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Meatless Burgers Are on Trend. Eating to Save the World Has a Long History. | Retro Report


“We all know that Americans
love the hamburger. But now, scientists
are trying to cancel beef.” “The Impossible Whopper…” Alternative meat is a
hot commodity. “That patty is 100 percent
plant-based protein.” “No way.” “No way.” But there’s more to it than just its
beefy taste. “Meat takes an enormous
toll on natural resources and the environment.” “Under the current system,
it’s not sustainable. It has to change.” While the new plant-based meats
may be high tech, the ideas behind them have been
around for decades. “Choosing a plant diet, you can
both help yourself and change the world all at the same time.” “So much of what we do
was in that book. You know, it was written there. But it takes that long for it to
get into mainstream dialogue.” “Hello.” “What’s happening?” Ethan Brown started his alternative
meat company, Beyond Meat, in 2009, with a radical idea: you don’t
need an animal to make meat. “So this is the 2.0 burger, which
hasn’t been released yet, right? If we can make it so it tastes and
delights just like animal protein, very few consumers are
going to say, nah, I just don’t want to do that.” Brown wants Beyond to play a role
in the fight against climate change. “That’s excellent. Very good.” “You know, for a long time, I worked
in the energy sector. Spending all of my
career in this area but not really focusing on
that main problem. And that main problem is
really livestock.” Cattle, especially in feedlots, emit
dangerous amounts of greenhouse gasses, like
methane and nitrous oxide. “Our farming methods, agriculture,
land use, deforestation, are contributing substantially to the
climate crisis.” Because cows consume large
amounts of grain, rising global meat consumption means increased
exploitation of land and water. According to the United Nations,
nearly 80 percent of the world’s agricultural land is used to graze or
grow food for livestock. “We’ve known about the
resource-intense nature of agriculture. We’ve known about its
implications in climate. We’ve known about the
health implications of consumption of high
levels of animal protein. And we’ve of course
known about the, you know, conditions that animals are raised
in, in industrial agriculture. And every day we work away at
solving for those problems by focusing on one thing: transitioning
the protein at the center of the plate from an animal-based protein to a
plant-based protein. That’s it.” At Beyond Meat’s lab, they study
every detail, hoping to replicate the taste, texture, aroma and even the
sizzle of meat. “The product we’re best known for
is the Beyond Burger. And we’ve spent years
actually working toward getting it to the point where a
mainstream consumer would say, yeah, that’s a really meat-like
experience for me. It’s delivering
the protein I need. It’s satiating, et cetera.” Companies like Beyond want
consumers to consider the social and environmental impact of the
food they eat. But while their products
are new, this idea—that an individual’s choice to eat less meat
can benefit the world—is not. It was first introduced
by a young author, Frances Moore Lappé,
nearly 50 years ago. “Frances Moore Lappé, author of
the popular bestseller, ‘Diet for a Small Planet.’” In 1971, when she published “Diet
For a Small Planet”… “A new hard look at the problem of
hunger in America.” …the world was facing
a hunger crisis. “Even though we are growing more
grain on this planet, there are many more mouths to feed.” “The world was obsessed with
feeding people. And I thought, ah, if
I could just understand why people are hungry.” Conventional wisdom said we were
reaching the Earth’s capacity to produce food. But Moore Lappé,
who was only 27 years old, buried herself in data
about global production. “It is the original manuscript for
‘Diet for a Small Planet.’ Dated January 6, 1971. I just said, O.K., I’m
going to figure out, are we really at
the Earth’s limits? Is that really the
cause of hunger? These are all the calculations that I
did with little line rulers. And so, I got my dad’s slide rule,
and I just, I just sat there, hour after hour, literally putting
two and two together.” What she discovered
astounded her. If all of the world’s grain
was fed to people, there would be plenty to eat. “There’s more than
enough for us all. If you take, as I did, very simply,
you take the world food supply and you divide it by the number of
people on the planet. More, more than enough.” But we were feeding much of what
we grew to cattle, which were remarkably inefficient
at making meat. In one chart, Moore Lappé
illustrated how 21 pounds of protein fed to a cow made just one pound
of protein for people. “What I wanted to get across is that
our current food system is inefficient, unjust, illogical, and
destructive, you know? That it’s just, not, we can
do a lot better, and we need not have hunger.” Her solution—a meat-free diet—
was, in the beef-loving 1970s… “They’re the beef people.” …so alien, the publisher asked her
to include recipes showing options for meat-free meals. “I wanted to encourage people that,
hey, we can be part of the solution, because I think we want to have
meaning in our lives. And it feels good if
we can align our daily choices with something larger.” “Has it helped people
change their diets? Are people changing
their diets?” “Oh, definitely. I think it has been a
jumping off point for many people.” Despite little media attention, “Diet
for a Small Planet” became a counterculture best seller, inspiring
readers with the message that everyday choices and individual
actions could make a difference. One of them was a young
environmentalist, Seth Tibbott. “I read that book and
I became a vegetarian.” In 1980, he started a business in
Forest Grove, Oregon, the Turtle Island Soy Dairy, which made some of the
first alternative meats from a soy protein called tempeh. “This was the first ad that I created,
for Turtle Island Tempeh, and you see I have the soy tempeh, good
old soy, and five grain tempeh which was right out of the pages of
‘Diet for a Small Planet,’ and then the soy tempeh with herbs
was my tempehroni.” Even though he was barely
breaking even, in 1995, Tibbot introduced a new product for
Thanksgiving. It was called Tofurky. “Nobody thought it was a good
idea. They said, that’s a stupid
name, that’s silly.” “Do you have any Tofurky?” “Tofurky?” “Yeah, tofu turkey.” “Tofurky, anyone?” “Is this Tofurky?” “Tofurky. To-bagel with cream
to-cheese.” “Tofurky.” “We had no ad budget. But what we did have
going for us was this quirky product with
this quirky name. And we started finding that the media just couldn’t
get enough of it.” He made other products, too, like
tofu sausages and deli slices. After decades of slow
but steady growth, about two years ago, demand for
Tofurky’s products suddenly exploded. “The conversation for us changed
from, where in the world are we going to sell all this product that we
are set up to make, to how in the world are we going to make enough
to meet the demand of this
new industry?” While the shift seems quick, it’s
also something animal rights activists have been working
toward for decades. “I read ‘Diet for a Small Planet’ in
1987 and it blew my mind.” Like Seth Tibbott, Bruce Friedrich
stopped eating meat after reading “Diet for a Small Planet.” But, he eventually grew
to believe it was unethical to eat animals at all. He became an
animal rights advocate, and tried everything— from
throwing fake blood on fur coats, to farm animal rescue—to get
people to stop eating meat. “I spent a whole bunch of time focused on individual
dietary change. So, educating people
about who farm animals are. And yet, year after year
after year since then, per capita meat consumption
has gone up.” So he switched—from activism to
capitalism—and started a trade group that finds investors for
alternative meat. To build market
share, he says it’s essential to be mainstream, working with venture
capitalists, fast food restaurants, and even meat companies. “The market sector
is everybody who eats. So, the market opportunity
for investors, regardless of whether they care about the
ethics, it’s hard to imagine anything more colossal. If all we do is
continue to do the same sort of farm activism that we’ve been
doing for decades, we’re not going to
make progress.” That approach, shared by both
Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods,
seems to be working. In May of 2019,
Beyond Meat had one of the best-performing public
offerings by a major U.S. company in the past two decades. “We’re growing like crazy, the
opportunities keep coming to us, and step by step, you’re sort of
wearing down the barriers to this idea that existed even
just 10 years ago.” “I think we have absolutely
benefited from all the marketing efforts of our peer companies,
uhm, which is great. I mean, they’re,
they’re rising the tide.” Seth Tibbot’s stepson, Jaime Athos,
who is now Tofurky’s CEO, says plant-based eating has
made the shift from counterculture to mainstream. He points to sales
trends from the past 2 years. “If you look at real animal meat
sales, they’re like, more or less flat. If you look at meat alternative sales,
they grew by about 37 or 38 percent. So, that’s how a
revolution happens. That kind of growth rate.” He also credits savvy marketing
and a new generation of consumers, influenced by social
media and awareness of climate change and animal welfare. “Many think it’s cool to be a
plant-based eater. It’s kind of
on-trend right now. I think I’m pretty
optimistic about people in general, but it’s nice to be surprised
in that direction, that society could shift so quickly.” Frances Moore Lappé’s daughter,
Anna Lappé, agrees. She’s a food
writer and environmental activist who, a decade ago, wrote a book
exploring food’s impact on climate. “I was at a food tech conference in
San Francisco a few months back and it was so amazing to me how
almost every single pitch began with what sounded like
the beginning of a Frances Moore Lappé
speech about the environment and
sustainability.” But, she believes her mother has
always wanted more than for people to just give up meat. “She was never that simplistic. It’s really not having
a conversation about what we want
our plate to look like. It’s more, what do want
our world to look like?” “To me, that ‘Diet for a Small Planet’
message is ultimately this message about democracy. Who is making
that choice that we should take this vast amount of, of land that could
be feeding people directly, and turn it over to be growing feed for
livestock in a way that’s ultimately so inefficient?” Both Anna and her mother have
concerns about the new meat alternatives. They worry that even if
they do lead to less grain consumption, or are more
humane for animals, many are heavily processed. They would also like to
know more about how the plants that go into them are grown. “Any message that reinforces the
idea that somehow you have to buy a packaged product in order to eat
in the plant world is, is not helpful.” “One of the core principles of eating
a climate-friendly diet, is eating as much real food as possible, so not
processed food.” “I think the question should be not
just is something meat, or is it not or is it not meat, but were pesticides
used, toxic pesticides? Were synthetic
fertilizers that are incredibly energy intensive to produce? All of these
questions go into essentially understanding what is the impact of
the food we’re eating.” “There’s Angie.” As for Frances Moore Lappé
herself— she is having a renaissance. She’s in demand as a
speaker, and along with Anna, is preparing a 50th anniversary edition
of “Diet for a Small Planet.” “Hi.” “There’s been enormous change in our culture
around food since I wrote my book. Just enormous change.” “Thank you so much.” “People often ask me, wasn’t it hard
to give up meat? And I say no, it
was so exciting.” “This was about
foundational change. And a system that
was really destructive and not serving us. It was very much about finding
our voice and having power. And to make in some
small way some difference in the world.”

23 thoughts on “Meatless Burgers Are on Trend. Eating to Save the World Has a Long History. | Retro Report

  1. That stuff is nothing but ground up garbage. Humans are made from animal protein. They need a certain amount of it for cell regeneration. Scrawny vegans age prematurely.

  2. Every time you save an animal from ending up on a plate, I’ll eat three.

    You won’t save anything as long as big business gets its way.

  3. Yeah the plant based meats do taste well but its more costly and more people are used to buying meat from their market I don't see this taking over besides being a fad for people to look healthier

  4. If these plant based food producers got the same government subsidies that meat processors do, those plant based foods would come down in price and be more affordable for people.

  5. Great video. Most of my bubbling concerns were addressed in the last 2 minutes of the video 😛 Right now the meatless meat products are going through the high-priced, trendy mainstream gimmick phase, which I feel like is more for satisfying intrigue like Tofurky did. If it ever lowers in price due to demand, what toll would that take on our crops in 50 years? How would they be manipulated and grown in galactic quantities in order to keep up? They'd basically become the new factory farms – factory fields. How much energy would it take to process plants vs. processing animals? And for people in developing countries who rely on livestock and poultry to survive (to sell and feed their family meat/eggs, milk, etc.): if the price of meat goes up, won't the price of the live animal go up too?
    I've enjoyed my meatless foods from time to time, but Frances and her daughter have a very important point regarding real food, not just subsisting off plant versions of meat-based food. In my opinion this can consist of both grains and produce, as well as animal products in very reduced quantities than we are currently accustomed to.

  6. High carb vegan diets are bad for your health and stunt brain development. We need fatty acids, proteins, and vitamins that you simply cannot get from a vegetarian diet. High carbohydrate diets cause diabetes, allergies, and a hoist of other ailments and make you gain weight. Climate change doomsday theology is based on computer models concocted with false assumptions at the request of politicians. For real climate science, please see New Climate Discovery at http://renewable.50webs.com/Zeller.Nikolov.html Then, for a good laugh, see Climate Hysteria in Pictures at http://renewable.50webs.com/The-cult-of-windmill-worship.html

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