Friday, May 18


This may be a recurring series. Meat-eaters tend not to think about the full picture of their food choices, for the obvious reason that once you think it through it's very problematic, to say the least. Yet with the unwitting arrogance of being safely ensconced in the conventional majority, they often seem to believe, bizarrely, that they have come up with an angle on vegetarianism that will trip up vegetarians - people who have permanently altered their behavior due to (usually) in-depth thinking about their food choices. "What about plants?" is one classic example. "But animals eat other animals" is another.

This entry is about a question I've addressed multiple times previously, often in conjunction with discussing Horizons restaurant, which last year dropped animal-based terms from their menu. The question is: If vegetarians really don't like meat, why do they eat meat analogues like veggie burgers, veggie dogs, Tofurky, etc.?

I'm bringing this up today because that Associated Press article will appear in various newspapers, with writer Ted Anthony doing a creditable job of trying to answer what he seems to think is an original question. The piece is worth reading (although this sentence is a true head-scratcher: "You might think the nation's pre-eminent animal-rights group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, would oppose meat substitutes on philosophical grounds." Huh? Who in the hell would think that and why?), but right here I'd like to dispense with this issue once and for all: There's no mystery, no irony, no contradiction in the concept of faux meats whatsoever. There are several good reasons for vegetarians to support this portion of the food industry, and some of them point to unasked questions about the other portions.

* HABIT - Almost all vegetarians started out as meat-eaters. And just like current meat-eaters, it's comforting to eat a type of meal you're used to, one that has the rich protein source as its centerpiece. The difference is that continued meat-eaters take this to the extreme, refusing to change what is increasingly becoming a negligible aspect of the taste, texture and overall satisfaction of their meal even in the face of overwhelming reasons to do so.

* BRIDGE - Whether they eat them themselves of not, vegetarians can promote meat analogues to show curious meat-eaters that vegetarianism is not an ascetic choice. Meat-eaters who are actually open to raw experience rather than cultural conditioning may opt to choose more plant-based foods once they try these.

* SHAPE - An unspoken assumption is that meat analogues are mimicking the "animal" aprt of animal-based foods, just because they play off the name or the context. But stop and think about it: Other than, say, the UnTurkey, is there a popular meat analogue that actually mimicks the look of a cooked animal? Despite being constantly referenced as such, Tofurky certainly doesn't. Burgers, hot dogs, baloney, sausage, ground "beef" - these are overwhelmingly the popular items, and they work well without meat because they're already completely unrecognizable (hmmmmm, wonder why?) versions of their animal sources. Packing a bunch of food into a thin, edible tube makes for a good and practical format for eating, but there's nothing about it that requires or inherently references animals.

* CONVENIENCE - This takes off from the last sentence, but sometimes you want foods that are quick & easy to make. Our food industry has put a lot of time and effort into packaging animal foods in this way, much more than they have plant-based foods, so meat analogues are one quick way piggyback on that history. (And please don't bother giving me grief about "piggyback" - linguistic cliches is a whole nother blog entry.)

* TASTE/TEXTURE - This seems hard for meat-eaters to grasp, especially since they seem to hope that there is some inherent taste for blood in humans that helps justify their habit, and that vegetarians are all trying hard to deny. But it's not that meat analogues deliver the "taste of meat" (some do, to a lesser or greater extent, but if anything that can be ascribed to "habit," above), it's that sometimes, in addition to other tastes and textures in a given meal, you want a taste that's rich and salty, a texture that's juicy and chewy, that goes with other things on your plate. That's fine, nothing wrong with it. Meat analogues fill this function without needlessly dragging in dead animals to support it.

OK, I hope this clears up this issue once and for all for everyone who has been confused about it. Now that I've gone to such lengths to answer it, I trust that this question will never, ever need to be asked again. Thank you.

Tuesday, May 15


I saw this and assumed it was another report on this study, but no, it seems to be a whole different study, kind of the flip side of the one showing how damaging to the lungs are meat products like bacon and pastrami. In this case, the shocking results are that compared to a standard-diet control, as the headline puts it, Fruit, Vegetable-Rich Diet Halves Lung Disease Risk. It's that "Mediterranean" diet, which is, yes, fruit- and vegetable-rich, but includes fish. They apparently didn't bother with a cohort eating completely meatless. I'm betting the numbers, both in this study and the last one, would have been more dramatic if so.


Via Vegan Porn, here's another of those headlines that say it all: "Toxic products found in blood of BBQ lovers." A new study says "a class of toxic chemicals released by grilling, broiling and frying meat may increase the risk for life-threatening diseases" as well as accelerate the aging process, according to this CBC story. The chemicals "are produced and absorbed into the body when meat or cheese is cooked at high temperatures." News to be heeded by boys and grills everywhere.

Monday, May 14


They keep on doing it, and I keep on pointing out, and so-called journalists keep missing this fantastical coincidence: Whenever the USDA has a particularly large, damning meat recall to announce, it's put out on a Friday, the well-known "dead zone" government officials know ensures the least possible public visibility (meaning, in this case, the least chance lives will be saved or grave illnesses averted by the information). The constant, ongoing willful disregard for public health and American lives in favor of meat industry damage control is a major story that continues under the noses of credulous meat-eating reporters. Hey, folks: Ding-ding-ding-ding! Meat's done!

The latest incident includes obfuscation and flimflammery typical of the USDA's PR stunts on behalf of the beef industry: One recall was dated Thursday, yet note that the first media reports on it - those by outlets closest to the source - occur around midday on Friday, as though all media outlets had the press release for a full day and all decided to wait for someone else to report it. Uh huh. Reeeeeal credible.

At any rate, in combination with the second recall, by Friday night the USDA was recalling over 240,000 pounds of beef. Conceive of this: We're talking more than a hundred tons of contaminated dead cow. That no one heard about.

And even further, the USDA's own recall center puts both of these crucial recall documents on its site in PDF-only form, again limiting how many people can or will instantly access the information - AND although the two recalls are "Class I," which means "a health hazard situation where there is a reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death," the fact that people have already been sickened by the meat in question is finessed with the phrase "discovered by Michigan Department of Community Health as part of an E. coli O157:H7 illness investigation" in one case, and is completely ignored in the other. I guess if nobody hears about these press releases, it doesn't really matter whether they contain that vital part of the story or not, eh?

One last note: This brings the total tonnage to more than 300 tons of beef recalled for E.Coli just within the past three weeks. And remember that I don't make a point of listing every single fecal-contamination meat recall that occurs, only those that are particularly worthy of note such as this one. Ask yourself how many of these you hear about, and why that might be.


Yet another reason that supposed "healthful" alternative may be otherwise... "The substance responsible for recent pet food recalls has also contaminated millions of hatchery salmon." On the plus side, the amount left over once anyone eats a given salmon will probably be much less than the amount of PCBs in it.