I just know that the meat industry has a hand in it, when a dietician finishes her article on plant-based meat burgers, by comparing them to burgers made with “lean ground beef” (interesting how animals are delicately given a different name when referring to them as food). To be fair, I couldn’t find a direct connection between Barbara Quinn Dietician and any meat industry on Google, but wonderful as Google is, there just might be some things it doesn’t know.
Barbara Quinn is a dietician who lives in Monterey, California. I would have thought that we had enough bog-standard dietitians here in New Zealand to not need to import bog-standard dietary advice from the USA. Although Barbara doesn’t slam plant-based foods altogether, there are subtle ‘tics’ that indicate which side she is on in her recent Stuff article “What to Make of Meat Substitutes”.
In her article, Barbara refers to animal meat as “high quality protein”. Dietitians and nutritionists just love that phrase. I have to hand it to whoever came up with that clever marketing tag-line in the meat industry. It ticks a lot of psychological boxes for the consumer. “High quality protein”, in meat industry marketing-speak, is animal meat, from which humans are able to obtain the complete quantity of amino acids they need. Eating one food only – i.e. animal meat – is presented as being better than eating a variety of plant foods to get our protein requirements. These are the same plant foods which also happen to contain a whole plethora of other nutritional goodies we need besides protein. Animal meat has a handful of nutritional components, and then – surprise, surprise – plants foods have to be eaten as well to get the remainder. Why doesn’t Barbara just advocate eating plant foods to get the whole shebang of nutrition we need, instead of messing around with animal meat and plant foods? After all, getting animals onto our plates involves a helluva lot more death and destruction than getting plants onto our plates. Maybe the reason could have something to do with staying onside with the meat industry being more lucrative than getting offside with it.
Nowhere in her article does Barbara compare ‘like with like’. She writes about the ingredients of processed plant-based meat burgers, and compares them to the purity of “lean ground beef” burgers. Okay, some people might sometimes eat lean ground beef burgers, but most people most of the time don’t. If she wants to compare the ingredients of a pure animal meat burger, then she should compare it to the ingredients of a pure plant burger. This disingenuity (or is it a deception?) is not isolated to her, but practised by many dietitians and nutritionists who write up sham comparisons of animal meat and plant-based meat burgers.
So, I decided to do my own research, and went to a supermarket – admittedly, different supermarkets may do things differently – to compare burger ingredients for myself on a proper ‘like with like’ basis. First, I stopped off at the butchery department, and checked out the ready-made animal-meat burgers. Of the two types I spotted immediately, the list of ingredients read “see butchery for ingredient listing”. Huh? I thought that animal-meat burgers were supposedly superior due to the simplicity and purity of their ingredients. Why can’t the butchery department just put ‘lamb’ or ‘beef’ on the label, if that’s all that is in them? Could it be that they aren’t quite so simple and pure as all that after all?
Next stop was the frozen food section, where I checked out another two packets of frozen animal-meat burgers. Here’s the list of ingredients on those:
Frozen burger #1 – Beef; Rehydrated Onion; Breadcrumbs; Water; Yeast; Canola oil; Acidity Regulator; Textured Soy Protein; Egg; Salt; Whey Protein Concentrate; Modified Food Starch; Spices; Hydrolyzed Maize Protein; Mineral Salt; Beef Extract. Made in NZ from local and imported products.
Frozen burger #2 – Chicken; Beef; Water; Added Textured Vegetable Protein (Soy); Wheat Flour; Potato Starch; Maize Starch; Salt; Dehydrated Onion; Hydrolyzed vegetable Protein (Soy); Mineral Salt (452); Flavour Enhancer (621); Sugar; Dehydrated vegetable; Spice; herbs; Spice Extracts. Also made by a NZ company, but doesn’t state the origin of the ingredients on the packet.
Not in the supermarket, but for comparison’s sake here is the list of ingredients for the Impossible Burger (obtained from their website) – Water; Soy Protein Concentrate; Coconut Oil; Sunflower Oil; Natural Flavors; 2% or less of: Potato Protein; Methylcellulose; Yeast Extract; Cultured Dextrose; Food Starch Modified; Soy Leghemoglobin; Salt; Soy Protein Isolate; Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E); Zinc Gluconate; B-vitamins.
Barbara erroneously described leghemoglobin (aka: heme) as an ingredient manufactured from genetically engineered yeast, giving the impression that the Impossible Burger contains a GE ingredient. Wrong! The heme is grown on GE yeast, and then separated off to use in the burger. Interesting that a qualified dietitian would make this kind of slip up about food.
Bottom line is that no processed burger is ‘good’ for us. No-one makes out that a processed plant-based meat burger is purer than a processed animal-meat burger. However, if dietitians and nutritionists want to compare food on a purity basis, then at least be honest, and do it with ‘like for like’ foods.