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by: Anne Casey, Director of Education

You’ve read the statistics – “People who follow a plant-based diet account for 75 percent less in greenhouse gas emissions than those who eat more than 3.5 ounces of meat a day,” – and you’re ready to flex your diet to include more plant-based meals. February’s resolution is to move toward reducing meat consumption to 1.7 ounces or less daily in order to cut carbon emissions to under 12 pounds per day. That is equivalent to taking at least 8 million cars off the road if your normal daily meat consumption is 3.5 ounces or more.

What, you ask, will I eat instead? Let’s begin with a review of the widely available plant-based meat substitutes on the market today. Fortunately, fake meats have come a long way from America’s first meat substitute, Nuteena, invented by John Harvey Kellogg in 1896. This canned “meat” made of peanut meal, soy, corn, and rice flour was popular among Seventh Day Adventists following a vegetarian diet.

Modern meat substitutes are based on any of the following high protein foods: soy products like tofu, tempeh, and texturized vegetable protein; wheat products like seitan; pea protein; and combinations of these foods.

So, let’s talk Tofurky, the original vegetarian “roast turkey” first offered nationally in 1995. From its humble beginnings in a treehouse, this Oregon-based company has grown its menu to include fake chicken, sausage, sandwich slices, and burgers. The popularity of these products paved the way for new companies tweaking the basic soy, wheat, plant protein recipe to find the perfect juicy meat alternative to the real deal. The latest burger offerings from Impossible Foods even include the addition of “heme” – the molecule in beef that gives it its characteristic meaty flavor – but this heme is derived from fermented yeast. Beetroot juice also adds a realistic red meat color. For a thorough comparison and review of these products, check out The Meat Lovers’ Guide to Plant-based Meats by Consumer Reports where you will find side-by-side comparisons of the fake meat vs. the product it is mimicking as seen below:

Ultimately, though, fake meats are processed foods and, while they are convenient, they should be eaten sparingly, like all ultra-processed foods. Use them as a bridge to whole food meat alternatives, like beans, lentils, tofu, and tempeh. Melissa Clark, food columnist for the New York Times also offers delicious tips and recipes for transitioning to a plant-based diet in her article, The Meat-Lovers Guide to Eating Less Meat.

In the near future, we will be able to have our meat and eat it, too. The exciting next phase in the evolution of meat alternatives are cell-cultured meats grown from stem cells that multiply in a nutrient broth and then are texturized to resemble natural meat. Lab-grown meats recently gained approval from the United States Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. Cultured chicken will be offered soon in restaurants in San Francisco and Washington D.C. The two California companies, GOOD Meats and UPSIDE Foods, which produce cultured chicken, are waiting for approval for their beef, pork, and seafood products. Cultured meat will require less land and water and emit fewer greenhouse gases than conventional agriculture, though the actual savings from large-scale adoption remain to be seen.

Common sustainable eating advice is as simple as this: eat farther down the food chain or, in other words, eat what your meat eats. So, maybe, instead of eating Tofurky, we should eat what our turkey eats – insects! Two billion people, mostly living in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, already eat insects, a practice called entomophagy. It’s sustainable, healthful, and delicious. Even Ikea – famous for its Swedish Meatballs, a.k.a. Huvudroll – is developing the “neatball”, a version of their meatball made from mealworms in order to give a more sustainable option to the two million meatballs they serve daily. In Madagascar where 80% of the forests have been cut down to provide land to graze livestock, Sylvain Hugel, an entomologist specializing in crickets, has teamed up with Brian Fisher, an ant specialist, to create Valala Farms where they are raising crickets to produce cricket meal. The goal is to provide an alternative protein source in order to deter the clear-cutting of forests for livestock grazing. “For me entomophagy is the very solution for Madagascar,” says Hugel. “There is no way to save the forests without taking care of the people who live near them, and that means giving them food security.” If you are curious about entomophagy, visit where you can purchase cricket flour and find out more about cooking with crickets, including fifteen yummy, buggy recipes.

According to the United Nations, “What we eat, and how that food is produced, affects our health but also the environment. Food needs to be grown and processed, transported, distributed, prepared, consumed, and sometimes disposed of. Each of these steps creates greenhouse gases that trap the sun’s heat and contribute to climate change. About a third of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions is linked to food.” So, finding ways to reduce our “foodprint” – like eating a more plant-based diet – is imperative to reaching the two Climate Conventions goals of keeping climate change below 1.5ᵒ F and saving 30% of our land and oceans for wildlife by 2030. This month, our goal is to eat a plant-based diet at least one day each week. You might explore the weird and wonderful world of meat alternatives, try out a new vegan recipe, or, if you’re feeling really adventurous, give bugs a try – Bon Appetit!

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12 de mar.


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