Do We Really Need Fake Meat?

I feel left scratching my head when I think about why the world would actually want, or even need, fake or mock meat.  The reasons why one may state it is needed are exactly the reasons why I don’t want it!  Being purveyors of grass fed beef, you may well expect us to be a bit ‘down on’ the fake meats that are increasingly entering the food chain.  I raise this conversation however, not to criticize fake meat, but rather because it gives me an opportunity to explain some of the reasons why grass fed beef grazed on diverse pastures is a superior choice for health (and other reasons) and how very different it is from fake meat.

Our Health

Let’s look at the health differences in fake meat and our pure grass fed beef.

~ Whole Foods

We know that whole foods are a healthy choice (even mainstream health agrees!), while fake meats are a highly processed product.

Fake meat products like a fake beef patty in a hamburger are made predominantly of grain and legume products, but more specifically they are made of products created by the denaturing of these foods. Examples of these are soy protein concentrate, extracted from soybeans and textured wheat protein from wheat.

When a food is denatured, one component of the food is isolated for use. In doing so, the goodness is often stripped out of it – taking away critical vitamins and minerals.  Not only that, but also missing are secondary compounds or phytochemicals naturally found in plants (things like polyphenols, flavanoids, aromatic oils and alkaloids). These are rarely talked about with relation to food – we hear of the primary compounds (protein, carbohydrates, energy, and minerals), but rarely do we hear about these secondary compounds. There are thousands of these different compounds, the combination of a large variety of which contributes to overall wellbeing.  They are like nature’s medicines.  They are the things responsible for why red wine is said to be good for your heart and why certain herbs can aid health.  Secondary plant compounds have many roles in your body including appetizing, digestive or therapeutic purposes.(reference)

When fake meat is produced, the grain or legume is broken down into components – many of the vitamins, minerals and secondary compounds are either destroyed or removed from the final product.  So the energy of the food is consumed, but it is hollow and lacking nourishment.  Devoid of vitamins and minerals, these are added in by food chemists, but it’s not the same as the natural form and it seems the quantities added back in are somewhat unusual; do I really need 2350% of my daily requirements of vitamin B1 in one meal?

Just because it’s made of plants, doesn’t mean it’s good for you – I’m not sure why there seems to be this assumption.

In the case of real meat – pure 100% grass fed beef like ours, the cows graze on diverse pastures, and have access to a variety of the secondary plant compounds, which enables them to use their intuition and choose plants as they graze to ‘self-medicate’ and ensure their own well-being.  This results in meat rich in the benefits of these secondary compounds and nourishment for us as we consume it.

“The availability of phytochemically rich foods is

essential to ensure health through nutrition”

Emiratus professor Fred Provenza.

~ GMO’s

I know that many of you reading this will be concerned about the potential health impacts of genetically modified organisms.  GMO technology is used in the production of fake meat products.  This comes from a website describing a faux beef patty.   It is “made using a yeast engineered with the gene for soy leghemoglobin. First, we grow yeast via fermentation. Then, we isolate the soy leghemoglobin (containing heme) from the yeast, and add it to the Impossible Burger”.  I don’t know about you, but I read ‘highly processed and genetically modified’. So, if you like to avoid genetically modified foods, you may like to check the ingredients in any fake meat products.

There are no GMO’s at all in the raising and feeding of our cows and hence none in our grass fed beef.

~ It’s as Nature Intended

If you’re interested in more health advantages of grass fed beef (unrelated to fake meat), you can learn more about it at the Heath Benefits of Grass Fed vs Grain Fed Beef.

 

Land Health & The Environment

Another reason why it is claimed we need fake meat is because animals are destroying the land.  This can be true when they are not managed well and overgrazing is allowed.  What is exciting however, is that the opposite can be true – when managed well, animals can actually be the tool that can help to heal the land!

~ Don’t Cows Damage the Land?

Plants, they are the millions of little pumps, pumping life into the soil.  The basis of that life is carbon – it is the building block of all things living.  Plants take if from the air and make plant sugars with it via photosynthesis.

Plants use these sugars to grow and yield, and they also push some sugars out the root systems into the soil, where they feed the microbiology of the soil -the fungi, bacteria and more. The soil microbes use these carbon rich sugars to build healthy, living topsoil. A diversity of plants is crucial to support a diversity of soil microbes, necessary for doing the different jobs required for soil health.

Having groundcover on our soils – as living plants or as mulch (trampled to the ground by cows), helps to keep the soils cool and moist, which protects those amazing bugs that are so integral to the building and regeneration of soil. The trampled mulch is also another source of carbon to the soil ‘bugs’ – to complement the liquid carbon sugars that come from the plant roots.

The thing is, to have these actively growing plants, pumping life into the soil, and to have this groundcover of litter, protecting the soil, we need livestock.

Livestock to graze the plants – that they will grow, be grazed, regrow, and pump life into the soil as they do.

Livestock to trample plant material – that it will be laid down and form a mulch on the soil surface.

Livestock – to add manure and urine to the soil.

Have you seen grasses ungrazed or uncut?  Their leaves become dry, old and grey (lignified), at which time there is no growth and no pumping of carbon rich plant sugars feeding into the soil via the roots. The land, rested for too long, will become stagnant.

If we consider the growing of wheat and soybean crops for the production of fake meat, they are almost always grown as monoculture crops, with the paddocks fallowed (ie. nothing growing, where the ground is either ploughed or sprayed with herbicides to control weeds) in the times between the grain crops.  Fallowed land and monoculture crops are two of the worst things for soil health.  Poor soil health leads to wind and water erosion, poor nutrient cycling (and low nutrient contents in the food grown), loss of biodiversity and more.

Claiming we need to not eat meat for the health of the land is actually an uneducated comment.  Conversely too however, if animals are managed poorly, and pastures overgrazed, this can be just as detrimental to soil health. And, just like well managed cattle can help to heal the land, so too can grain and legume cropping when grown with cover crops of multiple species, grown in the time between the grain crops.

A diverse pasture for raising livestock can host quail, lizards, snakes, butterflies, birds of prey, small native marsupials, kangaroos, wallabies and soil that is alive.

A monoculture legume crop lacks life.

Conversely, an overgrazed pasture lacks life, while a diverse, multispecies cover crop (grown in rotation with wheat or legumes) will have lady beetles, moths, dragonflies, spiders and all manner of life present – including diverse soil fungi and microbiology.

~Aren’t Cows a Climate Change Pest?

I have written about ruminant animals and whether they are a methane pest or a climate change solution, here at my other blog (specifically about regenerative agriculture). Briefly though, in biologically healthy soils, there exists methanotrophs – bacteria that feed solely on methane (nothing else). There is also carbon returned to healthy soils via the process explained above (through photosynthesis), with the world’s soils being the largest potential sink for atmospheric carbon. (Read more at the blog if you are interested).

My point is, it is not whether grains or animals are farmed that determines the land health, it is the way in which these are farmed that is the determinant.  Excitingly, more and more farmers are learning about and using more regenerative farming techniques.

I have written more detail about how cows can heal the land here.

As a last thing to consider, much of the world’s grazing lands are simply not suited to growing crops because of the soil types or climate and we don’t just want to simply lock these lands up forever – as I described above, we are left with lignified, grey plants lacking life and then lifeless soils.

 

Taking a Life

And so we come to the point of should we be taking an animal’s life versus eating plants?  What value do we place on the life of another being? Does the emotional value of a cow with a cute face far outweigh that of field mice or tiny and largely unseen native mammals that wouldn’t exist in the monoculture of a grain crop? If so, is there a threshold – Just how many little creatures equal one cow? If we choose to not eat meat because of these difficult ethical reasons, then what of the other small marsupials, lizards, quails etc, whose lives don’t exist because of the monoculture grain and legume crops grown for fake meat production?

It’s just not such a black and white argument that it is made out to be of ‘taking a life versus not taking a life’.  Again, hearing this tells me that a person is not fully versed on the topic they are commenting on. Here’s a whole extra bit of reading on that if you like!

 

Energy

I will mention energy here as a last thought (and I don’t mean calorific energy, but rather lifeforce energy). I genuinely believe that the area of energy is something that will become more greatly explored, better understood and there will be a greater realisation of its importance with regards to our thoughts, our water, our foods and more.  The energy contained in a whole food – in the state it was grown or raised must surely carry a greater energy than a product that has been highly processed.  That, I believe, will go on to better lifeforce energy for our bodies.

 

So whether it’s your own health, the health of the farming landscapes of the world or taking the life of an animal that you’re concerned about, I hope I’ve given you some food for thought. Fake meat? I reckon we’d all be better off without it, but isn’t it great that we live in a society that we can have such choice, as long as it is a consciously made one!

Kirrily 🙂

See our hamper choices here  if you’d like to enjoy some of our

chemical free, 100% grass fed beef (that is real!), fed on diverse pastures.

 

How conscious are we? When it comes to food choices, just how conscious are we in our decisions?

For those of us that choose to eat any type of meat as one of our proteins, ethics come into it because we are in fact choosing to take the life of another living being. It’s that simple, there is no denying it. If we make that choice, then it is up to us to honour those animals through our gratitude for the sustenance they have provided.

I respect that for some people, that is confronting and I also accept that some are so confronted by it that they will choose not to eat any form of meat. They have made a conscious decision and that is something that I value and respect.

Is it only omnivores though, that are responsible for the taking of life? Before a person makes any choice regarding their food type, I hope they have thoroughly considered all of the factors involved. There are going to be a lot of questions for you in this post, and there are no right or wrong answers, they are purely to get you thinking!

Every food choice we make supports one or more production systems, which may range from growing your own produce through to large scale industrial agriculture. When we make those choices, how much consideration, research or questioning is put into our decisions?

Are they based on convenience? It’s a busy world after all.

Are they purely based on emotions? How does it make you feel?

Are they because of something we saw on facebook or the web? And is that factual?

However it happens, have we factored everything in when we make those decisions? Are choices based on what we know and also what we don’t know about how the food is produced, sourced and processed? A conscious choice can only be made when we have considered all things as best we can.

Is the beef, lamb, pork, chicken or the dozen eggs you choose to purchase produced in a way that heals the land, or is it harming the environment? There are plenty of examples of both out there, which type are you supporting? This also happens to apply to vegetarian and vegan diets – how many millions of hectares are used for growing monocultures of soybeans around the world and what effect is that having on the environment? How many tens of thousands of tons of fungicides are used just for growing disease free chickpeas? How are the proteins for those diets grown and sourced?

Where animals are involved, are they cared for by always having fresh pasture available, or are they pushed so hard that they have to be hand fed on bare ground for much of the time?

How are they weaned from their mothers? How are they handled when they are moved between paddocks, or in the yards? Are the animals living in a low stress environment, where they are free to express their instinctual behavior, or not? Do these things even matter to us?

When it comes to choosing if we eat any type of meat, what values do we place on the life of another being? Does the emotional value of a cow with a cute face far outweigh that of field mice or tiny and largely unseen native mammals? If so, is there a threshold – Just how many little creatures do equal one cow? If we choose to not eat meat because of these difficult ethical reasons, do we fully understand all of the factors involved in growing the food for our vegetarian and vegan diets? Has there truly been no harm to any animals or the environment to produce that food?

Is there a point where we draw the line, or are all living things factored in to our decisions?

Let’s go even further and look at the effect your food choice has on soil biology. After all, nutrition for every single one of us depends upon how healthy the soil is. If the soil is supporting greater diversity of plants above, then it is hosting a greater diversity of micro-organisms below, and just that alone can make a huge difference to the nutritional value of the food that soil provides. When we look at production models, we have to consider everything, and I mean everything that is being displaced for that production to occur.

What good is it growing plants in monoculture (even if pesticides are not applied) if what humanity needs to thrive is diversity? How many living beings are killed off? The quail, the lizards, the birds of prey… or how much fungi and carbon is lost from soil in a system like that?

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On our farm, we have consciously chosen to establish diverse grassland out across the deep, alluvial black soil plains where our cows move across the landscape briefly every few months or so. While these soils can grow beautiful grass, they are also ideal for producing grain and other high yielding and high value crops. I wonder how many living creatures wouldn’t exist here if we displaced that habitat with monocultures of wheat or cotton, or even cauliflowers and pumpkins. There are ways to have the best of both worlds, but unfortunately they are not widely understood yet and their adoption is uncommon.

We are told that if we eat less meat, we can reduce emissions of methane, a major source of greenhouse gasses. In cases where management of the animals across the landscape is poor, this point is sound. However, who is accounting for the farmers who are sequestering more carbon into their soils than equivalent methane emissions from their animals? Don’t we actually want more of those farmers out there with their animals managing those landscapes unsuitable for other forms of food production? Who is aware of methanotrophs – soil organisms that metabolise methane as their only form of energy? These are present in well managed soils – right under the nose of methane producing livestock.

I would love for consumers to ask me about these things – but I’m not surprised that most people don’t know about these more complex aspects of farming.

True, it can be so difficult to obtain all of these details. Rarely is anything found on the label and there is so much more involved when we truly break it down than could be read there anyway. Generally speaking, unless you are purchasing directly from the person growing it, you are not likely to find out. The same applies to the various certifications that we as farmers can have. There is so much more to know than just a stamp of approval. read more about that here

The food system that we have today is designed not with the consumer in mind, but with the food processor and profit at the forefront. If you buy a loaf of bread (paleo people, think of a dozen “Free Range”eggs or something instead!), even if it’s sourdough from a trendy inner city bakery, do you think the grain used in that bread was grown with you in mind? It could be, but not very likely.

The more likely scenario – it was grown to meet a certain set of specifications for processing and a certain yield, both in order to maximise profit per unit of production to grow and make it. Now that’s not all bad, because without profit, how can a business be truly sustainable? But wouldn’t it be great if nutrition for the end consumer was factored into the price for the farmer growing the food. Imagine if all of the food grown in all of its various forms was purchased at a price according to how nutrient dense they are.

While many individual farmers do, that food system doesn’t consider the health of the micro-biology and quality of the soil now or in years to come. When those and many other factors aren’t considered, then how can we be sure that by purchasing that product we are making choices that take humanity forward, not backwards?

Unless you grow and produce everything yourself or have relationships built on trust with your farmers, making an informed choice is a very difficult thing to do. We can throw up our arms, give up, put our head in the sand… but then it just becomes another choice that we have made unconsciously.

Some things for you to ask where you can…

Is it a biodiverse system? In other words, is this grown in a monoculture (single species) or is it biodiverse (does it support many different species)?

Does it build topsoil and carbon in the soil?

Are chemicals used? If yes, why are they? What can’t be fixed by not using them?

What exactly do the animals have access to for their diet?

What are the conditions like where the animals graze?

Those are just a few and I’m sure you will have some of your own that are meaningful to you. Somethings we simply can’t find out about, so we just have to decide what’s right for each of us.

We can become informed and choose consciously or not, either way we are responsible for shaping the world we live in – there is no denying that.

Derek 😉

Read about conscious farming here

If consciously produced beef is on your menu, we just may be able to help you out! But remember to ask us all about it first!

See our grass fed beef hampers here

The Conscious Farmer – sharing our vision for nourishing food grown on thriving, living & profitable farms.