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BEEF Magazine is the source for beef production, management and market news.
October 18, 2021
For years, there has been an agenda to eliminate meat from the dinner table. We’ve rang the siren over and over, but it seems like nobody wants to believe that meat, dairy, and eggs would ever be unattainable for the average American citizen.
Yet, let’s look back on some moves our government has made over the last 40 years, and tell me if you see a trend.
In 1980, the USDA and HHS introduced the US. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Since then, the recommendations have been updated every five years, and with each new edition, we have seen an emerging trend that pushes us to consume more plant-based foods and to avoid animal proteins and fats, or to only consume very lean, low-fat, or fat-free options.
In 2012, Meatless Mondays were endorsed by the USDA. In a newsletter to employees, the agency wrote, “One simple way to reduce your environmental impact while dining at our cafeterias is to participate in the Meatless Monday initiative.”
The agency later retracted this endorsement due to pushback. Yet, Meatless Mondays have been implemented in many public schools, universities, and other institutions since then.
For example, in 2019, New York City’s 1,800 public schools moved to follow a Meatless Monday diet. The growing trend claims environmental benefits and places the burden on the Big Apple’s young people.
Notably, 75% (780,000 children) in New York City qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. As a result, the school lunch may be their only decent meal in a day, and the politicians and government employees see it fitting to fight climate change by erroneously taking protein-rich foods like meat on the school lunch trays.
And when it comes to nutritional advice coming from government entities, we are seeing a shift away from simple nutrition-focused advice, and a greater emphasis on other topics outside of the scope of health and human nutrition. Suddenly things like animal welfare and climate change have become part of our dietary discussions, which I believe is easily corrupted by political ideologies and personal biases.
It’s from this vantage point that I find it highly questionable about the USDA’s most recent move.
The agricultural agency recently announced a five-year, $10 million grant given to Tufts University to further develop alternative proteins — meat derived from cells grown in bioreactors.
According to Isaac Nicholas and Mike Silver for Tufts University, “The team, led by David Kaplan, the Stern Family Professor of Engineering, and his team of graduate students, will combine the efforts of engineers, biologists, nutrition researchers, and social scientists at Tufts and other universities, in an effort to enhance food sustainability, nutrition, and security.
“Cultivated-meat production is emerging as an alternative source of sustainable protein to help address nutrition and food safety for consumer choices. Kaplan, who is a Distinguished Professor at Tufts and chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, and his team have led some of the early work in the field.
“He says that this new industry could provide nutritious and safe foods while reducing environmental impact and resource usage—with a target of significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, land use and water use than traditional meat production.
“To achieve these goals, the interdisciplinary teams will also work together to evaluate consumer acceptance of cultivated meat, measure the environmental impact of the manufacturing process, assess the economic viability compared to farm production, and prepare the next generation of the industry’s workforce.”
Some may argue that fake meats — made from plants or in a petri dish — simply provide an alternative protein source to feed a hungry planet; however, from my vantage point, our government shouldn’t be choosing winners and losers in the marketplace. Nor, should fake meat companies be allowed to claim their products are more “sustainable.”
Let’s compare apples to apples when talking nutrition and environmental impact, and let’s allow consumers to choose which products they like best. If the government gets out of our way, I’m betting all of my chips on the real deal — BEEF from the hoof.
What do you think about this new USDA initiative to further develop petri-dish proteins? Please, weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.
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