We have met the enemy and it's fake meat companies

A fake meat company has joined the ranks of marketers who hope to benefit by misrepresenting the safety and wholesomeness of real meat.

Burt Rutherford, Senior Editor

June 20, 2018

4 Min Read
We have met the enemy and it's fake meat companies
Getty Images/Ian Waldie

Editor's note--This blog has been updated with additional comments.

Some readers may wonder why we’re so concerned about fake meat and the folks who synthesize it. Here’s why.

I recently received a news release from a fake meat company in Israel, claiming that fake meat can improve food safety. The company, Aleph Farms, calls it “clean” meat, a moniker I refuse to use. The release was in response to a beef industry petition to USDA to restrict the terms “beef” and “meat” only to slaughtered animal-based products.

That’s a reasonable request, but not to the fake meat companies that want to undermine what you do to produce a safe, wholesome and natural product for consumers.

“Aleph Farms is calling on USDA to promote clean meat for its compelling safety advantages, such as being antibiotic free and pathogen free,” the release says.

READ: How antibiotic overuse in human medicine impacts beef producers

In its news release, Aleph Farms uses the time-worn statistic that the anti-beef crowd loves to promote that 70% to 80% of U.S. antibiotic sales go to livestock, according to the New York Times. Given the Times’ track record regarding the beef business, that immediately puts a stamp of suspicion on using them as a reference.

“This fact raises public health concerns about increased antibiotic resistance, which causes about 23,000 American deaths a year and $34 billion in financial losses annually, according to the Centers for Disuse Control (CDC),” the release says. But alluding that antibiotic use in livestock is directly related to human deaths related to antibiotic resistance is flat-out irresponsible.   

Dee Griffin, DVM, now with Texas A&M veterinary school and stationed at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, says the Times got it wrong. Imagine that. Griffin says the statistic comes from a 2013 FDA antibiotic sales report published in 2014, which indicates 67% of antibiotic sales go to livestock use. In the 2015-16 report, antibiotic sales declined 10%.

However, of feed use, a third of the antibiotics used were ionophores, which the FDA, World Health Organization (WHO) and CDC all consider not medically important. In fact, according to the CDC, FDA and WHO, ionophores have no use and no value to humans and have no impact on antibiotic resistance.What’s more, FDA emphasizes that sales and distribution data do not represent the actual use of the products.

What's more, Griffin says the comparison isn't valid. “The perpetuated comment that 70% or 80% or 90% of antibiotics in the United States are used in livestock is not only misleading it is absurd. The last reporting antibiotic use in humans by the FDA was in 2012. When compared to antibiotic use in animals in the same year, the estimated use of antibiotics on a pound per pound basis, humans used the same number of grams of antibiotics as animals.” 

READ: Antibiotics: Fuzzy connection between humans and animals

It doesn’t stop there. Aleph Farms claims, “The CDC also estimates that every year, more than 400,000 United States residents become ill with infections caused by antibiotic-resistant food-borne bacteria. Ironically, antibiotics may not prevent pathogens in meat. For example, a 2014 Consumer Reports study found illness-causing bacteria on 97% of inspected raw chicken breasts purchased at retail stores nationwide.”

Again, a suspicious reference. Rest assured that Consumer Reports is not your friend when it comes to their stance on antibiotics.

According to Griffin, “Jumping from antibiotic use to bacterial contamination is non-sensical and the writing of a dishonest person. For thousands of years, poultry of all types, regardless of how it is raised, have been contaminated with bacteria that potentially can cause foodborne illness. That is why, in the eons of time, people have cooked chicken well done.”

There isn’t enough space in this blog to refute all the claims made against the use of antibiotics in beef production. If you have some free time, go to our website and search “antibiotics.” You’ll find plenty of material for your reading pleasure.

READ: Forget Romaine lettuce, consumers trust the safety of beef

Aleph Farms also claims that, “Most meat is contaminated during the slaughter process, and clean meat eliminates this risk.”

Again, a very irresponsible statement.

According to Ty Lawrence, meats professor at West Texas A&M University, all carcass sold to the public must be inspected by a federal or state inspector. Further, a representative sample of carcasses are tested for violative antibiotic residues. Extrapolating the 2016 USDA testing data, Griffin estimates the total violative rate is 0.00215%. That’s essentially zero in my book.

“We understand this is a sensitive issue for the cattlemen, but at Aleph Farms, we see the introduction of clean meat as an industry-wide opportunity, rather than a threat,” says Didier Toubia, co-founder and CEO of Aleph Farms. “We are not looking to replace farmed meat, but rather to offer an additional choice to the consumer.”

If they’re not looking to replace you and what you do, then why are they misrepresenting the safety of your product?


About the Author(s)

Burt Rutherford

Senior Editor, BEEF Magazine

Burt Rutherford is director of content and senior editor of BEEF. He has nearly 40 years’ experience communicating about the beef industry. A Colorado native and graduate of Colorado State University with a degree in agricultural journalism, he now works from his home base in Colorado. He worked as communications director for the North American Limousin Foundation and editor of the Western Livestock Journal before spending 21 years as communications director for the Texas Cattle Feeders Association. He works to keep BEEF readers informed of trends and production practices to bolster the bottom line.

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