I recently read an article by Nicholas Kristof about fake meat (check out www.nytimes.com/2015/09/20/opinion/sunday/nicholas-kristof-the-fake-meatrevolution.html?smid=tw-nytopinion&smtyp=cur). In the article, Kristof writes about the growing trend in the development of meat alternatives. As I read the article, my first thought was that this is a good thing. But, then, I began to wonder whether this really is the case.
The impetus to find alternatives to meat makes a lot of sense. We are eating too much meat, which is harming both our health and the environment. According to the Environmental Working Groups’s Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change and Health (check out www.ewg.org), adult men consume double the amount of protein than that recommended by the FDA. The FDA recommends that adult men eat roughly 1.8oz. and adult women eat about 1.6oz. per day. That’s not a whole lot of meat. Eating too much meat, especially factory-farmed meat raised with hormones and antibiotics, puts us at risk for heart disease, diabetes and cancer. It also puts us at risk for an increasing number of illnesses resulting from antibiotic-restistant bacteria (remember that approximately 70% of antibiotics in America are fed to farm animals).
Then, there is the environmental aspect of eating too much meat. Raising meat and poultry for consumption uses extensive amounts of land and water. Not to mention the depletion of the soil and methane emissions caused by animal waste. According to Jonathan Safran Foer in his book Eating Animals (which, by the way, is an excellent book that I will be
reviewing next month), “Animal agriculture is responsible for 37 percent of anthropogenic methane, which offers twenty-three times the global warming potential (GWP) of CO2, as well as 65 percent of anthropogenic nitrous oxide, which provides a staggering 296 times the GWP of CO2.” (Eating Animals, p. 58) Viewed from this perspective, the development of meat alternatives makes a lot of sense.
However, part of me wonders whether we are creating a frankenstein. First of all, what are the products used in these meat substitutes? I went on one company’s website to see what was actually in these meat alternatives. Beyond the fact that the list of ingredients was rather extensive, 99% of the ingredients were un-pronounceable, and contained sugar. Of course, I immediately recalled Michael Pollan’s saying: “Avoid food products that are A) unfamiliar B) unpronounceable C) more than five in number or that include D) highfructose corn syrup.” (In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto) I wonder how healthy a product which is so far removed from any type of real food can really be?
My main problem with meat alternatives is philosophical more than anything else. Shouldn’t the goal be to encourage moderation in meat consumption, rather than trying to find alternatives that continue to feed our habit? I feel that we should be spending time and money educating people about eating in ways that can support our health and the environment, rather than finding ways around the real issue. Many traditional societies consume meat but do so in small amounts. I think that this is what we should be encouraging, rather than the development of meat alternatives.
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Pumpkin & Corn Soup
4 Tbsp. ghee (clarified butter)
2 leeks, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. lemongrass, thinly sliced
2 lbs. pumpkin, peeled and cut into large chunks
3 cups corn (either one package frozen or kernels from 2-3 ears of corn)
2 Tbsp. ginger, grated
6 cups vegetable stock
Freshly-ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped
- 1. Melt ghee in a pot over medium heat. Add leeks and cook until soft, 5-7 minutes. Add lemongrass and cook 1 minute longer. Add pumpkin, corn, ginger, vegetable stock, 2 tsp. sea salt and 1/2 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper.
- 2. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat, cover pot and simmer until pumpkin is soft, about 20-30 minutes.
- 3. Remove soup from heat and allow to cool. When the soup has cooled, puree in a blender. Strain the soup back into the pot before reheating. Garnish with chopped cilantro.
I am so excited about the opening of two new great food spots in Greenwich:
- The first is Mill Street Bar & Table. Owned by the same people who own Back 40 Kitchen (formerly Organic Planet) on Greenwich Avenue, Mill Street Bar & Table is an American restaurant with a seasonally driven menu celebrating the bounty of the northeast’s land and sea. The kitchen celebrates regional cooking using peak-season ingredients from sustainable sources, including its own Back 40 Farm.
- The second is Fleisher’s Craft Butchery. Fleisher’s produces the best beef, pork, lamb and poultry in the world by partnering with small, local farmers who understand that caring for our animals means caring for the land. Fleisher’s will be opening in Cos Cob next to Fjord Fisheries in the coming weeks.
- For your local and organic produce and dry goods, also check out www.mikesorganic.com or www.ctfarmfreshexpress.com, or local farmers markets. The Old Greenwich Farmers Market is held on Wednesdays from 2-6pm and the Greenwich Farmers Market is held on Saturdays from 9:30am-2pm.