I’ve been associated with the meat business for more than 40 years. During that time there has never been a day without controversy. Nevertheless, consumption has risen slowly but steadily from approximately 195 lb. per capita in 1980 to a projected total near 220 lb. this year.
The big winner was poultry which should almost double its presence at the center of the plate -- 58 lb. way back then to an estimated 110 lb. now.
The big loser was red meat (beef and pork) nosediving from 136 lb. to just 112 lb. The U.S. Department of Agriculture expected the average consumer would eat 222.2 lb. of red meat and poultry in 2018, surpassing a record set in 2004.
All this good news comes in spite of an ear-splitting drumbeat of bad press -- day after day, month after month and year after year. You would think that meat of all kinds would have been outlawed by now and renegade ranchers would be hunted down and shot on sight by gangs of healthier-than-thou food police, well-funded and armed by the likes of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the Union of Concerned Scientists with the tacit support of the folks who wrote the EAT-Lancet report.
But we are a people who love real meat. It’s a most favored food by every first world nation and it’s the first thing added to the plate by every second and third world nation as soon as they develop a viable middle class. Cheap and nutrient light rice, millet, quinoa or whatever ‘ancient grain’ that was the staple family diet of poor nations gets replaced by nutrient dense beef, pork and poultry as soon as the first decent paycheck rolls in.
By the way, regardless of the spelling, it’s pronounced ‘keen-wah,’ not ‘kwen-o-ah’ for those few who still wonder about it. Get ready for more odd grains, though, The Fancy Foods Show debuted a start-up company that’s whistling loudly about something call bomber, touted as a nutritious legume (think peas) grown by small farmers in Ghana. It can be used in stews, milled into flour or used as a plant-based ingredient.
Real meat has been defamed and slandered by accusations of too much saturated fat, the environmental impact of bovine flatulence, the overwrought fear of endemic animal abuse and its failure to compare favorably with the marvels of meat substitutes as a much healthier and earth friendly option. Convert to a vegetarian or vegan diet, say the anti-meat cabal and you and the world will be healthier. The fast-coming ‘labricultured’ meats from companies like Memphis Meats, Mosameat and Meatable offer alternatives that will hasten the demise of modern animal ag say many in the lesser-informed punditry.
Here’s an observation: Will labricultured meat products be the gateway to more real meat consumption? As they become closer in taste and texture to the real thing and an increasingly skeptical public who are demanding simpler foods with fewer ingredients - “don’t buy anything with ingredients you can’t pronounce” is their rallying cry - starts to look at the long and stultifying ingredient list of fake meat, will those who left the real meat aisle at their supermarket start to drift back?
After all, the ingredient list of a plain piece of beef consists of just one word: beef. The Beyond Meat faux burger consists of Water, pea protein isolate, expeller-pressed canola oil, refined coconut oil, contains 2% or less of the following: Cellulose from bamboo, methylcellulose, potato starch, natural flavor, maltodextrin, yeast extract, salt, sunflower oil, vegetable glycerin, dried yeast, gum arabic, citrus extract (to protect quality), ascorbic acid (to maintain color), beet juice extract (for color), acetic acid, succinic acid, modified food starch, annatto (for color).
A multiple ingredient substitute approximating the taste of the real thing might help lapsed meat eaters to come back to the real, much better tasting and more nutrient dense thing.