The Alternative Meat Hypocrisy


By Jaclyn Krymowski for Protect The Harvest

Consumers are seeing “meat alternatives” everywhere they look, including grocery stores, fast food chains, and restaurants. Meat alternatives encompass an array of food products made from plant-based, meat-like proteins and lab-produced, “cultured meat” products.

Although they are produced from a variety of materials and are cleverly marketed with alluring labels, these alternative meats have some common features. They are marketed as “healthier” and more environmentally “sustainable” than traditional animal protein. Manufacturers and marketers are trying to make their products look and taste like real meat, which includes placing them in or near meat departments in grocery retailers. No doubt, this has resulted in some consumers guessing which items are familiar animal proteins (meat), and which are alternative meat products.

Clever marketing tactics are used to promote these products, tactics that are somewhat deceptive and often hypocritical. These highly processed alternative food products are questionable at best for their lofty environmental claims, and they also tend to disparage the nutrition, quality, safety, affordability and flavor of traditional animal protein products.

Shady Marketing Tactics

At the heart of sustainability marketing claims for alternative meats is a focus on demonizing animal agriculture. Their entire sustainability argument is based on the hypothetical goal of replacing traditional meats with highly processed “food products.”

These arguments do not rely on hard facts and data. Instead, they prey on emotion and employ scare tactics. Experts across industries, academia and government remain divided on the methods used to document sustainability in alternative meats and the accuracy of life cycle assessments compared to livestock.

Another serious point to consider is the fear-mongering used to promote a healthy meat alternative. Some alternative meat companies employ marketing strategies that position their products as being “healthier” than traditional animal proteins without facts to back up their claims. Unless a person closely examines the laundry list of ingredients found in alternative meats, they will likely be deceived. To gain a true apples-to-apples comparison of nutrients-per-serving requires more than reading the front of the package. (Some examples of ingredients should be listed here to substantiate our claim.)

Laboratory Manufactured “Meat”

Animal muscle tissue grown from cell cultures – literally “food” produced in a lab environment – goes by many names, including cell-cultured, lab-grown, slaughter-free, cultivated, or in-vitro meat.

Regardless of what alternative meats are called, researchers in the food science and environmental realms continue to question the environmental sustainability of “cellular agriculture.” While this concept may sound like a dystopian science experiment, it has been celebrated by a chorus of environment and animal rights extremists, investors, and even celebrities. This sudden embrace of “science” is a bit odd considering fresh fruits and vegetables are often vilified when they have been genetically modified or raised in conventional settings.

Supporters of cell culture technology claim it will eliminate the need for farms. They further state that it will hypothetically reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and habitat loss associated with livestock production. The missing information here is that total livestock production accounts for a mere four percent of all global GHG emissions, all while using less land and fewer resources than ever before, and promoting biodiversity.

Additionally, animal extremists are holding out hope that cell-cultured meat products will decrease demand for traditional meat and other animal proteins.

Despite these beliefs, the production of cell-cultured tissue requires a very specialized infrastructure, and the long-term sustainability and costs are very difficult to authentically analyze. Yet, knowing how it’s produced is pretty unappetizing. Stem cells are taken from live animals, and then nourished with fetal bovine serum to promote cell multiplication. This occurs in stainless steel tanks. Fetal bovine serum comes from unborn calves. It would be difficult to produce a horror movie any worse than what’s currently passing as “cultured meat science.” Oh, but that happened when in 1973, when Hollywood released the movie Soylent Green.

Green House Gas Emissions Are Predicted to Be Higher with Cultured Food Items

Today, cell-cultured meat is a relatively small share of the entire market. The hypothetical impact of mass producing these items remains just as high, if not more expensive and environmentally taxing, compared to traditional livestock production.

Climate change studies conducted in England at the University of Oxford using cellular agriculture suggest that long-term cultured meat production may require significant energy resources (such as fossil fuels). The end result would be a greater impact on greenhouse gasses, not less. Furthermore, Environmental Science & Technology published a 2015 life cycle analysis of cell-based meats which found GHG emissions to be the same, if not slightly higher, for these products compared to traditional meats. The summary reads:

“While uncertainty ranges are large, the findings suggest that in-vitro biomass cultivation could require smaller quantities of agricultural inputs and land than livestock; however, those benefits could come at the expense of more intensive energy use as biological functions such as digestion and nutrient circulation are replaced by industrial equivalents. From this perspective, large-scale cultivation of in-vitro meat and other bioengineered products could represent a new phase of industrialization with inherently complex and challenging trade-offs.”

Livestock are Up-cyclers

Looking broader, replacing livestock meats with either cell-based or plant-based alternatives would have a ripple effect that hampers both the food system and the environment.

Livestock are key producers of many byproducts that results from meat production. In fact, byproducts comprise 20-25 percent of the diet farmers feed their chickens and livestock in the U.S. Many of these byproducts would be left to rot or take up valuable landfill space if not used as a food supplementation. Beef cattle, as an example, produce byproducts ranging from edible tallow to blood meal, bone meal, leather hides, skins and other items.

Cattle are also called “up-cyclers” for their ability to convert nitrogen-based plant materials (not for human consumption), including corn stalks, wheat straw, and grass, into nutrient-dense milk and meat.

Livestock’s Key Role in Carbon Sequestration

The practice of rotational grazing offers a tremendous opportunity to improve soil health and carbon sequestration. With this practice, livestock help to retain populations of beneficial plants and return nutrients to the soil via their manure. They also use marginal land that is not useful for traditional cropping methods like row crops for corn or soybeans. For centuries, sheep and goats have been raised on pasture lands in disadvantaged areas that cannot be used to grow crops.

The Value of Animal-Based Fertilizers

The manure aspect of livestock has come to the attention of mainstream media in recent years due to its value as an organic fertilizer. The recent global shortage, combined with skyrocketing prices for chemical fertilizers, left many farmers relying heavily on manure as it is readily available and less expensive. Relying solely on chemical fertilizers in today’s market is unsustainable and costly.

Cost and Food Equity

Cost is a major component, not only for the production of alternative meats but for the consumer too. The positioning of meat alternatives as “health foods” bears all the marks of typical food elitism. Both plant-based and lab-cultured food items are more expensive than their traditional counterparts. Many affluent celebrities fund and endorse alternative meats as part of their lifestyle, including Leonard DiCaprio, the Kardashians, and Bill Gates. Their food budgets look far different than yours and mine.

Greenwashing Alternative Meat Products

American consumers have been warned about the dangers of ultra-processed foods and the same standards should be applied to alternative meat products intended to replace traditional meat. This issue is largely being ignored due to support from influential animal extremist groups that spent lots of money funding massive marketing campaigns. These groups are using unsubstantiated health claims that have been proven inaccurate, yet science, truth and facts are often absent as they promote their agenda.

Perhaps the most important concern should be the nutritional value consumers receive from the food they eat. Contrary to their claims, meat alternatives are not a 1:1 nutritional equivalent of traditional meat. Nor are they as “clean” and “natural” as their supporters might like consumers to believe.

Plant-based meat products have significantly less protein, zinc, and vitamin B12 compared to traditional animal proteins. Being ultra-processed and high in sodium, these Frankenstein-like food products are less water soluble and thereby not so readily absorbed into the body’s cells to extract full nutritional value according to research.

Growing Endorsement of Alternative Foods

The push toward meat alternatives is growing and has become a pathway for animal extremists to push their vegan, plant-based, anti-animal protein agendas.

Among those pushing the agenda is U.S. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, a popular politician with extremist activists. Booker has been candid about being a vegetarian since 1992 and vegan since 2014. Recently he enjoyed, and heavily promoted, cultivated chicken at GOOD Meat headquarters.

Why did he visit a company that produces lab-grown meat?

Booker himself noted, “I was kind of freaked out. I wasn’t sure what it would be. They take a cell and biopsy it, and grow it. I finally agreed to try it, and I was blown away!”

Well, it’s interesting to note that GOOD Meat was served at the recent United Nations’ annual climate change discussion COP27. The UN has been a shady ally of the animal and environmental extremist movements and the organizations that serve it.

The Messaging Isn’t Adding Up

Consumers shouldn’t be misled by impressive marketing campaigns or celebrity endorsements. They should instead be looking at proven science and facts about nutrition and sustainability. For years, animal extremists have spread disinformation about the production of beef, chicken, eggs, pork, and dairy. These groups have even gone so far as to make false claims about health risks related to animal protein products being included in our diets. Their deception has grown to promote highly processed food items and those made from cultured
animal cells.

Animal agriculture has many decades of sustainability practices and research, unlike these ultra-processed alternatives. Farmers need to be proactive in telling their story about raising nutritious affordable food. We at Protect The Harvest advocate for “A Free and Fed America,” period! We question if those promoting alternative meats can claim to be doing the same?

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