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Fake food: Is it better for you and the environment?

By Don “Doc” Sanders

Many activists proselytize how bad animal agriculture is for the environment. Most of them operate on the premise that big is bad and that we should return to small family farms — or eliminate food animal agriculture altogether.

They also advocate a vegan diet. But I’m not concerned about people who choose that lifestyle for themselves, so long as they don’t mess with my getting a steak once in a while. Regardless of what they say, I’m convinced that we can’t rely solely on small family farms if agriculture has any chance of providing worldwide food security. This leads me to my topic for this month: the recent introduction of fake foods. Namely, the increasing presence and popularity of plant-based alternatives to dairy and meat. Are these fake foods based on good or bad nutrition? Well, it depends.

Promoters’ claims of health benefits are common for alternative foods. For instance, Whole Foods, Walmart, Amazon and others tout Himalayan pink salt (HPS) for its supposed health benefits due to alleged trace minerals. And like many other products, HPS is promoted for being made without GMO ingredients. This GMO claim, of course, is a bunch of hooey, because salt does not have genes. It’s not a living organism. And many other products promoted by large food retailers as non-GMO are made of ingredients, like oats, that are never genetically modified. Himalayan pink salt, mined in Pakistan, is just ordinary salt that’s pink. Like the good old Morton brand, HPS contains a smidgen of trace minerals. Though HPS marketers claim the salt may contain over 80 minerals, these minerals account for only 2% of HPS. The rest is sodium chloride. That is, salt. I only mention HPS because it illustrates the length that food marketers will go to make a buck.

You can also find at the grocery almond milk, oat milk, soy milk and a host of other spin-offs that allegedly supply required nutrients. At best, an eight-ounce serving of any of these products supplies about a third of the nutrients in an eight-ounce glass of whole milk. This is provided you aggressively shake up the sludge from the bottom of the fake milk carton before pouring. The sludge contains most of the added nutrients that allegedly boost the nutritional value.

While you are savoring a fresh glass of one of these alternative “milk” products this: Although Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) claims the environment is being ruined by cow farts, the credible environmental research of Dr. Frank Mitloehner at UC-Davis shows quite the opposite. His research shows that food animal ag accounts for only 2.8% of the global environmental impact. AOC and the naysayers she references claim livestock contribute 28% of the ill effects on the environment.

I don’t want to get too technical, but any of you working around cattle know that cow farts aren’t a major issue. Rather, cows burp frequently. They burp methane gas.

I visited Dr, Mitloehner’s lab at UC-Davis a few months back. He maintains a group of cows in one facility and a group of fattening steers in an adjacent lab. After repeated trials, his work demonstrated that the burps of cattle contribute about 2.8% to global warming because of methane release. His research also showed that methane in the environment does not increase from cattle ruminations, but from a natural cycle.

As more methane is released into the atmosphere, existing methane in the air is being degraded at about the same rate as cattle release methane. His work demonstrated this occurs in a 10-year cycle.

In the meantime, numerous start-up companies are developing fake meat with the stated goal of eliminating the cattle industry by 2035. They each claim that fake meat is healthier and/or more wholesome for you than real meat, plus being good for the environment. These claims are not supported by science.

These alternatives are commonly marketed as burgers made from plants, which sounds pretty wholesome. In reality, they fully qualify for the NOVA definition of “ultra-processed foods,” which many (or most) nutrition scientists, dietitians and clinicians warn us about constantly. In 2018, a report in The British Medical Journal uncovered a link between ultra-processed foods and an increased risk for cancer. And now, most recently, a study from JAMA Internal Medicine associated a high consumption of ultra-processed food with an earlier death.

Faux hamburger patties are as ultra-processed, with almost identical ingredients, as dog kibbles. I challenge you to look at the three ingredient labels I provide here, and tell me which one is for vegan dog food and which two are recipes for fake meat. No peeking at the answer!

From: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/impossible-burgers-dogfood/   (see bottom for answer)

From left to right is  Beyond Meat, premium vegan dog food, Impossible Burger.

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