Fake Food for Fake People: A Brief Primer on the Inevitable Next Chapter in Food-Tyranny
Christians are to take dominion over the earth. The Lord who died, was raised, and ascended to his throne rules over all things. This makes him Lord over you, your family, your business, your government, and your dinner plate.
One of the great joys in life is sharing a meal; and nothing elevates the experience like a hearty stand of meat at center stage. The preparation of a meal carries risk; moderate financial commitment, a half day of hard work and preparation, and looming risk of unsatisfactory results, but the rewards of it makes one soon forget his troubles. The sheer ecstasy from the successful execution of the cook, the humble service of it to our family and guests, and an evening full of conversation that continues to find its way back to the thing that brought it together--a seasoned and roasted young chicken, a naturally cured imported ham, a proud baron of beef slow roasted and garnished with rosemary and reduced wine, or a gently seared homogeneous loaf of cultured animal cells and mycelium grown in a multi-million dollar series of bioreactors from inoculated soy and corn oils, sugars, and enzyme-converted recyclables like plastics and styrene.
A Brief History of Fake Meat and Meat-Alternatives
You’ve seen and probably consumed fake meat. Sometimes it’s mostly innocuous and not absolutely fair for me to refer to it as “fake”. A high school football game burger might be bulked up with corn flour and gas station sausage pizza topping might be stretched with 20-30% mushroom content. Other times it’s a plant based protein like tofu that’s either culinarily or culturally appropriate. In the last ten years, efforts to industrialize and make alternative proteins mainstream have propelled it to new heights and cultural relevance.
Fake meat, as an industrialized product, is in it’s fourth phase. The first phase was rather benign; simple plant proteins and meat alternatives, often fermented, didn’t pretend to be something they weren’t. They were consumed because of cultural or culinary necessity, or as a dietary preference (albeit ill-advised). With the rise of industrial food production and consumer demand for more bang for their buck, some actual meat products found themselves stretched with corn, soy, or mushrooms.
Fake meat’s second phase capitalized on the growing green movement. Plant-based alternatives like tofurkey (a bread-stuffed log of tofu painted brown) and black bean burgers (a burger, but sad) hit the market and stayed relevant even to this day, but they never shook up the industry or accounted for a measurable share of the consumer’s mind or wallet. They simply provided an outlet to those that exercised their liberty in eating foods they believed to be better for the environment.
The third phase of fake meat changed revolutionized the industry and some began to sound the alarm. The Impossible Whopper (Burger King’s joint venture with Impossible Foods Co.), Beyond Meat, Morning Star frozen foods (Owned by Kellogg’s, the company that convinced you sugar-coated carbohydrates was a great way to start your morning), and the absolute explosion of milk alternatives like Soy, Almond, etc. began here. Millions of marketing dollars were poured into pushing the product into the standard consumer’s life and it worked. Previous to this, meat alternatives weren’t pretending to be something they weren’t. Tofu, tempeh, tofurkeys, and black bean burgers we’re comfortable with what they were and the consumers voluntarily chose them for their own personal reasons. But then the market presented a lie to us. A lie that started to look like the real things, taste like the real thing, and chew like the real thing. Of course, many people saw through the lie, but that’s where marketing made all the difference. Internet trends, hashtags, and word of mouth, and biased health claims had warm-blooded omnivores rushing to Burgerking to see what the fuss was about. The people were primed, and it was time to execute the fourth phase.
The fourth phase came into existence with the next generation of technologies and support from powerful proponents. Often it is made from cultured cells created in a bioreactor, or sometimes mycelium fungus. Base ingredients like oils and sugars are then inoculated with actual animal cells or fungi, and allowed to culture under the right conditions. The end product is a pasty mass of protein that can be further processed and manipulated into meat substitutions that would make a carnivor begin to question all of his life choices. The development in this phase really is remarkable and frightening.
The lie of fake meat begins to slip from view as it becomes indistinguishable from the truth. Not only does it look and taste like meat, but it behaves like it, bleeds when you cut into it, cooks like it, and resembles it in nearly every possible way down to muscle and fat striations. Soon, you may not be able to tell what is real and what is not.
Fake Food for Fake People
Nothing is inherently wrong about meat alternatives. Food is food, and food is especially good when it serves its purpose of being enjoyed by humans and sustains them (arguments regarding its nutrition and enjoyability are for another time). I can theorize at least a dozen scenarios in which the ongoing development of meat alternatives is a good thing. But the wickedness is in the lie and in the ethos of many of the manufacturers.
Patrick Brown, the CEO of Impossible Foods, is on the record as saying he is “dead serious” about ending animal agriculture everywhere for the sake of human and environmentally health.
It’s a worldview problem. One that thinks there are too many of you, and many of you have too much freedom. With all this freedom you might make the wrong choices that wreak havoc on natural systems and saturate the atmosphere with gaseous bovine emissions. They know better than you, so they will make your choices for you.
I can comfortably assure you that voluntary adoption is not the long-term plan. They want compliance and they will use force and coercion if they must. It’s not about saving the planet (if it’s ever been about that). In fact, the green-movement in large shifted to harping on animal agriculture from deforestation once they realized they could benefit from clearcutting the Amazon as much as the beef industry did.
The perpetrators of this lie are earth-worshipping eco-idolaters. They’re funded by ultra-elitists that hate God and hate His image bearers and all their liberty. The industry has received billions of dollars in funding every quarter over the past two years despite a lack of viable production costs, non-stable consumer base, or complete absence from the large majority of US grocery stores. It’s a lie subsidized by wicked men, and sometimes your tax dollars.
The efforts to push this lie is about stripping you of your freedom and from your nutrition. It will make you sick, weak, and compliant. It will take your access to genuine experiences like hospitality, community, and the dinner plate. It will take away your humanity and much like the fake meat, you will be indistinguishable from that which is not real.
Right resistance is not found in over-correcting by eating excessive quantities of meat or protest via gluttony. It’s not found in worn out jokes about veganism or vegetarianism. We protest fake things by doing that which is real. Be genuine. Be a normal person that eats normal food and does normal things. Eat a steak to the glory of God. Teach your sons to hunt and fish. Help your neighbor process a hog. Let your daughters make apple butter with their grandmother. Plant a garden and can pickles. Have brothers and sisters in Christ over for a meal. Take food over to the young family with a newborn.
Eat real food, be a real human.
There is a tremendous amount more that we will explore regarding fake meat and meat alternatives. It truly is important and will impact us all in the next decade. But for now I’ll end by sharing a favorite quote from Robert Heinlein: