Instead of heeding nutritional expert advice to reduce consuming both processed and unprocessed meat, Americans went from eating a low of 235 pounds per person in 2014 to annual increases from 2015 to 2019.
We then hit a new record of 264 pounds per person in 2020, according to data from the University of Illinois Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics. It’s not that we aren’t aware of the facts.
People have seen the steadily increasing stacks of evidence that red meat is seriously problematic. Plenty of us know researchers have called processed meat anywhere from ‘possibly’ to ‘probably’ carcinogenic. So why aren’t we doing what’s good for us? Ask most folks and they have a simple answer: meat tastes good. That sounds like a ridiculous answer and an absurd trade-off. Are we seriously willing to risk serious health issues for something as transient as taste? But viewing the question this way fundamentally misunderstands the issue.
Our species evolved to crave the flavors of the meat. One theory goes that we originally didn’t want to eat meat, but during times of drought, we scavenged animal carcasses when not enough plant-based food was available. –Yeah… not exactly the most appetizing origin story.
Of course, as soon as animal flesh was paired with fire and an understanding of cooking, a new world of flavor and protein opened up, which provided fuel to evolve brains that created modern civilization. So, to say people ‘like’ meat is a pretty big understatement… It’s been an essential part of existence for a very long time.
Our big brains have now come full circle and are smart enough to understand via research that the meat that once fueled our development is now mostly doing more harm than good. But you know what they say about old habits. Various official agencies recommend cutting out processed meat and reducing meat consumption in general, but it isn’t hard to find more radical expert suggestions that we should discontinue consuming meat or even stop consuming animal products altogether.
Note the huge increase in veganism and testimonials from everyone from your next-door neighbor to Hollywood movie stars that after switching to a 100% plant-based diet they felt better, lost weight, saw their cholesterol levels plummet, had more energy, etc. So, one can pick either a conservative or radical position on meat-eating, but both range from ‘eat much less’ to ‘eat zero.’
Understanding that for most of us the textures and flavors of meat are more than just a mild preference, however, a new group of high-tech startups has embraced our evolutionary heritage and together with scientists, taste experts, AI programs, and even 3D printing, developed what’s being termed ‘new meat,’ products that include vegan kebab, for example, that resembles the real deal to the tune of 90%… as rated by early tasters.
Some readers are likely thinking, “Yeah, I tried a couple of those vegan burger things… they were nice but not awesome.” And these new startups agree. This new meat is – as one tagline goes – “a whole new animal.” There are now vegan kebabs so similar to their animal predecessors that some diners can’t tell the difference.
By using 3D printing, for example, they can produce a slab of plant-based steak that has different textures and flavor elements in different parts of the chunk of alternative meat – in short, these are an entirely new class of meat substitute. The science of meat substitutes has taken a huge leap forward and while many of these products aren’t quite yet on supermarket shelves, give it a year and they’ll be commonplace.
By as soon as 2025, the element of sacrifice when it comes to reducing animal protein could be virtually entirely removed: new meat substitutes will be as cheap or cheaper than animal meat, and the tastes, flavors, and textures will be so close that you won’t be able to note any difference between, say, an alternative beef taco versus a real beef taco. These high-tech substitutes may be the first time in human history when a radical change in what we eat will not require much adjustment. This seems hard to imagine, but read reviews from celebrity chefs and even barbeque experts and you might start to comprehend the revolution that’s just over the horizon.
You could add more than a decade to your lifespan if you ate healthier, according to a study published in early February 2022. For significant gains in the length of your life – and in the quality of those years – the research is clear: we need to ditch the typical “Western diet” in favor of eating more nuts, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. The news that you could get an extra full decade-plus – especially if you start eating right from a young age – is perhaps clearer info than previous studies saying you’d simply “live longer,” but overall, the new study isn’t exactly shocking information.
We’ve known for decades that processed food is bad, and that fruit and veggies are good. But the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has some pretty stark figures in a new report that shows only 12% of adults eat the 1½ to 2 cups of fruit per day guidelines call for, while the CDC study found only 10% of Americans eat 2 to 3 cups of vegetables each day (those 2 to 3 cups include legumes, or beans of all sorts such as peas, lentils, etc.) Having access to facts hasn’t spurred enough change – having new substitute foods – alternative dairy, eggs, and meat – that tastes as good or even better than the originals might, however, finally get us moving towards a healthier future for ourselves and our planet.