Fight back against fake meat

July 4, 2018

Air New Zealand is serving the impossible burger:

Air New Zealand is giving customers a taste of the future with a new inflight collaboration with Silicon Valley food tech start-up Impossible Foods.

The airline is the first in the world to serve the award-winning, plant-based Impossible Burger which is now available as part of its Business Premier menu on flights from Los Angeles to Auckland.

Impossible Burger’s magic ingredient is an iron-containing molecule called heme which comes from the roots of soy plants. The heme in the Impossible Burger is the same as the heme found in animal meat. The result is a plant-based burger patty that cooks, smells and tastes like beef but contains no animal products whatsoever. . . 

Air New Zealand will serve the Impossible Burger on flights NZ1 and NZ5 from Los Angeles to Auckland through until late October.

Many farmers and some MPs aren’t impressed that the national airline is serving fake meat.

Shouldn’t it be showcasing New Zealand’s fine, free range real meat?

The fake meat burgers will only be served on flights from the USA when the airline is less likely to be using New Zealand produce and only for three months.

But alternative proteins are one of the challenges facing traditional primary producers.

Fake meat is being sold as healthier and better for the environment, but is it?

Joanna Blythman thinks not and says: Fake meat: Impossibly hard to swallow :

The Impossible Burger is arguably the perfect veggie analog to the ubiquitous beef burger and it is making a big splash as the veggie burger that ‘bleeds’. Joanna Blythman, a renowned investigator of the unpronounceable ingredients in processed food, has a look at the newest fake meat arrival.

The ‘Impossible Burger’ is being marketed in the US as the revolutionary product that will make meat redundant. Its ingredients are as follows: water, textured wheat protein, coconut oil, potato protein, natural flavors, leghemoglobin (soy), yeast extract, salt, soy protein isolate, konjac gum, xanthan gum, vitamins and zinc.

Now even for me, a seasoned investigator of obscure techno-ingredients, this list requires annotation. Let’s start with its first ingredient by weight: water. Suffice it to say that no quality product uses it as a bulk ingredient. Textured wheat protein, potato protein and soya protein isolate are all powdery derivatives, extracted from their eponymous food using hi-tech chemical and physical methods that are veiled in commercial secrecy. Coconut oil has a trendy ‘superfood’ ring to it, except that here it isn’t raw, so the inherent nutrition of the nut has been heavily compromised by the harsh industrial refining process to which it has been subjected. Konjac and xanthan are industrial hydrocolloid gums. (The latter was designed to thicken the drilling mud in the oil industry.) Their role here is to absorb all that water and glue together ingredients that wouldn’t naturally bond. . . 

She goes on to dissect the flavourings which don’t sound very appetising either.

And what of the most arcane ingredient in this faux meat? Soy leghemoglobin (SLH) is a vat-grown, genetically engineered form of the heme iron found in the root nodules of soybean plants. We’re told that it gives the fake meat a ‘bloody’, meat-like taste and colour. It has emerged that the US Food and Drug Administration’s view is that “the current arguments at hand, individually and collectively, were not enough to establish the safety of SLH for consumption”. . .

I am open to the use of genetic modification but I suspect many of those lauding fake meat as better than the real thing aren’t.

So that’s the Impossible Burger: water, protein powders, glues, factory flavourings, flavour enhancers, synthetic vitamins – all signifiers of low-grade, ultra-processed food – and a novel ingredient that has no proven track record of safety.

Reading this list of ingredients, it’s not the sort of product that I, and many other food-aware citizens, would buy. It’s the very antithesis of local food with a transparent provenance and backstory. I’d have absolutely no chance of tracing the origins or uncovering any substantive detail on the assiduously guarded production methods behind its utterly anonymous components.

And although the sales pitch for the Impossible burger is that it’s ‘made from simple, all-natural ingredients’, it’s patently the brainchild of a technocratic mindset, one brought to us by food engineers and scientists whose natural environment is the laboratory and the factory – not the kitchen, farm or field – and people who believe that everything nature can do, man can do so much better, and more profitably. . .

I’m also awed by nature’s complex systems that gift us humans the privilege of nutritionally perfect, health-giving natural foods, be they eggs, milk, meat, cereals, or fruit and vegetables. Cutting-edge food engineers who create ‘plant meat’ are undeniably clever, but they do not have nature’s sure nutritional judgment, good taste, and wise, all-seeing intelligence, or fully understand how her elaborate natural systems work.

It’s a great pity that the vegan versus omnivore debate has become so heated and binary. The equation that plant food is good and animal food is bad, is simplistic at best. Those who rush to embrace the ‘plant meat’ revolution as our environmental and ethical salvation, fail to interrogate the product in any deeper way, and that’s a significant blind spot in evaluating its ultimate sustainability and moral rightness.

Like it or not, there’s a market for fake meat and as Landcare Trust Nelson-Marlborough coordinator  Annette Litherland says, farmers must find ‘sweet spot’ of economic, environmental sustainability if we’re going to compete with it.


Rural round-up

July 24, 2017

Help sought for flood-hit farmers – Timothy Brown:

The Otago Regional Council is calling on any farmers in the wider region able to offer support to those affected by the weekend’s deluge to contact Federated Farmers.

Dozens of properties on the Taieri Plains remain evacuated with paddocks and pastures inundated with water from a wild storm that began on Friday afternoon.

Otago Regional Council chairman Stephen Woodhead said on Sunday it would be a difficult road ahead for farmers affected by the downpour and they would need assistance from the wider rural community.

“Federated Farmers is seeking assistance with feed and grazing,” he said. . . 

NZ the home of real free-range meat – Rod Slater:

The arrival of alternative proteins creates an opportunity for New Zealand to sell its natural pasture-to-plate story, says Beef + Lamb NZ marketing supremo Rod Slater.

 I want to address a certain issue that’s been driving plenty of chatter, both among those in the industry and those interested in food, our environment and our economy, and that’s the rise of alternative proteins.

There is no denying that this conversation, which is not just isolated to New Zealand, is gaining momentum and given the speed in which our current world operates we have no choice but to take notice of it.

However, I’m a huge believer that in every challenge lies a greater opportunity and I believe that if we adapt at speed we can make the most of the situation facing our industry. . . 

Meat substitutes’ rise a danger to NZ farmers – KPMG – Alexa Cook

New Zealand farmers could be under threat from a rise in plant-based products that mimic animal products such as burger patties, KPMG says.

Its global head of agribusiness, Ian Proudfoot, said he has been to Silicon Valley and seen firsthand what alternative proteins were on the menu.

Mr Proudfoot said New Zealand meat and dairy producers needed to identify what level of risk the products presented for their industry and plan accordingly.

The threat of vegetarian alternatives to meat products was looming as companies were beginning to create products that would genuinely appeal to consumers, Mr Proudfoot said. . . 

Dairy beef profitable for beef and dairy – Allan Barber:

For well over 20 years one of the largest challenges in the meat industry has been dairy farmers’ lack of recognition of the opportunity to make more money from their calves by selling them to calf rearers for beef production. There have always been calf rearers willing to stick their neck out and buy calves, but this was highly dependent on both beef and milk price. But for dairy farmers it was easier to select their replacement heifers and put the rest on the bobby calf truck, rather than find rearers to take the bull calves or keep them on the farm for up to three months.

The importance of dairy beef has been inevitable ever since the dairy industry started to increase in size at the expense of the sheep and beef industry which was forced to retreat further up the hillside to land unsuitable for other farming types. 70% of cattle born in New Zealand are born on the dairy farm and dairy cows now outnumber beef cows by about five to one which makes it essential to encourage the dairy industry to assume a significant role in breeding replacement beef cattle. . . 

New Zealand Landcare Trust regional coordinator Annette Litherland ready for top of the south challenge – Jeffrey Kitt:

They are big shoes to fill after 18 years, but Annette Litherland says she is determined to continue the fight for farmers and the environment.

Annette has taken over as the New Zealand Landcare Trust regional co-ordinator for Nelson and Marlborough, taking the top job from Barbara Stuart following her retirement.

Barbara worked for the trust since 1999, finding her niche in helping farmers reduce their impact on the land and seeing a huge shift in attitudes about sustainability. . . 

LIC full year results announcement:

Farmer-owned co-operative, Livestock Improvement Corporation Limited (NZX: LIC), announces its financial results for the year ending 31 May 2017.

As forecast in the half year result in February, LIC has returned to a modest level of profitability in the 2016-2017 year.

Strong performance in its core services of artificial breeding and herd testing, and a reduction in operating costs across the business all contributed to a positive result and a return in value to all shareholders. . . 

Great progress with PEFC Eco-Certification of NZ forest practices:

Illegal forest management practices are a global problem. Governments and markets around the world are increasingly requiring proof of legality for harvested wood products. This has created a demand for labelling and endorsement of sustainably managed and legally harvested forest and wood products.

The Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) is an eco-certification system that is recognised as providing assurance of legality and sustainability and is increasingly required for access to some of NZ’s major markets. . . 

Agricultural Census a valuable resource to farmers and wider primary sector:

This year’s Agricultural Production Census is an important survey that assists all farmers and the primary sector says Federated Farmers.

Farmers are generally bombarded with questionnaires and surveys and replying can be time consuming, but the Federation recommends that members take time to fill in the census and answer the questions accurately.

The compulsory survey, conducted every five years by Statistics New Zealand, is a valuable outlet for monitoring industry trends and a resource used by local authorities. . . 

Australian MPs visit to discuss biosecurity and water use efficiency:

A delegation from the Australian House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture and Water Resources is visiting New Zealand 23-27 July 2017. The visit is part of an annual exchange of select committees between New Zealand and Australian Parliaments.

New Zealand’s Speaker, Rt Hon David Carter, is pleased to host this visit.

“The Australia-New Zealand agriculture and science relationship is very significant. This visit will enable the parliamentary delegation to cover important inquiry topics for Australia with New Zealand’s Primary Production Committee members as well as New Zealand academic, farming and business sectors. It is an opportunity to share information of mutual benefit.” . . 

Government funding wetland enhancement project:

Hohepa Hawke’s Bay has been awarded nearly $175,000 from the Government’s Community Environment Fund to restore and increase a wetland adjacent to the Taipo Stream in Napier, Associate Minister Scott Simpson announced today.

Hohepa Hawke’s Bay is owned by the Hohepa Homes Trust, which has provided homes, education and vocational services in Hawke’s Bay to people with intellectual disabilities since 1957.

“The wetland is an important natural habitat for many native and endangered species. The two-year Lower Taipo Stream Environmental Enhancement project will increase the wetland by at least 6 hectares, providing additional habitat for the nationally endangered matuku or Australasian bittern,” Mr Simpson says. . . 

It’s not all gold for some kiwifruit growers:

Despite what people might believe, some kiwifruit growers are a long way from recovering from the 2010 Psa-V outbreak which devastated the kiwifruit industry in New Zealand, Te Puke kiwifruit grower Alistair Reese said today.

“It really concerns me that a lot of the commentary about the kiwifruit industry is that Sun Gold (“G3”) has been the ‘saviour’ post PSA, and that the industry is now doing very well because of the new varieties. . . 

Can New Zealand repeat stellar success in 2017 Sydney International Wine Competition? Entries invited from NZ wineries for 38th Competition:

New Zealand wineries are expected to holder even greater sway in this year’s Sydney International Wine Competition, following the huge success of Kiwi producers in the 2017 judging.

Entries for this year’s Competition – the only international wine show that judges all its finalists in combination with appropriate food – can be made up till 15 September, with judging in mid-October and provisional award and trophy winners notified by the end of October. . . 


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