A GIANT Mistake

Have we totally lost our minds?

Recent news had a corporation producing artificial meats going public. You heard that right. Artificial meats. Food created in a laboratory, by men and women wearing white lab coats. What’s the company’s valuation? Almost $4 billion!

We too had to do a double take when we first heard of the concept of an “artificial meat” about a month ago.  We were incredulous. This plant-based product is supposed to look like meat and taste like meat. It also “bleeds” like meat with beet juice to simulate real meat’s red blood. Fast food companies are getting in on the act, too, offering plant-based Whoppers and the like. There are also startup companies pushing “cultured meats”, where animal muscle cells are produced through tissue culture in a factory or laboratory.

How does a company get valued at over $3.5 billion for a food product that’s essentially untested? That produces food in a laboratory, a process that has NOTHING to do with agricultural sustainability and regeneration?

This product’s apparent newfound popularity falls in line with a new myth being perpetuated by some folks that beef production is what is partly responsible for climate change, and that if we all switch to a plant-based diet, we can save the world.

Let’s state at the onset that we’re all in favor of Americans cutting down on their consumption of industrial meats. Notice we said “industrial” meats. (More on that in a moment.) And we’re all in favor of Americans being able to make whatever food choices they want for themselves. We’re not about to argue we need food czars dictating what we can or can’t be eating. If you want to eat processed, artificial, genetically modified foods, go for it! 

But my goodness. Have we gone mad when we consider the direction “food” is going in this country? Do we really want laboratories producing food for us? Is this where veganism is taking us? Back into the laboratory, disconnected from nature and handing the industrial food industry easy pickings?

Cultured Meat: Does this look yummy? Not.

As you know, we’re advocates of Regenerative Agriculture. This is an eco-friendly form of growing food organically with livestock on grasslands that essentially seeks to regenerate the soils, the watersheds, hydrology, the diversity of the micro-biome and animals, birds, insects, as well as plants and trees. It’s the antithesis to the don’t-eat-meat-to-save-the-world crowd. Regenerative agriculture is ultimately about nutrition and our own health. It’s a ground-up approach to agriculture that steers away from the ill-effects of industrial agriculture, where a mono-culture has essentially destroyed the very things regenerative agriculture is trying to reclaim. We don’t advocate eating food out of food factories, from large corporations that are exploiting scarce arable lands and human labor for profit.

The methodology practiced in regenerative agriculture believes that as we heal nature, we heal ourselves. That improving grasslands actually sequesters carbon, diminishing the effects of climate change. Some soil and climate scientists have posited that globally improving grasslands with livestock is our quickest, best bang to reverse climate change. Regenerative agriculture is a system that works with nature, not against nature. As an irony to all ironies, it’s a method of growing food that acknowledges that domesticated agriculture got us into this mess and it’s agriculture that will get us out.

One commenter criticized veganism this way. “It’s a capitalist industrial dream,” she commented. “Your reality is boxed products, ultra-processed fake foods that are completely disconnected from nature. In the upcoming battle for the future of farming, the real power belongs not to the often naïve vegan militants, but to that old enemy of farmers: the industrial food processing giants.”

Is that where this is taking us? Is the $4 billion valuation of a food company that produces fake beef the beginning of the demise of regenerative agriculture? Are we content following the path of the same food system that’s been in place for the past 50 years or so that is partly responsible for many of our ills?

In the recent issue of Sustainable Farming, authors Frederic Leroy and Martin Cohen wrote, “The danger here is that the political arguments being advanced right now —meat and dairy bad, new scientific foods good — are dangerously simplistic and could have catastrophic consequences for human health and the environment. It is high time that we start spending more of our energy on improving the food system using truly evidence-based interventions instead of losing ourselves in ‘one-size-fits-all’ planetary solutions that overlook most of the ecological, physiological and cultural diversity.” 

Imagine if the $4 billion valuation could instead be invested in Regenerative Agriculture. Just imagine. With that we may actually get on the right track toward making constructive change, while at the same time improving on the health of our fellow beings.

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