It is a product. Not a replacement for the real thing!
Today’s meat is anything but the food the previous generations once ate. It is a transmogrification of the real thing. What once used to be the raw organic flesh from an animal that was inherently “grass fed and free range”, now resembles something straight out of a science lab.
Artificial insemination, selective breeding, the use of steroids and hormones, and the further adulteration of meat with preservative agents, has all led us to produce a wholly unnatural product that is terrible for long term health. This only given rise to organic farming, with farmers trying to go back to the old way; grass fed organic and free range, while charging a hefty sum for it.
What used to once be wholly pasture-raised, free range, and family run, is now a corporatized mechanized madness, with machines taking over the majority of the process from artificial insemination to slaughter.
You can do some further reading about the devastating effects of meat on the planet, the people, and the animals by visiting the following pages:
Animal rights concerns: https://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/factory-farming/
Human rights violations: https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/transformation/i-stopped-eating-animals-because-of-human-rights/
Environmental concerns with meat production: https://www.peta.org/about-peta/faq/how-does-eating-meat-harm-the-environment/
Enter “Mock meat”
With the worlds population growing at a frenzied rate, all the aforementioned problems with meat production came into the mainstream spotlight, and what was once a taboo and less discussed topic became the talk of the town. People seldom are ignorant or are unaware of plant-based diets today.
Even the middle-east, which has traditionally been consuming meat since ages, has now become a hotbed of innovation and creativity in the plant-based food space. One of these innovations happens to be mock meat, and is fast gaining popularity among investors, celebrities, and government officials alike.
So what exactly is mock meat?
I’d like to clarify that I’m talking about ‘mock meat’ which is either vegan or vegetarian, and not ‘in-vitro’ or lab meat, which is made from animal tissue.
Let’s go to Wikipedia for a better definition:
“A meat analogue is a food industry term for a meat-like substance made from vegetarian ingredients. More common terms are plant-based meat, vegan meat, meat substitute, mock meat, meat alternative, imitation meat, or vegetarian meat, or, sometimes more pejoratively, fake meat or faux meat. Meat analogues typically approximate certain aesthetic qualities (such as texture, flavor, appearance) or chemical characteristics of specific types of meat. Many analogues are soy-based (e.g., tofu, tempeh) or gluten-based but now may also be made from pea protein.”
What’s wrong with mock meat?
Mock meat doesn’t come from a farm.
It comes from a factory, just like confectionery, cigarettes, alcohol, and every other food-like substance. It’s a processed product!
The following excerpt from an article on Vox provides an outline for my thoughts:
Mock meat is definitely healthier than real meat. There’s no denying that. Especially in the present system of meat production, which comes with a host of issues already discussed in the beginning.
But is it healthier than the natural gifts of nature which are inherently designed to make us feel fresh, vibrant and healthy? Absolutely not.
Back to the factory AGAIN?
As with all processed foods, mock meat needs to be created in a factory unit. A factory or lab needs to be constructed by clearing forest land. It will require huge amounts of water and electricity to function. And finally, its resource hungry fossil-fuelled machines will be emitting noxious gases into the air during operation.
Wouldn’t it just make better sense to consume vegetables, fruits, nuts and grains harvested from the ground directly ? There are thousands upon thousands of vegan recipes available online, and vegan food chefs who dole out innovative mouth watering recipes every single day. Many cultures already have vegan or vegetarian food as part of their diets.
May be you could just pick up a new vegan dish from your neighbour!
Processing, packaging and storage
Once the ingredients are combined and the product is ready, a certain amount of preservatives are added to it to enhance its shelf life. Besides, it further needs to be fortified with synthetic nutrients. Next comes the packaging, transport, and storage.
An additional industry needs to be set up to manufacture all the labels and packaging for the product.
An additional industry needs to be set up for transportation of the product.
An additional industry needs to be set up for warehousing and storage of the product.
All this is resource intensive and requires an extensively long production cycle with multiple layers of scrutiny for quality and safety. It takes us right back to square one exactly where we were with factory farming, minus the animals.
The only way to break out of these systems is by ending the use of factories altogether. Yes, we would still need factories to process plants like wheat, rice, grains, dry fruit, nuts, and coffee, along with thousands of other plant-based food, but that doesn’t mean we should be adding more to the list, does it?
Exercise caution while buying mock meat
There are more than a handful of companies that produce mock meat in India. And like most processed food, they too try to sometimes conceal names of the real ingredients used by using their industrial codes instead. We have to be cognizant of the fact that these companies are setup to make money and can only run by making a profit. So who’s to say whether those are the actual ingredients going into the product, or if the product contains some additional undisclosed ingredients as well?
Remember, an Apple cannot appropriate the nutrients present in it in pursuit of the bottom line. And neither can a chicken.
So am I actually advocating for organic meat here?
Absolutely not. Actually, quite far from it. All I’m asking is for people not to equate being vegetarian or vegan with the consumption of mock meat. If mock meat is your staple diet now, then tell me this. What would you do if the industry collapses or your country just stops importing it?
You’d go right back to eating meat wouldn’t you? True vegans don’t depend on these processed luxuries; plant-based cheese, vegan eggs, or vegan ice cream to stay vegan. They stay vegan regardless! (Or by just making them at home)
We’re at the height of a global pandemic. Which is confirmed to be of zoonotic origin. We’re also at the height of global warming and climate change, with atmospheric carbon reaching historic levels, and an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.
Should our civilization even remotely be moving closer to factory based forms of consumption then? Isn’t that what got us here in the first place?
Real meat comes from a factory too. At least in most of the developed world it does. But the two are mutually exclusive. Going vegan must not be equated with mock meat consumption.
Do we really have to invest all our time, money and effort searching for an alternative to meat, when we can easily satisfy our cravings with the bounty of nature that is present in wholesome fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds, pulses, nuts, beans and other natural produce? We already bombard our bodies with tons of processed convenience food-like stuff whenever we’re working, travelling, or too tired to cook at home.
Must we add an additional artificially created, chemical and preservative-laden products to our diets?
Do let me know what you think about this outlook in the comments bar to the side.