Fake Meat Is Very Real

The big push for fake meat. Bill Gates is in on it. To cut back on livestock production. To, maybe, save the planet.

A sample kebab using the Beyond Meat chicken substitute, which is made entirely of plant protein. (Beyond Meat)

A sample kebab using the Beyond Meat chicken substitute, which is made entirely of plant protein. (Beyond Meat)

Whatever you personally think of it, humans love meat. We brought mastodons down to get it. And vegetarians aside, we eat enormous quantities of it today. But here’s the problem: environmentally, meat is a killer. Industrial-scale meat production for a crowded planet guzzles water and land and gives off more greenhouse gases than transportation – cars and trucks and the rest. Yet we love it. There’s a big push on for fake meat. Vegetable-based. That would bring the protein, satisfy the craving, and spare the planet. This hour On Point: fake meat. We’ll taste it and ask how far it goes.

— Tom Ashbrook


Rowan Jacobsen, author and journalist. Author of “Apples of Uncommon Character,” “Shadows on the Gulf” and “American Terroir.” (@rowanjacobsen)

Gidon Eshel, professor of climate physics and environmental policy at Bard College.

Ethan Brown, founder and CEO of Beyond Meat. (@beyondmeat)

From Tom’s Reading List

Outside: The Top-Secret Food That Will Change the Way You Eat — “Livestock, in fact, are horribly inefficient at making meat. Only about 3 percent of the plant matter that goes into a steer winds up as muscle. The rest gets burned for energy, ejected as methane, blown off as excess 
heat, shot out the back of the beast, or repurposed into non-meat-like things such as blood, bone, and brains. The process buries river systems in manure and requires an absurd amount of land. Roughly three-fifths of all farmland is used to grow beef, although it accounts for just 5 percent of our protein. But we love meat, and with the developing world lining up at the table and sharpening their steak knives, global protein consumption is expected to double by 2050.”

Fast Company: Tastier, Healthier, And Animal-Free: Can Ethan Brown Reinvent Meat? — “Imagine that you had to describe meat to someone who’s never encountered the stuff. It would be hard to do because meat is, you know, meat. You’d begin with where it comes from—the muscles and flesh of chickens, cows, pigs, etc. You’d offer characteristics (the sunset-pink of a medium-rare steak, the savory flavor, the chewiness, the grill marks when you cook it over fire) and the things you can make from it, such as burgers, nuggets, and cold cuts. If you wanted to describe what meat isn’t, the top category on your list would clearly be plants.”

Los Angeles Times: Climate scientists have a beef with beef — “Emissions from developed countries, such as the United States, topped out in 1970 and have decreased 23%, according to the study published in Climatic Change. But emissions more than doubled in developing countries, largely the result of domestic consumption, said Ken Caldeira, a Carnegie Institution ecologist and co-author of the study, which estimated production of methane and nitrous oxide by 11 livestock populatons in 237 countries.”


Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
May 26, 2016
This Jan. 26, 2016 file photo shows a "For Sale" sign hanging in front of an existing home in Atlanta.  Short of savings and burdened by debt, America's millennials are struggling to afford their first homes in the face of sharply higher prices in many of the most desirable cities. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)

No more ’empty nest’. A third of millennials now live at home with their parents. We’ll look at what’s still pushing that trend.

May 26, 2016
This March 16, 2015 photo shows portraits of now-retired U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Marshall Powell, right, and his wife, Arasi, at their home in Crescent, Okla. Powell suffers from a psychological wound called "moral injury" after serving as an Army nurse in Iraq and Afghanistan. Arasi, also a soldier who served in Iraq, had received treatment for PTSD. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

In advance of Memorial Day, we’ll talk with Sebastian Junger about vets coming home and missing their “Tribe.” Plus, a WWII veteran remembers life on and off and the battlefield.

May 25, 2016
Police gather in a cordoned off area where a possible murder suspect fired shots at officers surrounding a South Side home where he is barricaded Thursday, May 12, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

Predictive policing. With violence on the rise, Chicago has turned to big data to predict gun and gang violence.

May 25, 2016
This April 29, 2014, file photo, shows an Exxon sign at a Exxon gas station in Carnegie, Pa. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

How will the oil giants do business in the climate change future? Shareholders at Exxon, Chevron and more want to hear their plans. So do we.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Gloria Steinem Explains Her ‘Bernie Boys’ Comment
Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Feminist activist Gloria Steinem explains why her apparent diss of female supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders was anything but.

More »
‘Best Of’ 2016 Commencement Speeches
Monday, May 16, 2016

Excerpts from a few of the best commencement speeches delivered to the graduating class of 2016.

More »
Caller: Trump is a ‘Yankee moron,’ but I support him
Tuesday, May 10, 2016

“I’m a working man. I’ve worked 13, 14 hours every day. I got two jobs. I got three kids. I got a wife. You know, I’m not a misogynist.”

More »