Herbal meat alternatives – products that look, taste and even sizzle like animal meat – have a pretty big year. The brands Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have made headlines and raised impressive sums of capital and legions of hungry, happy customers: a sparkling IPO and partnerships with chains, including Carl's Jr. and TGI Friday's for Beyond Meat; a $ 300 million round of financing and addresses such greats as Burger King and Cheesecake Factory for Impossible Burgers.
One might assume that the rise in popularity of these meat-free products is driven by an increasing number of products vegetarians in the US However, the percentage of Americans identifying themselves as vegetarians is Gallup Surveys dropped from 6 to 5 percent in the last 20 years. (The same survey only started tracking vegan rates in 2012, and has since gone from 2 to 3 percent.)
In reality, Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat say their customer base is as meat-loving as that of the average population. Rachel Konrad, Chief Communications Officer of Impossible Foods, tells SELF that more than 95 percent of people who order their burgers regularly consume animal products (ie non-vegan) and that most of them are not purely vegetarian. Beyond Meat has similar numbers. "Purchase data from one of the country's largest conventional retailers showed that more than 90 percent of consumers who bought the BeyondBurger also bought animal protein," says Will Schafer, the company's marketing vice president, to SELF.
is how Impossible, Beyond and similar companies convince all these meat eaters to get the idea that herbal products are better, at least for some meals. Why do people like to peel meat for these meatless products? I talked to experts and studied the research to find an answer.
"It seems like it's better for me."
Los Angeles-based Kasey L., 23, tells SELF that her family history of heart disease is what spurred her to eat less meat. "I'm generally pretty healthy in general, but the amount of [red] meat I ate was one thing that always bothered me in mind," says Kasey. "I wanted to cut some, so I tried it and loved it." While she still eats meat, she says she has probably reduced her intake by about 20 percent, thanks to the availability of Impossible Burgers and Beyond Meat in restaurants and retailers ,
"Most people, according to our observations, eat less meat for health reasons." Ricardo San Martin, research director of the alternative meat program at the Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology at UC Berkeley, says SELF. "We suspect that humans [be turning] are choosing new flesh alternatives to promote a healthier lifestyle."
The assumption that eating less meat (especially red meat) could be a blessing to health is based on a number of sound research findings David A. Levitsky, Ph.D., Professor of Nutrition and Psychology in the Department of Food Science and the Department of Psychology at Cornell University, told SELF that eating red meat has negative health consequences. However, it is difficult to say whether substituting beef burgers for these new imitations will actually improve your health or not. The truth is that the research is quite complicated.
For example, in a massive, NIH-sponsored, Harvard-led study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2012, over 37,000 men and 83,000 women have been reported since 1986, and in 1980 each found an additional daily Portion of red meat in the course of the study correlated with an increase in the probability of death of a person by 12 percent for some reason. Which sounds scary, of course! However, it is important to note that researchers have found no causal link – evidence that consumption of red meat leads directly to higher mortality – but only a union .
The Agency for Cancer Research (IARC) has conducted a comprehensive review of over 800 epidemiological studies investigating links between the consumption of red or processed meats and numerous cancers that have existed for over 20 years Diets were carried out by countries and countries. They found that there is indeed a link between the consumption of red meat and the risk of some cancers. Note, however, that the mechanism is not clear – it may be more related to chemicals that are produced during cooking or processing, and are known or suspected carcinogens than the meat itself. They also had other explanations for Do not exclude the association, such as coincidence, bias or confusing variables (such as other lifestyles and eating habits). Ultimately, however, the compound was sufficient to classify red meat (ie all mammalian muscle meat, including beef as well as veal, pork, lamb and mutton) as "likely to cause cancer". The correlation between red meat and cancer was mainly observed in colon cancer, but the researchers also saw associations with pancreatic and prostate cancer.
Even large medical organizations have issued recommendations to reduce the intake of red meat. For example, the American Cancer Society (ACS) calls for limiting the consumption of red and processed meats to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. And the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting the consumption of red meat (and eating processed meats like bacon, hot dogs, and deli slices) based on a saturated fat content that raises cholesterol and increases the risk of heart disease (another topic of confusing nutrition research ).
Conclusion: Relationships between red meat and poor health outcomes are definitely present and worth considering, but research has its limitations. While science may not be conclusive enough to point out that anyone should refrain from consuming burgers, the choice of herbal alternatives to cow meat feels more appealing to some people – especially people at higher risk for cardiovascular disease or Certain types of cancer – such as a safe and workable step to potentially reduce the risk of ill health and disease. "People want to do things that are good for them," says Levitsky.
How much healthier are these meatless burgers really? While science generally states that reducing the consumption of red meat is a good idea, it is a separate question as to whether the meat alternatives we submit are actually healthier or not. The answer depends on who you ask (and what you naturally call "healthy").
The hamburger's meatless rivals consist mainly of plant proteins and fats. "These products are designed to mimic meat and contain proteins for chewing and fats for mouthfeel", Ginger Hultin M.S., R.D.N. A spokesman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) and the group on vegetarian nutrition (19459041) of the AND (19459004), reports SELF. The Impossible Burger consists of mostly soy protein concentrate, coconut oil and sunflower oil, while the Beyond Burger consists largely of pea protein isolate, canola oil, coconut oil and rice protein.
Given that they are made from entirely different materials, the nutritional information for meat substitutes is surprisingly similar in terms of calories, total fat saturated fat and protein content . to a normal burger. "From now on, Impossible Burger's goal is to reach the nutritional profile of a normal burger in general," explains San Martin. (Konrad says, "Our goal is to be at least as nutritious as a burger of cows.")
For a standard burger comparison, we use the McDonald's Quarter steamers (only the beef patties) which are 4 ounces and contain 100 percent beef (not necessarily for all hamburgers, by the way). It contains 240 calories, 18 grams of total fat (including 8 grams of saturated fat and 1 gram of trans fat), 75 milligrams of cholesterol, 190 milligrams of sodium, 1 gram of carbs, 0 grams of fiber and 20 grams of protein.
The Impossible Burger 4 ounce patty contains: 240 calories, 14 grams total fat (including 8 grams of saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 370 mg sodium, 9 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, and 19 grams protein ,
A Beyond Burger 4 ounces patty contains: 280 calories, 20 grams total fat (including 6 grams saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 390 mg sodium, 6 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fiber and 20 grams protein , (This information applies to the Beyond Meat burger found in restaurants, and also sells a slightly different version in grocery stores, which is quite similar to but contains a little less calories, fat and carbohydrates.) [Therearenotabledifferences:TheherbaloptionscontainmuchmorefiberthantheregularbeefburgerwhiletheregularburgercontainsfarlesssodiumthantheherbaloptionsWhilethetotalcontentoffatandsaturatedfatisverysimilaryoucanseebeefburgerscontainatinybitoftransfat(notjustMcDonald's)Howeveraccordingtothe AHA we do not have enough research to say whether trans-fats naturally occurring in animal products have the same deleterious effects as those produced (eg an increased risk of heart disease) ). Stroke and type 2 diabetes). So it depends mainly on whether you prefer to get your fat from an animal or a plant. And at the end of the day, keep in mind that healthier food is generally more important than anything you eat (or not eat), whether it's a beef burger or a vegetable.
What we have not discussed so far is the other obvious substitute for burger lovers who want to eat less red meat: alternative to white meats like turkey burger and chicken breast. Nutritionally they look great. A 4 oz turkey burger spoon contains: 7 grams total fat (including 1 gram saturated fat), 60 milligrams cholesterol, 85 milligrams sodium, 0 grams carbohydrates, 0 grams fiber and 24 grams protein. That's a lot less fat and sodium and more protein than either beef burger or vegetable burger. So if you are motivated solely for health reasons, this is a good choice. The only problem? Much like the traditional veggie burger meat lovers have long ignored, these poultry products are not burgundy enough in taste and texture if you're looking for it.
"It's better for the planet."
"Much of this shift towards plant proteins comes from a place where a more sustainable diet is desired," Kelly C. Allison Ph. D., Associate Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry and Director of the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, tells SELF. "Especially in the millennial generation, people are increasingly concerned that an animal diet really pollutes the environment and the climate."
John B., 28, said SELF he had the Impossible Burger for the first time on a whim ordered once in the New York chain bareburger. "I've tried to be aware of how much meat I eat for climate change reasons, so I try to eat a few vegetarian meals a week," explains John. "And this seems to be a good opportunity to do that."
Exactly how big an opportunity is depends on what data you are looking at. However, it is undeniable that the rearing of cows, who become our hamburgers, pollutes the environment more than any other animal product. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the entire livestock industry accounts for 14.5 percent of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions. (This is responsible for emissions along the entire supply chain – from the production of animal feed to the storage of manure, to the processing and transport of the meat.) Within the sector, the beef supply chain With greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram of protein and a The share of beef production is the largest contributor, accounting for 41% of total greenhouse gas emissions from livestock.
In addition, beef production taxes the planet with the staggering amount of resources it needs. Each calorie of beef we consume needs 28 times as much land and 11 times as much water as the average of other animal products (dairy, poultry, pork and eggs). This emerges from a publication from the year 2014 of the National Academy of Sciences . No wonder, then, that scientists urge people to eat less meat especially beef. A rigorous 2018 report published in the journal Nature estimated that by 2050, the entire world population would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 56 percent if it switched to a flexitarian diet (ie less red meat, more plant matter) Food) Conclusion: "GHG emissions can not be sufficiently reduced without changing the diet to plant-based diet." Another study, published in 2018 in Science found that the world's population was reduced to one vegan diets, and in particular animal proteins replaced by vegetable proteins, would result in a 19% reduction in farmland, 49% in GHG emissions, and 19% in freshwater use. But we do not have to be all vegans to benefit from some benefits. The study also calculated the effects of replacing half of the animal products we consume with plant equivalents and found that this scenario would still make a big difference: 67 percent of the land use reduction and 71 percent of the previous scenario's GHG reductions.
But these are theoretical scenarios that envision the impact of whole populations that make drastic changes in dietary habits – a rather high, idealistic goal at that time. Yes, producing less red meat in total is the general goal. However, it is difficult to measure the actual impact of the exchange on burgers alternatives. And practical questions about how many people need to move to these products to have tangible environmental impacts are unclear. If only a relatively small percentage of the population buys it, is it enough to somehow change the current burden on our environment?
What we can currently say is that these are meatless at burger-pro-burger level options require fewer resources and produce fewer greenhouse gases. Impossible Foods commissioned its own study with the help of the Quantis Environmental Sustainability Advisory Group. They found that the Impossible Burger needed 87 percent less water, 96 percent less land, 89 percent less greenhouse gas emissions, and 92 percent less water pollutants than a beef burger. And an independent study written by researchers at the University of Michigan's Center for Sustainable Systems found that the Beyond Burger generates 90 percent less greenhouse gas emissions and requires 46 percent less non-renewable energy, 99 percent less net water consumption and 93 percent less net usage than a normal burger.
Incidentally, some people's concerns about the environment include animal welfare. "It seems some people are increasingly judging the condition of factory farming and animal welfare in the American food system," says San Martin. However, concerns about the inhumane treatment of animals seem to outweigh Hultin's experience in people who already identify themselves as vegetarians or vegans – and is less common in the current wave of omnivores buying these products.
] "I'm just not ready to eat vegetables yet."
Dedicated vegans have their bean burgers, and a certain percentage of die-hard carnivores never give up their beef burgers. But between these poles there is a large amount of Americans worrying adequately about their health and the planet. The people who are just enough interested to make a small change in their behavior (choosing the palatable convincing alternative burger on the menu) have not come to the point where they are willing and willing to to completely dispense with the consumption of meat. (At least not yet.)
Impossible and Beyond Burgers present an incredibly practical and comfortable – albeit more expensive – springboard to this large part of the population. "The familiar nature of alternative meat products such as Beyond or Impossible Burger could be a less intimidating entry point for meat-poor diets," says San Martin. "They seem to be an easy way for people to make the shift [toward] a vegetarian diet. That way, they can do it without sacrificing their flesh, "says Levitksy.
Let's face it, lifestyle changes like vegetarians or vegans can be incredibly difficult (and hard to sell). Many Americans grew up with meat. And if you've ever tried to break a long-established habit, you know that baby steps and good substitutes can be of great help.
For example, while Kasey was concerned about the potential health risks associated with eating a lot red meat: "I was not at the point where I wanted to give up meat and become vegetarian or vegan." For them Impossible Burger is a "cheater," she says, "A way to be more healthy and feel better without the feeling that I have to give up or make a big decision. "She hopes she will be" full "in the future. John is less optimistic. "I do not think Burger would ever completely replace it for me," he admits. "But if more restaurants add it to their menu, I will continue to order it."
Ultimately, it is not yet clear what impact these alternative meat products will have on our health, both at the individual level and at the population level. And although their environmental footprint is significantly lower, predicting the role of these meat alternatives in the big picture depends on other variables, such as how many people actually stop eating beef because of them.
One thing is for sure. "We see no sign that the meat industry is disappearing soon," says San Martin. At the same time, he adds, neither the problems associated with this industry nor our appetite for a tasty alternative. And perhaps it is less important for most meat eaters whether their new citizens of choice actually help prevent disease and save the planet than they feel by choosing an alternative as they are, bringing about a positive change.