By Mila McManus, MD
The Plant Based non-meat “meat” industry is taking off as many proponents of a greener planet argue that eliminating the beef industry will save the planet. According to an article published in Wise Traditions Winter 2021 issue, called Reading Between the Lines: Fake Meat and Other Fake Foods: Synthetic Biology Wolves in “Sustainable” Sheep’s Clothing, the author Merinda Teller says there is a “lab-grown meat stampede… a full scale agenda to remove the meat industry entirely led by Future Meat Technologies, the FDA and USDA, as well as NASA, various universities, Bill Gates, Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, Eat Just, Upside Foods, Tyson Foods, Amazon, and the World Economic Forum among others” (p.49-50). Alternatively, The Westin A. Price Foundation and the Environmental Working Group would argue that we can, and do, produce foods of all kinds, and meat specifically, in clean, green, sustainable ways.
It’s interesting how these fake meat producers are trying to make it look, cook, smell, and taste like meat, and they are using the word “meat” in some context on the label. It’s NOT meat. Nothing about wheat, soy, or the lab grown mold called mycoprotein is meat. It seems an oxymoronic to call plant-based food “meat”. It is a fake food in the sense that there is nothing about the end product that occurs organically in nature, the way food is grown or produced traditionally. The product is a result of man concocting a combination of foods, combining man-made chemicals and processed proteins into something mysteriously edible.
Read ingredient labels very carefully and know what you are eating. For example, Gardein’s Plant-based Chick’n Filets contain wheat and wheat gluten, soy protein isolate, textured wheat protein, yeast extract, canola oil, and fructose, to name a few, on the otherwise long list of ingredients. Needless to say, if you are gluten sensitive or celiac, or have allergies or sensitivities to soy, yeast, or MSG, this would raise concerns. In general, we recommend avoiding omega-6 rich inflammatory oils (such as canola, soybean, corn, and cottonseed oils) and added sugars (fructose, dextrose, maltodextrin, high fructose corn sugar, tapioca syrup). Quorn makes their “meatless pieces” with 93% mycoprotein, a mold grown in laboratories. Added to that are yeast extract, egg whites and sugar. IncogMeato is made from water, soy protein concentration, canola oil, dextrose, and yeast extract. Impossible Foods touts their plant-based heme (iron) made from fermentation of genetically engineered yeast, soy, and potato protein. And JUST EGG uses Mung Bean Protein Isolate, expeller-pressed canola oil, sugar, and tapioca syrup, tetrasodium pyrophosphate (what?), transglutaminase (huh?), and nisin (say that again?). All of the Impossible Foods meat replacement products contain soy protein which is a common food allergen. Moreover, unless specified certified organic, there’s an extremely high chance it’s genetically modified.
One of the cleanest and simplest ingredient lists we found was Dr. Praeger’s Sensible Foods Perfect Plant Based Ground for meatballs, tacos, and burgers. While we might not go as far as “perfect”, it is comparably a much better, whole food ingredient list. It is gluten free and vegan with 20 grams of protein. The ingredient list contains only 12 ingredients which are hydrated pea protein blend (water, pea protein), high oleic sunflower oil, beets, natural flavors, sweet potato puree, butternut squash puree, carrot puree, methyl cellulose, fruit, and vegetable juice (for color), oat fiber, sea salt, and onion powder. Another somewhat “better” ingredient list are the Beyond Meat products, though again, natural flavors, dried yeast, canola oil, and pea protein can each pose problems for some people.
It may be helpful to know that the top 9 food allergens in the United States that must be identified on all foods containing them include corn, soy, wheat, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, fish, dairy, and sesame. The first four are often the most altered by man by the way they are genetically modified, laden with pesticides, or in the case of eggs, fed hormones and antibiotics.
All this to say, we are still strong proponents of eating real whole food the way it occurs in nature. We encourage sustainable sources wherever possible. 100% grass fed, grass finished meats, organic farming, minimizing the use of plastics, recycling, avoiding food waste, and supporting local farmers and ranchers – all can support a cleaner, greener, world.