Billions of ‘Microplastics’ in Your Tea From Each Plastic Teabag
A new study warns that even your soothing cup of tea might serve up some invisible health hazards.
Some tea companies are replacing traditional paper teabags with plastic ones, but the new bags may be adding billions of tiny bits of plastic to your beverage, a team from Canada reports.
“We show that steeping a single plastic teabag at brewing temperature [205 degrees Fahrenheit] releases approximately 11.6 billion microplastics and 3.1 billion nanoplastics into a single cup of the beverage,” concluded a team led by Nathalie Tufenkji. She’s a professor of chemical engineering at McGill University in Montreal.
The global proliferation of microplastics — bits of plastic so small they are often invisible to the naked eye — have made headlines recently, having been found in large numbers in ocean and tap water, seafood and even human poop.
“In the past few years, there has been a steadily increasing body of scientific literature demonstrating that not only are microplastics permeating the broader environment, they are entering our bodies, as well,” noted Dr. Kenneth Spaeth, chief of occupational and environmental medicine at Northwell Health in Great Neck, N.Y. He wasn’t involved in the new research.
Spaeth stressed that there’s just too little data on whether or not microplastics pose a threat to human health. However, “based on the molecular composition of microplastics, there is reason to have real concern about the potential health effects,” he said, “since they contain a variety of components known to harm human health — including hormone-disrupting chemicals, as well as human carcinogens.”
In the new study, the Montreal team noted that the heat of brewed tea can cause plastic tea bags to break down into bits of plastic that are thousands of times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. That means you can’t see, taste or feel them in your mouth.
Investigating further, the researchers removed the tea from plastic teabags sourced from four different manufacturers. They then washed out the empty bags and placed them in hot water.
Using a powerful electron microscope, Tufenkji’s team found that a single bag released close to 12 billion microplastic particles, and more than 3 billion of the [even smaller] nanoplastic particles, into the water.
These levels were thousands of times greater than seen in other foods, they noted.
In a separate experiment, the researchers fed varying doses of these particles to very tiny animals — water fleas. Although the fleas lived, they did exhibit some physical and behavioral abnormalities after being fed the microplastics, the researchers report Sept. 25 in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.
Still, more research must be done to see if microplastics have health effects on humans, the McGill researchers said.
Spaeth said the new study “raises the specter that human exposure to microplastics is not just a result of the widespread contamination of the broader environment, but that our use of plastics in consumer products is notably adding to our microplastics exposure.” Steven Reinberg
There are a lot of reasons to love tartar sauce. If you’re a a big fan of seafood, it may already be one of your favorite condiments, but have you ever had homemade tartar sauce? With the perfect balance of creamy, salty, tangy and sweet, this tartar sauce recipe can be used on much more than a piece of fried fish.
What is tartar sauce? It is a condiment or dip that starts out with a base of mayonnaise or aioli and then has other ingredients added to it. Tartar sauce recipes can vary slightly, but most will add relish, onion, herbs and lemon juice.
Like other condiments, tartar sauce is only as good or as healthy as its ingredients, which pretty much always include mayonnaise and sweet relish or pickles. As you may already know, a lot of mayonnaise and pickle brands include unwanted preservatives, flavorings and coloring. Plus, sweet relish or pickles are usually loaded with refined sugar.
This recipe for tartar sauce includes homemade mayonnaise and probiotic-rich homemade dill pickles, which really takes the taste of this sauce to another level. It’s also a paleo-friendlyrecipe. Before you keep reading, don’t worry, how to make tartar sauce is not hard, and it’s so worth the effort because homemade tartar sauce always has that freshness and flavor that you just can’t get in any pre-made version.
1 cup paleo mayo or 1 cup Coconut Oil Mayonnaise
1 cup Homemade Dill Pickles
1 tablespoon fresh dill
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon maple sugar
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons onion, finely chopped
2–3 garlic cloves
Place everything in a food processor or high-powered blender, blending until well-combined.
Chicken Scarpariello With Sausage and Peppers Recipe
Looking for a healthier take on the classic sausage and peppers recipe? This chicken scarpariello dish has both chicken breasts and chicken sausages and is overflowing with delicious flavor. Of course, I recommend using organic, free-range chicken products, which I personally think taste better in addition to being healthier options overall.
This chicken scarpariello with sausage recipe takes less than an hour to make and can feed at least six people. It’s a perfect choice if you’re looking for a crowd-pleasing dish that only requires one pot and minimal effort. Before we dive into the how-to’s of this recipe, what is chicken scarpariello exactly?
3 tablespoons avocado oil
4 chicken breasts
3 chicken sausages
2 sweet cherry peppers, halved and de-seeded
1 orange pepper, sliced
1 cup dry white cooking wine
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 shallot, sliced into rounds
1 cup okra, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon oregano
1 tablespoon sage
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon pepper
Preheat oven 350 degrees F.
In a large oven-safe pan over medium-high heat, warm avocado oil.
Brown chicken and sausage separately and then remove when braised but not fully cooked.
Reduce to medium heat and add garlic, peppers, mushrooms, shallots, okra, oregano, sage, salt and pepper.
Sauté until vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes.
Add wine and broth to deglaze the pan.
Scrape bottom of the pan with a wooden spatula to incorporate the flavors.
Place chicken and sausage on top of the vegetables and bake in oven for 30 minutes.
This crustless spinach quiche recipe is keeping things simple yet delicious with only five key ingredients. It’s loaded with impressive spinach nutrition, eggs and healthy raw cheese.
Get ready to make a healthy crustless spinach quiche recipe so loaded with flavor you’ll easily end up eating it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And that’s really one of the best things about a quiche — that it makes a perfect snack or meal any time of the day.
This crustless spinach quiche recipe is delicious, so easy to make and high in protein. Plus, it’s gluten-free, vegetarian and ketogenic diet-approved.
8 eggs, beaten
1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1½ cups shredded raw cheese
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon coconut oil + extra for greasing
¼ teaspoon sea salt
⅛ teaspoon black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 9-inch pie pan with coconut oil.
Heat coconut oil and onions over medium heat in sauce pan until onions are soft. Stir in spinach and cook until excess moisture has evaporated.
In a bowl, combine eggs, cheese, salt and pepper. Stir.
Chipotle Lime Chicken Thighs With Pineapple Salsa Recipe
Boneless, skinless chicken thighs are great for quick, flavorful meals. They are easy to prepare with little effort and are almost impossible to dry out. They take on any flavor well and are the perfect vehicle for fresh, healthy ingredients like fruits, vegetables, and herbs. To keep them on the healthier side, trim off visible fat before cooking. They will still stay plenty moist and flavorful!
Chipotle, garlic and lime add so much flavor with almost no effort in this recipe. A fresh pineapple salsa kicks up the flavor even more and makes this meal a fun and exciting change-up to your normal dinner routine.
Salads, Granolas and smoothies seem like smart picks for healthy on-the-go foods, but you may be surprised to learn that many times they’re packed with extra calories, sugar, carbohydrates and salt.
Soups are hearty and delicious go-to’s on colder days, but not all soups are created equal. The base of your soup can make or break its healthiness. “A cream-based soup is going to be much higher in calories and fat,” says Allen. In fact, one cup of chicken noodle is about 100 calories, while one cup of broccoli cheddar is almost 250.
When you eat soup, opt for broth-based soups like vegetable or chicken noodle or cream-free tomato soups and stews instead. And steer clear of cream-heavy bisques and chowders when you can. If you have to reach for canned soups, choose low-fat, reduced-sodium soup options.
Salads, depending on what they’re made of, can be fresh and healthy picks to throw together or order in a pinch. But dieters beware: they can also sabotage your weight loss goals if they’re covered in fatty toppings like cheese, bacon, creamy dressings and croutons.
“Salads at some fast food restaurants can have almost 30 grams of fat and 500 calories, while a cheeseburger and an order of medium fries has 28 grams of fat and 630 calories, so there’s not much difference between the two,” says Allen.
Make sure your salad is actually healthy by asking for your dressing on the side, choosing the grilled version of yourprotein rather than the fried, and asking for little or no bacon or cheese. For a crunchy topping without all the calories, try sliced almonds or crushed bean “tortilla” chips instead. And whole grains like quinoa, bulgur or barley will help fill you up.
When it comes to dressings, choose oil and vinegar-based dressings rather than cream and mayonnaise-based options; fresh salsa can be a guilt-free salad topper, too. If you can’t bear a salad without your favorite creamy dressing, divide your salad into two. Use your favorite fatty dressing on one portion, and the healthier dressing option on the other half.
Sugary syrups and processed protein powders can add up to 1,000 calories at fast food chain smoothies, says Allen.
It’s better to make your own smoothies at home, or hand pick the ingredients that go into you smoothies if you order them out. If you’re new to smoothie making, here’s how much of each ingredient to include: one to two cups of liquid base, up to two cups of greens, up to three cups of fruit, plus a tablespoon of nut butter or protein powder.
Keep your smoothie healthy by using milk—like unsweetened coconut, almond or skim milk—as your base instead of juice. Then add fruits like strawberries, bananas or blueberries and a protein such as Greek yogurt, nut butter, seeds like hemp or chia or protein power (whey, soy and plant-based options are best). For added vitamins, try throwing in some spinach, kale or celery. Spices like cinnamon, nutmeg or vanilla extract can pack an extra, low-cal flavor punch, too.
Depending on what it’s made out of, granola can be super high in calories, fat and sugar, says Allen. Most granola is made of oats, nut, seeds and dried fruit—all nutrient rich ingredients—but chocolate chips and sugary syrups can add serious calories to store-bought options.
Look for granola options with raw oats, unsalted nuts and unsweetened fruit, and mix your granola into something rather than snacking on it by the handful. Add it to something like low-fat Greek yogurt, then top it with some fruit such as berries, says Allen. Hooked on granola bars? Try options that are nut or fruit based rather those that are grains-based. Homemade granola bars are easy to make, too: ingredients like unsweetened cranberries, old-fashioned oats, unsalted almonds, all-natural maple syrup, flax seeds and peanut butter can be combined and baked for a nice treat.
You may think anything made of fruit is good for you, but that’s not always the case. Certain dried fruits like apricots and dates are concentrated with calories, especially from sugar, says Allen. While they still have antioxidant and fiber components, they may actually be stripped of some vitamins during the dehydration process.
Sprinkle dried fruit like apples or cranberries in your salads rather than snacking on them straight out of the bag. And when you do eat dried fruit by itself, pair it with a low-fat cheese stick or a handful of nuts so you’ll stay fuller, longer. When selecting picks from the grocery store, aim for options without added sugar or other ingredients (the only ingredient should be the fruit itself).
All-natural fruit juice can provide some of the vitamins and minerals that you find in whole fruits, as long as you control your portions. “The biggest problem with fruit juices is that most people pour more than the recommended serving size,” says Allen.
Craving apple juice? Eat an actual apple instead of reaching for juice. “You’ll get a lot more fiber eating the whole fruit than you would in fruit juice,” says Allen. When you do choose juice, opt for all-natural, 100 percent, no-sugar added juice options or the low-cal versions of your favorites. Do limit the amount you drink—the American Institute for Cancer Research recommends no more than one cup per day.
*** Never give your children Apple Juice!
Pretzels may have been your go-to snack food years ago, but you may want to be careful when it comes to the salty snack nowadays.
“People are starting to look at carbohydrate intake much more now than they did in the past,” says Allen. “10 or 15 years ago there was a push to reduce fat intake so we turned to things like pretzels and baked potato chips.”
But reduced-fat doesn’t give you license to eat as much as you want. With low-fat foods, people think they can eat as much as they want because it’s low fat, but they still have to watch portion sizes, says Allen.
While pretzels are a much healthier pick than greasy potato chips, pay attention to serving size: only about 16 small waffle-shaped pretzels equals one serving. And don’t eat too many flavored pretzels like honey mustard and barbeque as they likely have a lot of sugar and sodium. Your best bet: unsalted mini pretzels to keep your sodium and hunger levels in check.
You don’t have to do away with these foods completely, but reading labels and educating yourself on serving size, calorie count, fat content and how they fit into your diet is key, says Allen. “For example, many people are leaning towards almond milk these days, but the calories per serving can range from 30 to 100.”
One of the easiest ways you can monitor what you’re eating is to track it or look it up before you indulge.
The flavors in this simple dessert remind me of classic beach fare – frozen bananas on a stick coated with chocolate. This is a healthier version that you can whip up in no time. It contains no added sugar or dairy and is very versatile. Improvise by adding different flavors like organic peppermint oil or almond extract. Make this a few hours before you plan to serve – it’s best when just frozen. Any leftovers will keep for a couple of weeks in the freezer.
Bananas are rich in potassium – one banana contains 450 mg, one-fifth of the adult daily requirement – and offer a fair share of magnesium (33 mg), too.
4 very ripe bananas
2 tablespoons pure unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons real maple syrup
1. Peel the bananas and place in a blender or food processor along with the cocoa powder.
2. Add the vanilla extract and the maple syrup.
3. Blend till very smooth. Pour into individual custard cups or small bowls and freeze until just frozen.
Bad breath can be caused by bacteria from decaying food particles or debris in the mouth or can occur as the result of poor oral hygiene. To freshen your breath naturally, consider:
Eating hydrating foods. Oranges and organic celery – along with other water-rich produce – can help prevent dry mouth, which can contribute to halitosis. Also be sure to drink water throughout the day to maintain good hydration.
Ask your healthcare provider is magnesium is right for you, and what other supplements you must take with it. If he or she does not know then contact us.
Trying natural mouth fresheners. Chew on parsley after meals, sip on peppermint tea or fresh peppermint leaves, or chew (but don’t swallow) cardamom seeds. There are a number of probiotic-based toothpastes now that are worth considering for oral and breath health as well.
Are genetically engineered food and lab-grown meat the most sustainably regenerative choices available? Impossible Foods, creator of the meatless bleeding Impossible Burger, made with GMO soy, would like you to think so. After the release of its 2019 Impact Report,5 senior manager of impact strategy, Rebekah Moses, told FoodNavigator-USA:6
“We have done a tremendous amount of diligence and we’re confident that in using GMO soy, we are not taking a step backward in terms of sustainability.
Soy is really high yielding, it’s a good source of protein and it’s more efficient than wheat. You get so much more protein in a given harvest vs the amounts of water, energy and inputs needed to grow it.
Everything is very field-based, but at a high level, there is very little difference if any difference in the environmental impact of conventional vs herbicide tolerant soy and in some cases using herbicide tolerant soy enables you to adopt more sustainable practices such as the ability to reduce tillage, which is a win for the soil.
Similarly, the chemicals you spray to manage pests — that includes insects and weeds — in herbicide tolerant crops are lower toxicity than the alternatives [used to grow conventional soy].”
Impossible Foods takes aim at regenerative farming
Impossible Foods also points out that since meat from cows require about 30 pounds of corn and soy for every pound produced, GMO soy burgers reduce the net use of herbicides.
However, while this is true for livestock raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), it’s absolutely not the case for organic grass fed beef production, as pastured cattle eat grasses and never lay a nose to GMO grains of any kind.
So, while GMO soy burgers may have an environmentally competitive advantage over CAFO beef, it cannot compete with regenerative grazing as far as herbicide usage (or toxicity thereof) is concerned.
Despite such well-established facts, Impossible Foods takes aim directly at regenerative ranching in its report, claiming grass fed cattle ranching generates higher amounts of greenhouse gas emissions than cows raised in CAFOs.7,8 What it fails to include is evidence9 showing grass fed ranching actually has net negative emissions after all relevant factors are taken into account.
Is fake food really the answer we’re looking for?
Impossible Foods’ impact report is hard to reconcile with other established data showing GMO soybean and corn farms are a primary source of water10 and air pollution.11 GMO soybeans and corn have also been identified as primary destroyers of grasslands and forests.12,13
Regenerative grazing is also a key activity required for the optimal sequestering of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into our rangelands and pasturelands, while GMO soy production is associated with resistant super weeds14 and super pests and uncontrollable cross contamination.
Impossible Burger also skirts the issue of nutrition by focusing solely on the intake of protein in general, ignoring the fact that grass fed beef contains a complex mix of nutrients (including healthy fats) and cofactors you simply cannot recreate by mixing together an assortment of plant-based components.
GMO soy linked to ecological devastation
To learn more about the ecological impact of soy, check out the Greenpeace documentary “Soy: In the name of progress.” Also take a look at Dan Charles’ 2013 NPR article,15 “Pictures don’t lie: Corn and soybeans are conquering U.S. grasslands.” He writes, in part:
“Grasslands are disappearing … They’re being replaced by fields of corn and soybeans … A study16published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows actual pictures — derived from satellite data — of that changing landscape.
The images show that farmers in the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska converted 1.3 million acres of grassland into soybean and corn production between 2006 and 2011.
‘This is kind of the worst-kept secret in the Northern Plains. We just put some numbers on it,’ says Christopher Wright, from South Dakota State University, who got funding from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy to take a close look at this phenomenon …
Wright’s images are striking, and these changes are having profound effects on the environment of this region. For instance, it’s bad news for wildlife, because corn fields are much less inviting habitat for a wide range of wild creatures, from ground-nesting birds to insects, including bees.
Corn and soybean fields are increasingly encroaching into the Prairie Pothole region of the Dakotas and Minnesota, the most important breeding habitat for waterfowl in North America.
In southern Iowa, Wright says, much of the land conversion is taking place on hillsides. The soil of those fields, without permanent grass to hold it in place, is now much more likely to wash into streams and ponds.”
Modern agriculture largely responsible for death of our oceans
Chemical runoff is indeed among the most significant threats posed by these gigantic monocrop fields. As noted by National Resources Defense Council:17
“Nutrient pollution, caused by excess nitrogen and phosphorus in water or air, is the number-one threat to water quality worldwide and can cause algal blooms, a toxic soup of blue-green algae that can be harmful to people and wildlife.”
Similarly, a June 11, 2019 PBS News Hour article18 warns that “A ‘dead zone’ the size of Massachusetts could hit the Gulf this summer,” based on the latest forecast19 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“If this prediction holds true, this event would be the second largest on the list of Gulf dead zones in more than three decades,” PBS reports, noting this dead zone “would be 50% larger than the average seen in the last five years.”
The reason for the massive increase in algal blooms that kill marine life by sucking up all the oxygen is blamed on heavy rainfall increasing chemical runoff from fertilizer-enriched farmland — in the case of the Gulf, farmland surrounding the Mississippi River. As reported by The Washington Post:20
“Analyses from U.S. Geological Survey monitors in the Mississippi and Atchafalaya watersheds showed that discharge from these rivers was 67 percent greater than the 1980-2018 average. The amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus spilling into the Gulf were 18 percent and 49 percent above average, respectively.”
What’s more, “Even if nitrogen runoff was eliminated today from the Mississippi River, a 2018 study in the journal Science found, it would take at least 30 years for the Gulf dead zone to recover,” The Washington Post notes.21
Savory Institute responds to Impossible Foods’ attack
Impossible Foods specifically mentions the Savory Institute in its report, boldly claiming that Savory’s regenerative grazing theories have been “thoroughly debunked.” In response, the Savory Institute issued a statement saying:22
“This is not the first, nor will it be the last, attempt to discredit Holistic Management as a sleight-of-hand for promoting and profiting off of large scale industrial agriculture …
Claims that our work has been ‘debunked’ disregard not just the millions of acres that have been regenerated globally and the tens of thousands of farmers, ranchers, and pastoralist communities who have stewarded this land transformation and witnessed it firsthand …
[T]hey also overlook the growing body of peer-reviewed evidence documenting that properly-managed livestock can be a net positive for grassland ecosystems,23carbon drawdown,24wildlife habitat,25 and rural communities.26”
Savory also highlights a third-party lifecycle analysis27 (LCA) of a holistic ranch, showing properly grazing livestock “when taking a full accounting of all greenhouse gases in and out of their farming operation,” is a net carbon sink. As noted in the analysis, “Carbon footprint evaluation of regenerative grazing at White Oak Pastures”:28
“Traditional LCAs don’t account for soil carbon sequestration and therefore don’t take into account the full carbon story for regenerative agriculture systems … Soil samples were taken and evaluated to quantify soil carbon sequestration and allow a highly credible inclusion of this information into the LCA …
As there is little information published on this topic and the outcomes challenge much conventional thinking on beef’s carbon footprint, careful consideration should be given to the conclusions and messaging.”
According to this analysis — notably performed by the very same company that conducted Impossible Burger’s LCA — the carbon footprint of beef from White Oak Pastures is 111% lower than conventional CAFO beef, as the “system effectively captures soil carbon, offsetting a majority of the emissions related to beef production.”
Regenerative grazing creates net carbon sink
All things considered, including enteric emissions, manure emissions, soil carbon capture, vegetation carbon, miscellaneous farm activities, slaughter and transport, the total net carbon emissions from the beef production on White Oak Pastures was found to be a negative 3.5 kilos of carbon emissions per kilo of fresh meat, making this integrated, holistic system six times more carbon efficient than the average CAFO production model. Importantly, as noted by Savory:29
“What Impossible Burger seems to have conveniently omitted is that their GMO soy-based product is still a net carbon emitter in comparison to White Oak’s properly-managed livestock that create a net carbon sink.
Could it be that GMO soy-based Impossible Burger feels threatened by the regenerative movement? In a world where current agricultural practices have eroded soils to the point of having less than 60 harvests left (according to the UN FAO30), the solution is not to maximize efficiencies in the broken, extractive, industrial model …
Rather, as environmentally-conscious businesses and individuals, we must address the root cause and adopt land management practices that honor the symbiotic relationships of plants and animals. One cannot exist without the other, so we must reevaluate our preconceived notions and return to farming in nature’s image.”
White Oaks Pastures invites Impossible Foods for a visit
Will Harris, owner of White Oaks Pastures and president of the American Grassfed Association, has taken matters a step further, issuing an open invitation to Impossible Foods’ officials to visit his farm to get a thorough understanding of how regenerative grazing actually works. In a statement, Harris writes:31
“As an independent professional rancher, who has practiced regenerative land management on our family farm for more than 20 years, I can state unequivocally that Impossible Burger’s claims about regenerative grazing are incorrect.
Not only is our business financially successful on a large scale, but we are accumulating data showing that our practices are enhancing the carbon sequestration potential of the soil on the lands we manage.
Today I am publicly inviting Impossible Foods representatives to visit my farm and see for themselves the many social, economic and environmental benefits of regenerative grazing.
I would be grateful to share our recent Life Cycle Assessment that clearly demonstrates that the carbon footprint of our farm results in a positive impact on the environment — a claim that imitation meat companies cannot make.”
Meat replacement companies need to demonstrate superiority
On his website, Harris also highlights some of the other benefits of regenerative farming and why we need it:32
“Land is meant to be a living thing. It contains the natural order of all living things: Life, Growth, Death, Decay, Life, Growth, Death, Decay. The land is our teacher. Looking back to the evolution of our ecosystem informs the way we manage land today.
The energy cycle, carbon cycle, mineral cycle, microbe cycle, water cycle have all co-evolved with plants, microbes, and animals since our planet’s creation. Our passion is to create an environment that allows these cycles to flow freely: microbes feed plants which feed the animals which spread urine and feces to microbes which feeds the plants which feed the animals.”
Just how exactly does cultivating fake meat in an industrial facility improve the ecology of our environment? Again, we’re not just talking about which strategy is the least destructive, we’re talking about which one actually improves the environment the most.
“Talk is cheap” they say, and in the case of Impossible Burger’s claims that certainly rings true. They (and other meat replacement companies) really need to tangibly demonstrate how their system is better, overall, and not just on some minor point, than the regenerative system.
Grazing livestock is integral to ending ecological destruction
In the podcast above, Sustainable Dish interviews Ronnie Cummins, executive director and co-founder of the Organic Consumers Association, about the importance of grass fed livestock farming for climate stability, environmental health, sustainability and regeneration.
As explained in many previous articles, livestock are important components that make farming truly regenerative, as they help build healthy soils. Lab-derived meat substitutes do not actually contribute anything to this healthy ecological cycle.
When animals are raised according to regenerative agriculture, a healthy ecosystem is produced and then more or less effortlessly maintained. So, eating meat is not synonymous with environmental harm; it’s industrial farming practices — CAFOs — that inflict the damage.
Some also believe eating meat means ripping out more forests so animals can graze, but I’m certainly not advocating for that. U.S. cropland is currently dominated by a two-crop planting cycle of corn and soybeans, largely for animal feed. Like CAFOs, these monocrops are devastating the environment, and even though they’re plant foods, they are part of the problem, not the solution.
Getting rid of these large swaths of corn and soy fields — which are laden with chemicals and largely devoid of life — is key, as is reverting them back to what they were before, namely grasslands for grazing animals.
Grasslands are key to fixing many environmental problems, and herbivores are a necessary part of this ecosystem. By mimicking the natural behavior of migratory herds of wild grazing animals — meaning allowing livestock to graze freely, and moving the herd around in specific patterns — farmers can support nature’s efforts to regenerate and thrive.
Long-term health effects of fake meat are still unknown
Aside from the fact that fake meat production doesn’t have any regenerative capabilities that would benefit the ecosystem, there’s also the issue of health effects. A number of studies have highlighted the risks of ultraprocessed foods, showing they raise your risk of cancer, and the more ultraprocessed foods you eat, the greater your risk.
In one,33,34,35,36 which included 104,980 participants followed for an average of five years, 18.74% of the men’s diet and 18.71% of women’s was ultraprocessed, and each 10% increase in ultraprocessed food raised the cancer rate by 12%, which worked out to nine additional cancer cases per 10,000 people per year.
The risk of breast cancer specifically went up by 11% for every 10% increase in ultraprocessed food. While sugar and unhealthy fats are key staple ingredients suspected of causing these effects, there’s reason to believe fake meat might have a similar impact, for a number of reasons.
For starters, the Impossible Burger meat substitute is the epitome of a highly-processed food — seeing how it’s manufactured from start to finish, and involves the use of man-made ingredients — placing it squarely in the higher-risk category.
Secondly, GMO soy has been shown to have a number of health risks all by itself. Third, the human body is not designed to process fake meat and there’s no telling what the long-term health ramifications might be. Even the liberal U.S. Food and Drug Administration has raised concerns over the soy leghemoglobin in the Impossible Burger being a possible human allergen.37,38,39
Fourth, GMO soy is loaded with glyphosate, the health risks of which are of increasing concern as it’s now being found in most processed foods, including non-GMO foods. Recent testing by Moms Across America (MMA) revealed concerning levels of glyphosate in the Impossible Burger.40
Fake meat isn’t about humanitarianism; it’s about profit
You really need to question the rationale for creating expensive fake meat alternatives when a far less expensive and more reasonable answer is readily available. What’s worse, fake meats may ultimately create more problems than they solve, as laboratory derived meat substitutes are not part of the ecological cycle and health hazards are as yet entirely unknown.
This basic lack of understanding affects safety regulations pertaining to processing and manufacturing as well. Commenting on the open questions pertaining to fake chicken production, Al Almanza, former acting deputy undersecretary for food safety at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, noted that we still do not know “what’s normal or abnormal, and thus potentially unsafe, in a cultured-chicken plant.”41
Without this knowledge, food inspectors have no idea what to look for, companies cannot devise and implement proper safety protocols and regulators cannot make regulations to ensure safety. The same applies to fake beef,
In its report “From Lab to Fork: Critical Questions on Laboratory-Created Animal Product Alternatives,”42 released in June 2018, Friends of the Earth calls for more stringent safety assessments, regulations and labeling requirements.
The report highlights a number of health and safety concerns and environmental impacts hidden beneath “climate-friendly” claims. It also points out the lack of substantiation for “clean meat,” “animal-free,” “plant-based” and “sustainable” claims.43
All in all, it seems that, contrary to the PR being churned out, the creation of fake meat products is not about feeding the world or eliminating animal suffering. It’s about dominating billionaires looking to put patents on the food system.
Go grass fed, not lab bred
While many view lab-created meat substitutes as the lesser of two evils when comparing it to the CAFO meat that currently dominates the market, taking nature out of the equation altogether is not the answer, especially since holistic herd management is an integral part of the regenerative agriculture equation.
Ultimately, creating fake food is not the answer to solving the problems associated with conventional meat. For health reasons as well as ecological reasons, I recommend skipping the meat alternatives and opting for real beef raised the right way instead.
When you do shop for meat, go to a local organic farmer or look for Demeter (biodynamic) and American Grassfed Association (AGA) certifications. Both indicate high-quality, sustainable and environmentally sound food.