Vegan bullock’s muscle

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I really enjoy Paleo-Future, a blog that showcases “yesterday’s tomorrows,” visions from the past of the future (our present). One recent post highlighted a 1969 piece from the Jamaica Daily Gleaner envisioning what food would be like in the Year 2000:

Milk that never saw a cow, fruit that never grew on a tree or in the ground, and steak bearing no relation to a bullock — in other words, fabricated food. It sounds a little distasteful and perhaps unbelievable but, according to eminent scientists studying food science it is inevitable and will be soon on our tables.

Take the steak for instance. Soya beans can be woven to resemble a bullock’s muscle, the fat presents no problem nor do vitamins, colouring is simple and flavour can be injected to order. The stuff can be even made to suit the taste buds of an institutional canteen or those who like to see blood.

The development is not a new one – vegetarian Seventh Day Adventists have been eating this type of meat for the past forty years – but it is developing rapidly in recent years, and could hang a large question mark over the future of beef herds. Here in Jamaica it might solve the problem we have of having to import so much beef though I doubt if a patty would ever taste the same again.

This reminds me a bit of a discussion Gary told me he had with one of the “humane meat” presenters after the presentation at TAFA. Gary pressed the farmer, “Wouldn’t it be great if we lived in a world where we could have the taste and texture of meat without killing animals to do it?” That’s the vibe I get from this 1969 piece (aside from the last sentence and the “for those who like to see blood” part).

Of course, we do live in a world where you can get the taste and texture of most animal products without the suffering of animals. Buddhists have been mocking up meats for thousands of years, even earlier than the Seventh Day Adventists mentioned in the above article.

So, perhaps this the challenge we need to press meat-eaters with. Start by presenting how great a world it would be if we could have the things we like about meat (taste, texture, nutrition) without killing living beings. Few would be able to disagree with the concept. Why, then, aren’t more of us moving towards meat analogs? That’s a challenge that might really make people think.

Pass the wheat gluten-shaped bullock’s muscle, please.

2 Responses to “Vegan bullock’s muscle”

  1. Sean

    The more interesting question for me is not availability of meat analogs, but the prospect of real meat, designed by scientists, and produced in factories sans animals. I forsee factory meat, grown from animal stem cells and cultured in labs, as the dominant protein source for most people in the 21st century. When it arrives, first as ground meat and later as more recognizable cuts of flesh, consumers won’t have any excuse to continue eating the flesh of real animals; they can have their humane steak and eat it too.

    So what should the movement’s position be when the time inevitably comes for consumers to either accept this new means of meat production or reject it as a bastardization of “traditional” animal husbandry practices? Should we be advocating a vegan lifestyle when consumers could continue to eat meat without the involvement of animals or at the very least exploitation on anywhere near the scale we have today? I don’t see a reasonable objection to these products except out of personal preference; and that is no basis for a movement. When the “meat” and “milk” comes, it will be endgame for the animal rights movement as we know it today. I only hope that in the waning years, we can finally stamp out animal husbandry for good.

  2. Gary

    I think you and Sean both have a point. Lab meat is tomorrow but meat analogs are today. And a lot are pretty good, and liked by most meat-eaters (i.e., pre-vegans) once they get past their irrational fears. And my experience is that most meat-eaters don’t know about them (possibly because they’ve never looked). So there’s a lot of potential here.

    In a follow-up conversation I had with AWI, I asked them: As long as you’re trying to move meat-eaters from Smithfield to Niman (and I acknowledged that the latter is less cruel than the former, though still cruel and still wrong), why not also let them know about products like SmartLife Smart BBQ and GardenBurger Riblets, which do a very impressive job of imitating pork, but without killing animals (or castrating them sans painkillers and so forth)? I mean, there’s your truly “humane meat.” They didn’t really have an answer.

    It’s interesting that some of the meat analogs – veggie bologna, for example – are reproducing a taste and texture that’s very artificial to begin with.

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