Being in a food industry myself, I probably see and read many more articles on food products than most of those living in urban areas reading city newspapers. After reading the article in The Chieftain recently about the “fake meat” products popping up in stores and restaurants, I compiled some thoughts and information on how our eating habits have changed in the last eighty or so years, and how food choices can “make or break” us physically.
No longer a largely agrarian country, most Americans work at jobs outside of actual food production. This has led to changed eating habits caused by time constraints, choice by design, or just plain laziness (I can fix a box of hamburger helper and be done with dinner, or buy a McDonald’s muffin on the way to work).
As a result, many Americans have lost or never had knowledge about the properties of the food they eat.( i.e. Many foods should be eaten in combination with other foods to fully release the vitamins, minerals and micro-nutrients we need.) They have no idea of the best ways to preserve vitamins and minerals in food preparation.
Because these factors are driving forces in food selection, business entities have jumped to fill the gap with sometimes questionable motives in producing food choices. Even though many labels use enticing words to up their sales, the use of the word “natural” for instance, has little merit if all the ingredients in their box of cereal are processed and add too much salt and sugar. Those are common additives to improve taste! It is also difficult for many of us to read between the lines of scientific studies that condemn eating a food that subsequent studies say is okay. Remember the egg debacle?
It is pretty obvious that the push for all this convenience food is not helping reduce the incidence of chronic health diseases in our country. Yet new forms of food, such as vegetable based burgers and cultured factory produced meat will not help either, even though they are being advertised as being as good or better than an unaltered meat. The biggest concern with plant based meat is that it qualifies internationally as an ultra-processed food, which is associated with a host of nutritional deficiencies. Even though they have a protein content from soy, peas or mung beans that equals real meat protein, many vitamins and minerals need to be added. If you want to complain about saturated fat in real meat, the amount in some plant based products is even higher, and chemicals such as propylene glycol and titanium dioxide are also used to help them mimic meat taste. And a new study has shown that a carcinogen, acrylamide, has been found in some cooked plant-based meats at high enough levels to require a warning on the label in California.
I am not opposed to people eating plants and not meats, but founders of Impossible Foods (Pat Brown) and Beyond Meat (Ethan Brown) have both made many factually incorrect claims about animal agriculture, trying to push their product as environmentally better also. It’s not being advertised that Pat Brown declared his mission is to end animal agriculture by 2035! Instead of basing his product on any superiority, he trashes the meat industry as filthy, inhumane, and unsafe, which is intentional misinformation. Without the livestock industry, the world will not be able to produce enough food in the future to keep people fed. Not only that, if every person in the United States stopped eating meat, the effect on greenhouse gases would be a paltry 2.6% decrease, not enough to be of any significance. With major efficiency advancements in the last 50 years, the effect on the environment from animal agriculture has been reduced inversely. The majority of greenhouse gas emissions here come from food waste, not from livestock.
My advice is to stick as much as possible to whole foods, as they come from the ground or from the animal. Grow your own if possible. Learn how to cook foods to maximize the nutrition potential, and how to combine foods to extract the most nutrients. To be healthy, we need to eat healthy and smart!
Connie Dunham is a rancher, dog and horse trainer, and raises championship pugs north of Enterprise.