But recently, “fake” burgers emerged in the marketplace. Made by companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Burger, these burgers weren’t just marketed as an alternative for vegans or something interesting to try.
Instead, they marketed themselves as necessary because (they argued) meat is terrible for the planet. Beyond Meat’s CEO went so far as to call the use of animals in food “the most destructive technology on Earth.” His company set a goal of eliminating the use of animals in food by 2035.
Eating Meatless Burgers Will Not Save The Planet
There’s a problem with this approach: facts don’t support it. As many people have pointed out, you aren’t going to save the planet by not eating meat. The claim that beef production is the Darth Vader of climate change holds even less water when it comes to grass-fed beef. In fact, studies have found that grass-fed beef farms help improve the local environment.
In addition to that, there are questions about the scientific research that has led so many to accuse cattle of causing climate change.
So, beef isn’t the villain some have made it out to be. But the main selling point of meatless burger companies is not just that meat is bad for the environment. They also argue that their products are good for the environment.
But are they?
Many Think Meatless Burgers Hurt the Environment
Many sources have pointed out the claims of meatless burger companies about environmental impact are not quite what they seem when you look at the details. So, here’s are some details as pointed by The New York Times, Seeking Alpha, and other sources.
It’s Heavily Processed
Dieticians have voiced concerns about meatless burgers because they generally believe people should cut back on processed foods and eat more whole foods. New York Times food writer Mark Bittman has also written about the “hyperprocessing” used in mimicking beef. Medium went so far as to write that “Impossible Burgers and Beyond Meats are at their core ultra-processed junk foods.”
The Impossible Burger contains about 20 different ingredients. A Beyond Meat burger contains 18. Beef contains one. And, with grass-fed beef from a place like Acabonac Farms, you never get antibiotics or growth-promoting hormones in your beef.
It Encourages Monoculture
Seeking Alpha reported that Beyond Meat uses products that promote monoculture. For example, they use pea protein that is shipped from China and France. Promoting monoculture has a huge, negative impact on the environment.
Monoculture means growing one single crop. The environmental blog Conserve Energy Future notes that monoculture can destroy soil nutrients, pollute groundwater, and alter the natural ecosystem.
One the other hand, the sustainable farming practiced by local, grass-fed beef farms improves the environment and sequesters carbon dioxide in the soil which helps lower greenhouse gases.
Long Supply Chains
When you ship ingredients to the United States from China and France, you create a long supply chain that requires burning a lot of fossil fuel. Seeking Alpha looked at Beyond Meat’s 10K filing and learned that ingredients from foreign countries are first shipped to ports, then moved by rail to the company’s facility in Missouri. They also use refrigerated trucks.
Seeking Alpha estimated the company expends around 4,000 pounds of carbon for every 1,000 miles of transport. And there are thousands of such trips every year.
Your local farmers are usually within 25 to 50 miles and produce everything they sell right there on the farm.
Rather than being an environmentally sustainable alternative, Seeking Alpha concluded that “Beyond Meat is the epitome of an industrial food organization.” If you are an environmentally conscious shopper, you might want to think twice about buying fake meat.