Acknowledge the expanding options in vegetarian food choices
I have not eaten meat in 10 years — that is nearly half of my life. This is a choice I share with 3.2 percent of Americans ― or 7.3 million people ― according to Vegetarian Times. Vegetarians make up 2.7 percent of this statistic and the other 0.5 percent ― 1 million Americans ― are vegan. Among these individuals are those who diligently follow People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals or environmental activist groups. Those in these categories may consume Morningstar Farms and Boca Burgers like they are going out of style. However, for the larger percent of Americans ― omnivores ― these groups and perhaps these food choices fail to appeal to them in place of meat products. With new products like the Impossible Burger, cruelty-free living and environmental preservation no longer have to be tied to vegan and vegetarian diets.
According to a March 17 Washington Post article, Impossible Foods will open a large-scale factory in Oakland next week. Founded with sustainability in mind, the company markets its burger as follows: “Because we use 0% cows, the Impossible Burger uses a fraction of the Earth’s natural resources. Compared to cows, the Impossible Burger uses 95% less land, 74% less water, and creates 87% less greenhouse gas emissions. And it’s 100% free of hormones, antibiotics, and artificial ingredients.”
The burger is comprised of wheat, coconut oil and protein. Food scientists have also added heme, so the burger’s taste will more closely of meat, according to a Jan. 13 New York Times article. Oh, and it is 100 percent vegan.
In the voice layover, the reporter said, “The key ingredient is heme, the iron-rich molecule found in blood. Heme is that special something that makes a burger taste like a burger.” Hailing from Silicon Valley, the food tech company got creative and found that they could extract the molecule from plants instead of animals. While those interviewed were skeptical about whether the burger in fact tasted like a burger, they all attested to its meaty quality and flavor.
Patrick Brown, founder of the Impossible Burger, believes that 230 million omnivores may take a liking to his product and turn away from the traditional burger, according to the March 17 Washington Post article. So, why should you make the switch?
According to PETA, 27 billion animals are slaughtered annually for meat. The cruelty imposed upon animals produced for consumption is atrocious. They are bred quickly and pumped with drugs in order to grow as large as possible, as quickly as possible. The treatment for slaughter is oftentimes extremely cruel and painful. Those produced for the consumption of dairy products and eggs face awful conditions in factory farms as well. In order to ensure the constant production of milk, dairy cows are continuously impregnated through invasive artificial insemination and many calves are taken away from their mothers the day they are born. The egg industry is no better.
These conditions would be mitigated with a more plant-based diet. According to a March 22, 2016 study by the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford, “A global switch to diets that rely less on meat and more on fruit and vegetables could save 8 million lives, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two thirds, and lead to healthcare-related savings. It could also avoid climate-related changes by $1.5 trillion.”
The study estimated that 5.1 million human deaths could be prevented by a simple reduction in red meat consumption and an increase in fruit and vegetable consumption. According to the same study, by 2050, emissions could be cut 29 percent by a reduction in consumption, 63 percent by vegetarian diets and 70 percent by vegan diets. If not for the environment or for animal welfare, perhaps it would be important to make the change to a less meat-filled diet for health reasons. In fact, these diet alterations can save an estimated $700 to $1,000 billion in healthcare annually.
While making the switch to vegetarianism or veganism is not easy, adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet is not a one-step process. It certainly is not all or nothing either. Perhaps your first taste of vegetarianism can come with a bite of the Impossible Burger. Maybe it can come with joining Meat-Free Monday, a non-profit organization founded with the purpose of having one day a week without meat.
However, it is important to recognize that vegetarianism and veganism are not for everyone. Maybe all you will do is eat the Impossible Burger ― instead of a hamburger ― or look for more ethically sourced meat and animal products. This can be done by looking for products with the “Certified Humane” stamp on them or by buying locally. You should also look out for labels that read “free-range” and “grass-fed.” Any step you take can have an impact on your health, the environment and animal welfare.
The taste of flesh will never feel good between my teeth, so I suppose I will stick to my lentils. However, I am happy to read that the folks in Silicon Valley have possibly found a solution for those who both love the taste of a good beef burger and also have some semblance of ethics.