Opinion: Beyond Meat And Impossible Burgers - Why Our Diets Are Going In Different Directions.


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Beyond. Impossible. Two organisations that have come up with plant-based meat substitutes. There even is an altruistic marketing front about consuming plant-based meat substitutes, too.

The Impossible website even states that:

By eating meat made from plants instead of meat made from animals, we can drastically cut our carbon footprint, save water supplies and help ensure that our precious Earth is here not just tomorrow but for future generations. With Impossible Burger, it’s never been more delicious to save the planet.

While Beyond’s mission statement describes something similar:

By shifting from animal to plant-based meat, we can positively affect the planet, the environment, the climate and even ourselves. After all, the positive choices we make every day — no matter how small — can have a great impact on our world.

After all, it appeals to the humanity within us. Let’s save the environment.

While the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the generation of all that environmental waste — a global estimate put it at 129 billion disposable face masks being thrown away per month.

Globally, 65 billion gloves are used every month. The tally for face masks is nearly twice that — 129 billion a month. That translates into 3 million face masks used per minute.
A separate study reports that 3.4 billion face masks or face shields are discarded every day. Asia is projected to throw away 1.8 billion face masks daily, the highest quantity of any continent globally. China, with the world’s largest population (1.4 billion) discards nearly 702 million face masks daily.

We haven’t even considered the amount of energy or resources required for the engineering processes to produce those face masks.

Though Impossible does claim that a life cycle assessment (LCA) of their products conducted back in 2019 yielded these results:

The impacts of an Impossible Burger are vastly lower: 87% less water use, 96% less land use, 89% fewer GHG emissions, and 92% less dead-zone creating nutrient pollution than ground beef from cows.

A similar LCA on Beyond products also presented better environmental statistics:

Based on a comparative assessment of the current Beyond Burger production system with the 2017 beef LCA by Thoma et al, the Beyond Burger generates 90% less greenhouse gas emissions, requires 46% less energy, has >99% less impact on water scarcity and 93% less impact on land use than a ¼ pound of U.S. beef.

Based on these statements, we can come to a conclusion that these plant-based substitutes are better for the environment.

However, other reports will disagree on that, especially the one prepared by Navdanya International:

However, fake food has a larger carbon footprint than less-processed plant proteins. Plant-based substitutes are up to seven times more GHG-intensive than whole pulses. Cell-based meat also emits more GHG than animal products, like pork or poultry.
Recent research even suggests that over the long term, the environmental impact of lab-grown meat could be higher than that of livestock.
Moreover, fake food is advertised as “eco-friendly”, and yet it is made with proteins from pea, soy, or corn which are being grown on a large, industrial scale, relying on tillage, monocultures, toxic pesticides and often, GMOs.
The Impossible Burger is made with GMO Roundup-sprayed soya, leading to massive ecological devastation. Total levels of glyphosate detected in the Impossible Burger by Health Research Institute Laboratories were 11.3ppb, making its consumption highly dangerous as only 0.1ppb of glyphosate can destroy gut bacteria, damage to vital organs like the liver and kidneys, cause reproductive abnormalities, or even tumors, as glyphosate is also a “probable human carcinogen.” More broadly, the reliance on pesticides is directly linked with long-term chronic health problems, for consumers and farmers.
Other companies like Beyond Meat, who market their products as “cleaner” since they are free from genetically modified ingredients, still admit to not being organic, and still rely heavily on monocultures and pesticides.
Ironically, these plant-based meat alternatives, which claim to save animals, water and the environment, are instead directly contributing to the food system that is threatening global biodiversity, destroying wildlife, altering the soils and polluting groundwater supplies. Moreover, the fake food companies’ supply chains require excessive fossil fuel transport, like most industrial food.

Also, we do have to consider that animal greenhouse gas emissions only contributed to 11% of the 2020 carbon dioxide emissions in the USA, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). Industries, electricity generation and transport contributed 24–27% each.

So while the aim of Impossible and Beyond is, ostensibly, to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we do have to wonder if something else is afoot behind the scenes.

After all, Bill Gates is now the owner of 242,000 acres of farmland across 19 states in the USA. And Bill Gates is also an investor in Impossible Foods. And Bill Gates himself states that rich nations should switch to synthetic meats.

Is there not a fishy trend going on there?

If I were investing that much in a synthetic meat substitute, and call for people to switch to it, and buy up the farmland that can help produce the raw materials for the synthetic meat…

Is it really about saving the environment, or about me wanting to get a good (or even outsized) return on my investment?

It’s a smart move, though. I use consumer psychology tactics to appeal to my audience’s emotions with all those emotionally charged content about the doom and gloom that climate change can bring about, such that many sheeple will choose to switch over to a product that I’m backing.

The more consumers buy that product, the better returns on my investment I’ll be getting.

It’s not so much about saving the environment as it is about lining my pockets now, is it? That’s the hidden meaning behind Bill Gates’ drive. He’s targeting the rich nations, too, because the poorer nations can’t really afford to pay the profit margins on those Impossible foods!

Let’s not think that we are saving the environment significantly more as a result of switching to synthetic meats. We aren’t.

The energy consumption by the transportation sector (cars, buses, airplanes), industries (especially manufacturing) and electricity generation from fossil fuels (especially when we need our air conditioning in the summer and heating in the winter) are still bigger players in the emissions arena.

Not to mention the fact that many of us want to keep up to date with the latest electronic gadgets out there — the manufacturing of those products is also energy intensive!

That’s what we do have to bear in mind when we’re discussing anything environment related. Nobody’s going to raise (and attempt to implement) a new agenda about the environment when there is no money to be made.

After all, if our toilet waste were that valuable, we wouldn’t have to pay the municipal sewerage fees for waste processing and disposal, would we?

This article was originally published in Medium.

Joel Yong, Ph.D., is a biochemical engineer/scientist, an educator and a writer. He has authored 5 ebooks (available on Amazon.com in Kindle format) and co-authored 6 journal articles in internationally peer-reviewed scientific journals. His main focus is on crafting strategies to support optimal biochemical functions in the human body at https://thethinkingscientist.substack.com.

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