New Vegans Offer ‘New Meat’ And a New ‘Pro-Meat’ Attitude 

Pandemics cause stress. Stress boosts a desire for comfort food. Yet too many comfort foods are filled with the last things we should be eating if you’re trying to stay healthy, right? –Not so fast. It’s now possible to merge the desire for familiar, comfort-inducing foods, and the need to eat healthier. Imagine a menu featuring an all-vegan lineup of burgers, kababs, and even steaks… but none of these 100% plant-based items tastes “fake.” We’re talking about a so-called ‘alternative steak’ or a vegan kabab that tastes so good, that even celebrity chefs are giving it the thumbs up. –Hard for some to imagine, but the science has finally caught up to the point where high-tech meat substitute startups – some with butchers and barbecue experts on the payroll as taste and texture consultants – are producing ‘alt meat’ that isn’t targeted at vegans. Rather, their target market is the uber carnivore.   

Vegan food and products – including vegan luxury items – are having a moment, but the vast majority of Americans (and people around the world) still eat and enjoy meat that comes from animals. Decades of work by activists, celebrity models, and mega stars haven’t made much of a dent in the demand for meat – a demand that grows by the year. And here’s the harsh truth: people ‘get’ that global warming is a huge issue, they know factory farming is unsustainable, they agree that animal cruelty is horrible, etc., etc. All the classic pro-vegan arguments are true, but…they’re a bummer. Instead of harping on “global warming is killing the planet and cows have personalities,” a new crop of younger entrepreneurs is offering a much more attractive argument – “Check this out,” they say. “Here are delicious meat choices that taste, look, smell and sizzle like the real deal. We like meat and we know you like it too. So, here’s the meat of the future: plant-based, planet-friendly, a whole lot healthier, and 100% guilt-free – so, dive in and enjoy!” 

These genuinely meaty alt-meat products are acting as ‘bridges’ to lifestyle changes. It’s not that the old-school vegan activists were wrong, but they perhaps took the wrong approach. New vegan meat producers and marketers understand that humans didn’t begin eating meat because we craved the thrill of killing; eating meat is a deeply rooted part of our evolutionary history – our cravings are natural, but they can be satisfied with plant-based substitutes. The vegan movement has also had a tendency to focus on labels. But declaring oneself ‘a vegan’ isn’t nearly as important as really thinking about what we eat and how it affects ourselves and our world. When the Simpsons had a character describe himself as a “level 5 vegan who doesn’t eat anything that casts a shadow,” the parody was entertaining but also insightful. Why all the virtue-signaling? Must people be forced to choose a ‘side’? Who cares about labels when the overall goals are improving human health, the health of the environment, and the welfare of animals?

This new “pro-meat” meat alternative approach to getting people to move away from the unsustainable and environmentally destructive animal protein industry is already proving more effective than the tactics of the past. To change the world, you have to start with changing people. And to change people you have to think about identity, culture, tradition, and desires. What would Mexican food be without tacos, for example? But, the ground beef (or other meat) used in many tacos isn’t always necessarily of the highest quality or all that healthy for you. That beef is also contributing to global warming and possibly causing detrimental health conditions for many people as well. But hey! Why not replace it with a high-quality, high-tech vegan ground beef substitute – a substitute some argue even tastes better – while simultaneously eliminating any issues related to cholesterol, animal welfare, or the horrific environmental effects of the cattle industry? 

Companies using 3D printers to print meat means AI configured layers are possible, and it’s the layering that provides the texture or umami of meat. Prices for such high-tech meat substitutes are falling dramatically and will hit parity, it’s predicted, within a very short time and thereafter begin to beat real meat for dollar value. Nutritionally, new meat providers are learning fast, and products now available are protein and nutrient-rich – clearly a better choice for most of us. All that’s left to change is perception, which, admittedly, isn’t an easy task. The place to start, however, is with the familiar. Give a person a slab of ‘beef’ that smells, cooks, and looks like meat and most are going to be happy as their needs and desires are being met. The caveat, however, is that slab of alt-beef needs to taste like beef, not some hippy tofu concoction that might be acceptable to ‘level 5 vegans.’ The good news is – as noted above – the technology has caught up and the reviews are in. ‘New meat’ is a whole new animal that’s getting ready to upend the ‘vegan movement.’ 

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