A gift certificate for a plant based cooking class makes a great father's day gift!

Are meat analogues a faux solution?

21 August 2023

I used to hate math*, but it was required for my degree at Cornell, so in my freshman year, I enrolled in a course called “The Philosophy of Mathematics”. I loved that class! If you ask me what I learned, I can't tell you much - I just know that it shifted my whole way of thinking.

I'm constantly learning new things, but experiences that change the way I think are less common.  Some examples for me: high school physics, Kabbalah, owning cats.

I've previously mentioned the power of the ad industry in shaping our food choices and just last week our cultural expectations for children. Other influencers - political, corporate & celebrity - often dictate the cultural narrative around healthy food and environmental choices.

A new study published in the journal One Earth found that the “gigantic power of the meat and dairy industries in the EU and US is blocking the development of the greener alternatives needed to tackle the climate crisis.”

The study focused on public spending for plant based alternatives (versus meat and dairy) in the US, UK and European Union 2014-2020.  It seems American animal farmers got 800 times more public funding than alternatives, and 97% of the research dollars.

With its significant impact on pollution, land and water use, and destruction of forests, scientists say cutting meat and dairy consumption is the single biggest way people can reduce their impact on the planet. If our elected officials paid more attention to healthcare research and the huge economic burden of preventable chronic disease, they would be supporting more plant-based alternatives.

However…can we take a breath and consider that focusing on processed food alternatives may not be the best answer? Part of the answer, of course!  Our planet demands it and consumers seem to as well.

But there are more basic things we can be doing, utilizing nature's “technology”.  Consider:

  • Legumes are a healthful protein source that is beneficial to the soil and our health.  Daily consumption of beans or lentils is associated with heart health, cancer prevention, digestive health and weight management.
  • Tofu and soy contain all nine essential amino acids (complete protein), are associated with control of both blood sugar and cholesterol, and may help prevent breast cancer.
  • Nuts and seeds contain protein in a package that also includes healthy fats and fiber, all of which aid in satiety, helping us to feel full for longer.

One of the overlooked dangers of powerful lobbies in politics is that we allow them to restrict or control the discussion about our agricultural future. It's easy to freak people out about “lab grown meat” and ultra processed alternatives. Talking about actual farmers growing actual food (termed “specialty crops” by the USDA) is another story.

IMHO, that's where the future of food is, and that's where we should be directing those subsidies.

*I dropped math after 11th grade when I had completed graduation requirements. My amazing teacher could not convince me otherwise. But I appreciate it much more now...for being the only subject with a clear answer! I should have listened to you, Mrs. Rocco!

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