year) is definitely problematic for any principled person. Rather than reducing this idiocy by a trifle, a fake meat hype will legitimize it. It says: meat is indispensible for us. The issue is not so different from electronic cigarettes. They are marketed to replace deadly normal sigs but in fact, make smoking in general not look so bad. And, they are an easy way to start a nicotine addiction. (Or, as I wrote before, pushing e-cigarettes instead of promoting to quit smoking.) With the arrival of virtual texts, it was hoped that our paper consumption would go down. Unfortunately, the wasting paper went to an all-time high with every pc having its own printer and workplaces printing as we regard cars. How? When the roads are clogged, we don’t flee to public transportation. We build more roads. When all printers are busy, buy some more.
Kashrut Certification Issues
The producer says — unchallenged — that it must be kosher because all the ingredients are. That’s a bit quick and meant to conceal any kashrut certification issues. And cell-base lab-grown meats may be still regarded as not plant-based. Is this meat clearly distinguishable from cell-based lab-meat? The fake-meat’s taste is ‘enhanced’ with stuff that tastes like blood. Yet, kosher slaughter removes most of the red stuff. Will this meat be as bloody-tasting as non-kosher meat? What if Jews would prefer that? Does that not lower the bar toward eating forbidden meat? Same question for fake pigs meat.
Hyper-focusing on cutting (pun intended) meat consumption hides (pun intended) that milk cows often have a worse life than meat cows. The latter are normally allowed to roam (because that develops their muscles, what carnivores call meat) while their unfortunate milked-dry sisters are frequently jailed for life.
In a country like the Netherlands, the situation is radically different. Its hidden coffers are still overflowing from its rich colonial past (robbery). It is a rich country, though a sizeable part of the population never saw a penny of that. As one Indonesian nurse in Amsterdam told me: ‘In the Dutch Indies, so much was stolen and so little we could keep but I always thought: At least, the people in Holland are enjoying this.’ Now I work in this old-age home where pensioners are stacked together with six in a room and I hear that they never knew money all their lives. That hurts.
In this rich country, medical fraud promoted the consumption of milk. ‘Melk moet‘ (milk is a must) went so far that the US health advice of the four-layer food pyramid, in the Netherlands since 1953 was ‘translated’ into de schijf van vijf (the disk of five) with as number 1: milk and milk products (cheese!). Decades later, the efficient farmers produced more and consumers already ate less of it, creating a virtual milk lake and butter mountain, and the propaganda was only intensified. (Supplemented by ‘eenmaal per etmaal een eimaal‘ — an egg a day keeps the doctor away.)
If we’re truly concerned about meat pollution, we don’t need fake meat and not even become vegan or vegetarian. Just eating a little less meat would go a long way. (Traditional American portions are immoral.) Better still, discover food that you like that’s outside of the animal produce field. How tasty! How economical! How health-supporting! How satisfying!
It must be made as clear as that smoking tobacco ruins your health, that eating animal produce ruins your health and is way more expensive than healthy, tasty alternatives. Your meals will be better for your health, your wealth, and the planet if you switch (more) to plant-based foods. You only need to add different supplements. Vit. D, that everyone needs very much but is lacking in all foods, is steadily added to milk products. we must buy this separately and demand that it is added to whole-wheat bread instead. If you also eat lots of veggies, you only need to add Vit. B12 and you’re set.
MM is a prolific and creative writer and thinker, a daily blog contributor to the TOI. He is a fetal survivor of the pharmaceutical industry (https://diethylstilbestrol.co.uk/studies/des-and-psychological-health/), born in 1953 to two Dutch survivors who met in the largest concentration camp in the Netherlands, Westerbork, and holds a BA in medicine (University of Amsterdam). He taught Re-evaluation Co-counseling, became a social activist, became religious, made Aliyah, and raised three wonderful kids. He wrote an unpublished tome about Jewish Free Will. He’s a strict vegan since 2008. He’s an Orthodox Jew but not a rabbi. *
His most influential teachers (chronologically) are: his parents, Nico (natan) van Zuiden and Betty (beisye) Nieweg, Wim Kan, Mozart, Harvey Jackins, Marshal Rosenberg, Reb Shlomo Carlebach, and, lehavdil bein chayim lechayim: Rabbi Dr. Natan Lopes Cardozo, Rav Zev Leff, and Rav Meir Lubin. *
Previously, for decades, he was known to the Jerusalem Post readers as a frequent letter writer. For a couple of years, he wrote hasbara for the Dutch public. His fields of attention now are varied: Psychology (including Sexuality and Abuse), Medicine (including physical immortality), Science (statistics), Politics (Israel, the US and the Netherlands, Activism – more than leftwing or rightwing, he hopes to highlight Truth), Oppression and Liberation (intersectionally, for young people, the elderly, non-Whites, women, workers, Jews, LGBTQIA, foreigners and anyone else who’s dehumanized or exploited), Integrity, Philosophy, Jews (Judaism, Zionism, Holocaust and Jewish Liberation), Ecology and Veganism. Sometimes he’s misunderstood because he has such a wide vision that never fits any specialist’s box. But that’s exactly what many love about him. Many of his posts relate to affairs from the news or the Torah Portion of the Week or are new insights that suddenly befell him. *
He hopes that his words will inspire and inform, reassure the doubters but make the self-assured doubt more. He strives to bring a fresh perspective rather than bore you with the obvious. He doesn’t expect his readers to agree. Rather, original minds must be disputed. In short, his main political positions are: anti-Trumpism, for Zionism, Intersectionality, non-violence, democracy, anti the fake peace process, for original-Orthodoxy, Science, Free Will, anti blaming-the-victim and for down-to-earth optimism. Read his blog how he attempts to bridge any discrepancies. He admits sometimes exaggerating to make a point, which could have him come across as nasty, while in actuality, he’s quite a lovely person to interact with. He holds – how Dutch – that a strong opinion doesn’t imply intolerance of other views. *
His writing has been made possible by an allowance for second-generation Holocaust survivors from the Netherlands. It has been his dream since he was 38 to try to make a difference by teaching through writing. He had three times 9-out-of-10 for Dutch at his high school finals but is spending his days communicating in English and Hebrew – how ironic. G-d must have a fine sense of humor. In case you wonder – yes, he is a bit dyslectic. November 13, 2018, he published his 500th blog post with the ToI. If you’re a native English speaker and wonder why you should read from people whose English is only their second language, consider the advantage of having a peek outside of your cultural bubble. *
NEW: To see other blog posts by him, his overspill blog you can reach by clicking on the Website icon next to his picture at the head of every post. There you may find precursors to later TOI blog posts, addition or corrections of published TOI blog posts, blog posts the TOI will not carry, and some thoughts that are too short to be a TOI blog post. Also, the TOI only allows for one blog post per blogger per 24 hours. Sometimes, he has more to say than that. *
To send any personal reaction to him, scroll to the top of the blog post and click Contact Me.