2 Podcast Episodes Examine The New Wave of Fake Meat Products
This week we released the second of two podcast episodes about fake meat products for our new podcast, “What You’re Eating.” The first, called “Can Fake Meat Save the World?” explores whether or not ultra-processed meat alternatives like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are better for the environment and our health, as promised by the companies and their fans. The second episode, called “Who Profits from Fake Meat?” looks at whether or not they are on track to replace factory-farmed meat. It also looks at how these products taste and other options for what we could be eating instead of an ultra-processed “fast food” product.
As critics of factory farming and as proponents of a food system that does less harm to animals, the planet and people, we have been tracking these products closely. Last fall, when we published our deep dive report, the FoodPrint of Fake Meat, and recorded our two podcast episodes, excitement for the products was at a fever pitch. Sales were climbing and there was an unquestioned sense that rising sales meant factory-farmed meat sales and production would decline.
But the conversation has changed somewhat since then: sales have slowed, and shake-ups at a few big companies have left the future of some products uncertain. And while we’re still seeing headlines claiming that “Restaurants saved 700K animals with plant-based offerings last year,” people are starting to ask whether these products are helping to prop up factory farming rather than cut into it.
Some opponents of factory farming worry that criticizing these products means cutting off our collective nose to spite our face: given our need for people to eat fewer industrially produced beef burgers and given people’s unresponsiveness to pleas to eat more black bean burgers, these products are important and necessary, some say, even if they’re highly processed products of an industrial food system.
It’s one thing not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good, but when there are so many fundamental questions about whether these products are doing what they claim to, it’s worth asking more questions. As podcast guest Anna Lappé asks: “Does the growth of these products actually reduce industrial animal agriculture? If it doesn’t, then what are we really celebrating?” These episodes dive into that question, and explore how we can continue to be critical of the industrial food system’s attempts to sell unproven solutions while also looking for meaningful ways to help people eat less meat.
Top photo by steheap/ Adobe Stock
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