Are Eggs Without Chickens, and Meat Without Animals Possible?

I’m not a Vegan. I’m not even a Vegetarian. In fact, I believe that red meat has a place as part of a healthy diet. That being said, I understand why some people do not eat it. I’m not going to get into the debate about whether or not it causes heart disease or cancer. If you don’t eat meat, poultry products or fish for ethical reasons, I get it. Cows, chickens, pigs and fish are for the most part treated inhumanely when they are raised strictly for consumption. I’ve seen the documentaries. I’ve read the articles. I’ve listed to podcast interviews…it’s bad. That’s one of the reasons why my family spends the extra money to buy organic, grass fed meat, wild-caught fish and eggs from pasture-raised hens.

One thing that I do try to avoid eating or feeding my family is processed food. That’s why meat is a part of almost every meal we eat. Some form of meat and a vegetable make up the majority of our dinners. I try not to buy things that have nutrition labels. When I do, I look for very few ingredients and try to make sure that I know what all of the ingredients are. I have a very hard time believing that something made in a laboratory can be digested and used by the human body. Our bodies are very complex, living organisms. Seems like every time we see a new chemical or artificial ingredient make its way past the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) and into our food, it’s found out years later that it might not be that good for us.

That’s where the new movement for non-animal protein comes in. There are millions of dollars being invested in products we’ll readily accept as meat, but that don’t require animals to be sacrificed. These “alternative” proteins are about to hit the American market without the need for farms or slaughterhouses, but with the need for laboratories.

First, there are “plant-based” proteins, vegetable-derived imitation meat that mimics the taste and texture of animal flesh.

The two that I’ve hear the most about are Just Scramble and Beyond Meat.

Just Scramble is a plant-derived egg substitute that claims you won’t know the difference between their product and real eggs unless they tell you. Though the product is designed to cook, look, and taste like eggs, it’s actually made entirely from mung beans.

Beyond Meat has already developed and started selling its futuristic plant-based meat products in stores across the country.

There is also the Impossible Burger, a meat-like plant burger. Impossible Burgers contain what they call a “magic ingredient”. It’s made from soybean roots and genetically engineered yeast. It contains heme, a key part of red meat and a source of iron, which humans can’t live without. It’s basically a plant-based blood that they use to make the Impossible Burger sizzle, smell and taste like real red meat. Even though Impossible Foods is compliant with all regulations, the company is having the FDA review the product’s safety in the interest of transparency. So far, the FDA has not approved the product. The FDA said the plant-based heme is so new there needed to be more evidence before it will give its blessing.

Another similar category is what’s called Clean Meat. Rather than getting meat from animals that have been slaughtered, clean meat comes from the bodies of living animals. It is produced by taking a small sample of animal cells and duplicating them in a culture outside of the animal (in a lab). The resulting product is 100 percent real meat, but without the antibiotics, E. coli, salmonella, or waste contamination. Memphis Meats, a food technology startup, is the at the forefront of this technology. These products won’t likely be available for another two or three years, but they are coming.

These companies realize that the non-meat eating population is increasing. It’s easy to see when you go grocery shopping. As little as five years ago, I had to go to Whole Foods or a specialty store to find Almond or Coconut milk. Now I can get them at any grocery store I walk in to. I’ve even seen them in gas stations and convince stores.  

The big question is if these manufacturers can realistically simulate the taste and texture of meat, eggs, and dairy, will people care if it came from a laboratory rather than a pasture?

As I mentioned previously, I believe that an important aspect of any “healthy” food is that it is as natural and unprocessed as possible. Egg and meat alternatives involve the highest level of processing imaginable. These products are completely manufactured and involve the use of man-made ingredients. Real, whole foods contain a complex mix of nutrients and minerals that you cannot recreate by an assembly of individual components. Nature just seems to know better than man. Making a food better, or even as good as Mother Nature seems impossible, and as far as I can tell, no one has succeeded yet.

Aside from the issue I have with my food coming from a lab, think about the fact that if these companies can successful come up with a formula for “eggs” or “beef” that consumers can’t distinguish from the real thing, it will be a “proprietary” formula. No one can sell the Impossible Burger except Impossible Foods. So the company will have a monopoly on plant-based ground beef. They will be able to privatize what has been a public good for the entire history of mankind, animals.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out over the next few years. If it’s not the companies that I mentioned here, there will be someone that breaks through the alt-protein market. Will they make it affordable enough to not only get in the meat cooler at the store, but also onto your tray at McDonald’s or Taco Bell? Very doubtful.

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Wishing you optimal health and peak performance,

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