The end of meat?

The end of meat?

I love my meat.

I love burgers, steaks, chicken, pork chops. Grilling out is one of my pleasures in ever-sunny Southern California.

I also know I’m killing the planet.

It takes 36,000 calories of feed to produce 1,000 calories of beef. Beef production wastes water, energy, and other resources. Feedlots are not only a blight on the planet, but inveterately cruel to animals. And, again, it’s a major contributor to climate change, especially in places like Brazil, where the Amazon is being cut down to expand beef production, a main export.

The holy grail has been to come up with a meat substitute which tastes like the meat you love, but doesn’t cause damage like meat production.

Two companies, Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are doing just that.

I came across this article this morning: This Is the Beginning of the End of the Beef Industry. It details the successes of these two companies, and others like it. It is rather eye-opening.

“Alt-meat” is no longer a joke. It’s on the verge of being a billion dollar business. You can find alt-meat products everywhere, from your local grocery store to Burger King. Indeed, fast food companies are rushing to bring out alt-meat menu items. This is the canary in the coal mine for beef producers: the day that McDonald’s starts carrying alt-meat products, you can pretty much say that the days of ranchers are near an end.

Back in 1990, science writer James Burke produced a TV program which was set in a future changed irrevocably by climate change. In it one of the themes was the end of beef consumption, as it was too detrimental to the environment. (Only rich Japanese could afford beef, and even then it was looked down upon with disgust.) So yes, even back in the days of George H.W. Bush, scientists knew what fighting climate change would entail, and part of that was ending beef production.

Combating climate change is not a matter of tweaking one or two things. A wholesale re-evaluation of our patterns of life and consumption will have to take place. And ending beef production will have to be a part of that. Every day swathes of forest land are consigned to the saw to clear land for cattle. This is unsustainable. Meat won’t be able to feed the 9 billion people who will live on this planet by 2050. Any attempt to do so will be catastrophic.

I have faith in us hairless apes. We can do amazing things, especially when our backs are to the wall. I’m heartened by companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods. They’ll be part of the solution. I just hope it isn’t too late.



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