To meat or not to meat

Where do you stand as the meat industry meets it’s newest competition: the vegan burger?

Alfred Dozier, Opinion and Editorial Editor

You walk through the door as a savory aroma hits your nostrils. As the smell hits you, you remember exactly why you’re there. A Burger far different from the rest, a burger made from plant-based meat, a vegan burger. A marvel of human engineering, an act of pure defiance, a godsend. The Meat Industry hates it, Vegans love it. It’s the Impossible Whopper, made from Impossible Foods, brought by a partnership between Burger King and Impossible. 

Plant-based meat has become a trend, most people know about it, and as it seems most people don’t really want to have it. Places such as Burger King, Mcdonalds, White Castle, and Del Taco have rolled out their own plant-based meat products each to their own effect. While Arby’s goes against the grain making a carrot made out of meat or the Marrot, saying that they will never offer any plant-based meat options. The only simple way of explaining the whole situation is that there’s a large heap of skepticism behind plant-based meat.

There are many things that people must know and understand about the plant-based meat movement, from the creation, to the opposition, to the impact of the agricultural industry on the environment as a whole, and the reason plant-based meat is a thing in the first place.

Billions of animals are harvested globally every year for agricultural reasons, not only that but it’s done at an unprecedented speed. Global demand is growing and growing, and over the past 50 years, meat production has rapidly increased. Meat production in the US in 1961 was 16.51 million tonnes, as of 2018 its 46.83 million tones. While China in 1961 produced 2.55 million tonnes, as of 2018 it has risen to 88.16 million tonnes. Our production of meat has dangerous environmental effects, from greenhouse gases, land used for agricultural, and freshwater use. With all these factors people wanted to find a solution, one that equals a safer way to enjoy meat. Enter plant-based food. People don’t eat meat because it’s made from dead animal flesh, they eat it because of its flavor, smell, texture and look. A Flavor, smell, texture and look, that plant-based food companies have claimed to have harnessed. 

The taste of meat, in essence, is very hard to describe, juicy, nutty, savory, meaty, are some of the words to characterize it. In truth, the taste of beef, appearance, and aroma comes from one thing: Heme. Heme is an iron-containing molecule that gives red meat its color. Soy Leghemoglobin is a protein found in plants that carry Heme, that is what’s used to give “fake” meat its “meat” taste. This is the “solution” to the problems that meat production brings, but the question is: Is this truly better for the environment?

The thing is that there are many factors to the pollution of our environment, and the agriculture industry isn’t the only thing behind it. Simply assuming that the Agriculture Industry is the biggest driver of climate change is just as bad as assuming that plant-based meat is better for the environment. While plant-based substitutes are better for the environment than animal production, meat can’t just be replaced like that. Meat is a part of our life as a whole.

The meat industry would have you think that plant-based meat is way worse than any meat you could ever eat but that’s wrong. Just like the meat you find at stores, plant-based meat is the exact same, it’s processed. On Impossible’s website, the burgers are described as being processed by mixing carefully selected ingredients, derived from plants or by fermentation, to create something unique and delicious.”  Just like how meat products are. Even if it’s a plant-based patty, it isn’t as healthy as steaming hot vegetables. 

While Impossible also tackles the ground beef side of the meat industry, it also ventures into another area. The Pig. Pork is the most-consumed meat worldwide. With it being very popular in Asia according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, and Impossible has a solution for that too. At CES 2020, The Global Stage For Innovation. On January 6, the company debuted Impossible pork, a plant-based meat substitute designed to mimic ground meat from pigs. Impossible is going for every meat product out there, and they aren’t stopping at pork. Later this month Impossible Sausage will launch.  

All in all, the plant-based meat industry has one goal: to change the world. The hopes of making a world where “we can eat all the meat we want, for as long as we want. And save the best planet in the known universe.”

Like it or not, what companies like Impossible, Beyond Meat, and traditional meat processing companies like Tyson Foods and Hormel are doing is providing a solution to a problem that many don’t know exists. A problem that many don’t care to acknowledge, A problem that like so many others is affecting the state of our world. So many people Vegan or, not are giving faux meat a chance, others aren’t believing it or knocking it down before even trying it. Understandably switching your life around and knowing that what you’re eating is soy or lab-grown cells isn’t smooth. There’s a lot of choices to make when it comes to making responsible decisions as a consumer and as a human being. Only one thing remains to be asked, “To meat or not to meat?” that is the question, the only one to ask.