‘Archdiocese of Chicago disapproves of plant-based meat during Lent’

From WGN9:

Today is Ash Wednesday,  when Christians get the sign of the cross rubbed on their forehead.

It’s the start of Lent when Catholics are asked to abstain from meat on Fridays. But what about plant-based meats?

Despite plant-based meat containing no animal flesh, the Archdiocese of Chicago expressed disapproval at the thought of eating soy or protein-based meat during Lent.A spokesman for the Archdiocese of Chicago said you risk losing the whole spirit and meaning of abstaining from meat if you go the fake-meat route.

“What’s behind the whole tradition in practice is to go without in order to be in solidarity with those who are hungry, with those who can’t afford meat,” Todd Williamson, director of the Office of Divine Worship at the Archdiocese of Chicago told the Chicago Tribune. “By going without that we are reminded of others. We experience hunger ourselves. So it’s a bit deeper than whether it’s just a meat product.”

In our backwards world, this somehow makes sense to a religion that preaches compassion.

‘Climate Change and the American Diet’

A new study from Yale’s ‘Program on Climate Change Communication’ came out with some interesting statistics. I’d click the link and futz around a bit, but I think these were the juiciest parts:

More than nine in ten Americans (94%) say they are willing to eat more fruit and vegetables, and six in ten (62%) say they are “very” willing to do so. More than half of Americans (55%) say they are willing to eat more plant-based meat alternatives (products made with vegetables such as soy, potatoes, peas, etc.) and 54% say they are willing to eat less red meat (beef, lamb, pork).

More than four in ten Americans say they are willing to use dairy alternatives (soy milk, almond milk, etc.) instead of dairy-based milk or cream (46%) and/or to consume less dairy (42%).

One in four Americans (26%) say they are willing to eat lab-grown meat rather than meat taken from animals.

Those are the nuts and bolts of ‘The Now’ of plant-based eating. People are interested — when they understand the effects of diet on the climate and its overall taste improves. People are willing to eat more plant-based meats when they cost less than real meat. Subsidies are too important here. Beef and dairy are subsidized in a way that essentially is like giving steroids to Goliath.

These are all good signs and honestly better than I expected. For your ‘TL;DR’, their executive summary is available here.

(via VegNews)

‘Nearly One in Four in U.S. Have Cut Back on Eating Meat’

Justin McCarthy and Scott Dekoster for Gallup:

Nearly one in four Americans (23%) report eating less meat in the past year than they had previously, while the vast majority (72%) say they are eating the same amount of meat. […]

Certain groups are more likely than others to say they have eaten less meat in the past year:
• Women are about twice as likely as men to report having cut down on meat consumption.
• Nonwhites report having reduced meat in their diets at a higher rate than whites.
• Midwesterners are less likely to be reducing their meat consumption than adults in other parts of the country.
• About one in four residents of cities and suburbs have reduced their meat consumption, while residents in rural areas are less likely to report having done so.

This follows the report that 4 in 10 had reported trying plant-based meats in 2019.

‘The Meat-Lover’s Guide to Eating Less Meat’

Mellissa Clark for the NYTimes:

Becoming vegan would be the most planet-friendly way to go, followed by going vegetarian. In my case, those diets would be a professional liability, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t know that I’ve got the willpower to stick to either one. I love meat and dairy too much to give them up entirely. But eating less of them — that I can do.

On the upside, eating less meat and dairy means there is more room on my plate for other delectable things: really good sourdough bread slathered with tahini and homemade marmalade, mushroom Bourguignon over a mound of noodles, and all those speckled heirloom beans I keep meaning to order online.

She has 6 good tips for people who are starting to dip their toes into the plant-based world.

‘Proposed Bill Wants All Plant-Based Beef Labeled ‘Imitation’’

Jenny G. Zhang for Eater:

A new bipartisan bill requiring beef that’s not derived from cows (i.e., plant-based beef like Impossible Burgers) to be labeled “imitation” was proposed in Congress on Monday, Food Dive reports. The legislation, called the Real Marketing Edible Artificials Truthfully Act (or the Real MEAT Act), was introduced by Rep. Anthony Brindisi, a Democrat whose district covers a rural part of New York, and Rep. Roger Marshall, a Republican from Kansas.


The proposed bill, as currently written, suggests that slapping a prominent “imitation” label on plant-based beef would prevent “confusion” and “ensure that consumers can make informed decisions in choosing between meat products such as beef and imitation meat products.” Brindisi, in a statement by the United States Cattlemen’s Association obtained by Food Dive, emphasized this line of thinking: “American families have a right to know what’s in their food … Accurate labeling helps consumers make informed decisions and helps ensure families have access to a safe, abundant, affordable food supply.”

However, there’s little evidence that consumers are actually confused about the difference between plant-based and animal-based meat. In the dairy world, where the use of the word “milk” has similarly been a source of contention, the majority of consumers know that plant-based milk doesn’t contain dairy, per a survey from the International Food Information Council.

I think honesty is a good practice if there is confusion, but I don’t think anyone is confused by plant-based products.

If we’re open to discussing clear labeling, meat could be better too. I’d love to see meats labeled about their: antibiotics the animal received, square-footage allotted to each animal in their lifetime, percentage of time spent outside per day, whether the animal was at any point maimed without anesthesia, and if this product contains fecal matter. It’d also be nice to see a reversal on the ag-gag laws that were passed to ban videos from being recorded in slaughterhouses. Is that not the kind of honesty they like?

‘What cell-cultured meat can tell us about our culture’

Sam Bloch (in bold) interviewed cultural historian Benjamin Aldes Wurgaft about the future of lab-made meat, and I found the end especially interesting:

John Berger said the zoo is an epitaph to a lost relationship between humans and animals. Part of what I believe you’re trying to do in Meat Planet is write cultured meat into that epitaph.

That’s what I’m implying. You could see industrial agriculture as a kind of epitaph. And you could also see cultured meat extending that process. It’s a product of the consumer imagination in which we don’t expect to be close to the animals that we eat. We don’t even expect to be close to other people, right? We’re still in the model of industrial production—we’re just trying to shift its basis.

Cultured meat is simultaneously a radical break and a conservative move. It’s a conservative move in the sense that it attempts to conserve a model of diet, and a way of living, and a set of ideas about markets and economic and population growth, that we’ve been living with for a long time. It’s friendly to the way business is already done.

‘Shalt thou eat an Impossible Burger? Religious doctrine scrambles to catch up to new food technology.’

Laura Reiley with an incredibly interesting piece for the Washington Post:

This month, Tyson announced it is investing in a company that will launch plant-based shrimp early next year, raising a curious question. Will it be kosher? The short answer is its ingredients — which mimic the verboten crustacean with a proprietary algae blend — could well be both kosher and halal. Once the product launches, the company will seek certification so that Jews who keep kosher and Muslims — certain Muslim groups avoid shellfish — can enjoy a shrimp cocktail, scampi, a po’ boy or ceviche.

And yet. In this era of plenitude and choice and disruptive technology, what is permissible, what is forbidden and what is flouting the letter of religious law? The food system is in flux, the rise of plant-based meats and the promise of cell-cultured meats bending categories such that legislation, ideology and theology are scrambling to keep up.

If God says no pork, how does He feel about a very persuasive forgery? And if only beef from the forequarter is permitted, how will observant Jews parse meat grown in a lab, no bones and no quarters at all? How do you bleed an animal with no blood or slaughter an animal humanely if there’s no slaughter? And if you give up meat for Lent, what constitutes a cheat?

This bit from Rabbi Eli Lando, the chief customer relations officer with OK Kosher, is an interesting question:

“Is it a violation of the spirit of the law? That becomes a realm that you can never end.”


The prohibitions, he said, are about the actual creatures (pigs, shellfish, rabbits and reptiles), not a plant-based facsimile, however uncanny the likeness. Strictly kosher Jews, he notes, are frequently big fans of fake crab made of finely pulverized white fish. Lando sees plant-based meat as a revolution of sorts.

“A person today knows that being kosher does not mean you have to go to the back of the store and look for something like a second-class citizen. Having those products commonly available is achieving a great milestone,” he said.

And I didn’t know this was part of the Muslim tradition of Halal:

The inspection and certification process is similar for halal foods. For plant-based products designed to imitate haram products (pork and other foods forbidden by Islamic law), Roger Othman, director of consumer relations for Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America, said words matter.

“Plant-based bacon bits, for example. The product would qualify to be halal but may be repugnant to halal consumers if the word bacon appeared in the name,” Othman said. “Halal consumers would not know what pork chews like, maybe not even what it smells or looks like. If plant-based, it could qualify to be halal, but the naming should not contain any pork-related words.”

Which ties slightly back into to the recent legal flare-up between many states’ meat-industries and free-speech advocates that would allow plant-based foods to call themselves “meat”, “sausage”, or even a “burger”. It would be interesting to see if certain products might be repackaged or relabeled depending on what stores they end up in — so that they might be allowed into Halal shops or supermarkets in certain states that deem meat-related labeling illegal.

It’d be interesting if many vegan products, once fully mainstream and with widespread use, moved to welcome religious or more niche audiences by changing parts of their products to appeal to those needs. Maybe we’ll see the same product packaged twice: one named to reference a similar flavor or product (i.e. Tofurkey or things labeled “Chik’n”), and then another where the words give the impression of an entirely new category of product (e.g. seitan, tofu, tempeh). Or if Impossible developed another heme product that they didn’t test on rats to try to entice a certain group of strict vegans. All of these things are possible, but I don’t know what it would take to be cost-effective.

‘KFC’s Response to Chicken Sandwich Mania: A Bucket of Vegan ‘Chicken’’

After all the discussion of Popeye’s entering the chicken sandwich game, this was the more interesting story for our future:

Maybe that’s because KFC was too busy rolling out a product that is, in a way, the inverse of Popeyes’ new star: Beyond Fried Chicken, a plant-based fried “poultry” made in partnership with fake-meat startup Beyond Meat. Starting Tuesday, the faux fried chicken will be available from just one location — a KFC in Smyrna, Ga., northwest of Atlanta — in the form of nuggets or boneless wings, as the chain decides whether or not to broaden the test or to release Beyond Fried Chicken nationwide.

This ended up selling out in 5 hours. I’d assume it’ll be nationwide by early next year.

Why Does It Look and Taste Like Meat

Ethan Brown being interviewed by Nilay Patel (in bold):

You are describing how to replace meat. Making it so that your expectations of cooking and eating a Beyond Meat Burger are exactly the same as your expectations of a hamburger patty. Is that the right goal? Is it that people need hamburgers that are exactly like hamburgers of the past or is it we have to change our food supply?

My mother asks me that question a lot. She’s like “Why are you so focused on perfectly replicating animal protein? Why don’t you just build a new source of protein for the front of the plate that people get really excited about?” I think we ought to earn that right. We have to prove that we can do this because the only thing that I know with absolute certainty about the consumer is that the consumer loves meat. You know most of us do. Around 94 percent of the population here in United States. And so that’s a really clear target for me.

I often have conversations with non-vegans who ask why vegan products try to replicate non-vegan foods. The short and simple is because that’s the easiest way to become part of people’s lives, in ways they’re already familiar and have a base-level expectation. Anything that’s around 1:1 for replacing parts of a recipe is the ideal product for most of America.

It’s hard enough to get people to try a slight variation in something they’re already familiar with. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to get most of America to purchase a new protein that they’ve never heard of before.

Beyond is doing the right thing.

‘On Less Meat Mondays, Harvard’s famously liberal students ate more meat than any other day of the week.’

Some interesting thoughts from Selina Wang at I.M.H.O.:

Based on employee logs, meat entrées are high in demand. To counter this trend, many universities have started “No Meat Mondays” to reduce costs and encourage students to make healthy and sustainable decisions. To ease students into this new idea, HUDS tried a less extreme version, “Less Meat Mondays”: at dinner every Monday, instead of serving two animal proteins, HUDS served one animal protein and two vegetarian proteins. Martin said that on their first try, students ate more meat than when there were two animal proteins: “The grill got hammered. It was as if students were saying ‘if you tell me that I shouldn’t be eating meat, in fact I’m going to eat more.’”

When asked what would happen if HUDS acted more as a benevolent dictator that completely removed meat options from the grille menu once a week, with a sign by the gridiron explaining the benefits of eating less meat for health and environmental reasons, Davidson laughed. “There would be a revolt,” he said. […] To get around this psychology, HUDS has become more surreptitious about their actions. Starting last year, HUDS has reduced the amount of ground beef in ten dishes by 30 percent through the addition of mushrooms. This has not been met with any pushback from students, as this alteration does not change the flavor of the meat dishes.

Any step towards more vegetables being consumed is better for the world and the environment. That’s why I don’t hate Tyson’s move to make patties that are half beef and half pea protein. It’s not what vegans want, but it’s what the world needs.