Your Plant Based Meat isn't Saving the Planet

Posted by Dave Allee on

Plant-Based is the hot marketing word of the day.  Even some of the basic paper products around my house now come adorned with a logo celebrating "Plant-Based!"

Plant-based paper towels. Congrats.

For all of the self-congratulating going on in the faux-beef community, is plant-based meat really all that it's cracked up to be?

Not according to Force of Nature:

"Plant-based [meat alternatives] relies on the current monoculture system which destroys soil and wildlife. Heavily reliant on tilling. Promotes genetically modified foods. Produces nutrient deficient foods. It is sustainable rather than a regenerative model. Sustainable is no longer good enough."


There's a statistic in basketball that I find particularly fascinating—it's usually the last column on a box score, and it's marked with a simple +/-.  It's the measure of the net score of your team, compared to your opponent, while you were on the floor.  So if you played 25 minutes that night and had a +/- of -10, that means your team was outscored by 10 points while you were out there.  Conversely, if your +/- was +30, your team kicked butt—outscoring your opponent during the minutes you played.   

When we discuss issues of environmental impact, so much emphasis is put on ways we can reduce our negative impact.  Sure, if one player was a -33 during the game last night, and another player was only -4, you could argue that the player who was negative four was less detrimental to the team's success.  But I'm not ready to crown that player MVP of the league.

Stick with me, and the questionable NBA illustration, it's about to come back around.

I'm especially not impressed with the loud, self-congratulating minus 4,  when there was another player on the roster who put up a quiet plus 3.5.  

What if instead of latching on to plant-based alternatives to industrial beef, we actually gave more playing time to the players who are having a measurably positive impact on the net outcome? 

We slowed down for long enough to read the box score and find out what was good for the health of the earth instead of simply less bad and well-marketed.

I screen-shot this graphic from Force of Nature meats months ago, where it has sat on my desktop since.  I found it to be confusing, fascinating, and intriguing.  I wasn't sure what to do with it, but it felt like it was worthy of further conversation.

Why is this a subject I'm so interested in? Because at this stage in life, like many of you, my family still buys most of the meat we consume throughout the course of the year.  

I've written in the past about the Wildest Meat You Can Buy, because it's a practical way to start living closer to the rhythms of the natural world, and to make simple, mindful changes to our habits.  It requires more pre-planning and forethought, but the way we eat and the way the acquire food plays a tremendous role in shaping our time on Earth.  

Our hope is that the dinners and events we put on, the articles we write, and the partnerships we form will serve one end—helping you foster deeper relationships with the natural world, and richer conversations around your table.

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