Wednesday, December 6, 2023

A message to red-meat deniers: bite me

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Don’t be coming between Alan Emerson and his steak.
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I recently saw a cover on the NZ Listener that shouted out to me “Why eating less red meat is great for your health, wallet and the planet”. It didn’t impress in any category.

As often happens, the story didn’t in my view justify the headline, but it was all very worthy.

It suggested a tax on processed meat, which includes sausages, which I thought verged on the bizarre. What have poor people done to annoy the establishment?

I’m getting heartily sick and tired of angelic-looking well-scrubbed types telling me how to save the planet, generally by giving up meat altogether.

Someone should dare tell them that essential amino acids are most efficiently gained from, you guessed it, animal protein and not vegan diets. That protein is a good carrier for iron, zinc and B vitamins.

Going on the internet, I found that three cups of spinach will give you 2g of protein. Correspondingly a 200g steak will give you 52g of protein. I’d far sooner consume a single delicious steak than 78 cups of spinach.

I would have also thought that the consumption of that amount of spinach would be definitely hazardous your health, not to mention your sensibilities.

In addition, I enjoy a good pinot noir with a steak. I can’t begin to imagine what wine would go with 78 cups of spinach! 

My observation concerning vegans is there is a lot of emotion in their dialogue but minimal facts.  

My position is, simply, that the vast majority of New Zealand farmers are ethical producers of quality protein. No major changes are required. The population should be encouraging us and not involving itself in uninformed and emotive criticism about natural foods.

An example of that criticism is that we’re continually told of the health risks of eating red meat, which I’ve never taken seriously. I’m supported by new research from the University of Washington that has shown that there is “no association between eating unprocessed red meat and ischemic stroke or haemorrhagic stroke”.

It also says “the evidence that eating unprocessed red meat leads to colorectal cancer, breast cancer, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease is weak”.

The issue is further complicated by the fact that historically, research dealt with meat consumed but ignored other factors. Those factors could include a generally unhealthy diet, smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.

Moving on to the Frankenfood world of laboratory-created protein, New Zealand researchers at AgResearch, the University of Auckland, Massey University and the Riddett Institute have shown that red meat is a better source of protein than a processed plant-based alternative.

The scientists measured nutrients in the blood of participants with different diets, including the type and amounts of amino acids that come from red meat compared with the protein of the processed meat alternative.

Unsurprisingly they established that “the amino acids from red meat were of greater biological value and better absorbed by the body”.

AgResearch senior scientist Scott Knowles told me that “the new generation of plant-based meat analogues are formulated to mimic the taste and basic nutrient composition of meat”. He went on to say that little is known about their nutritional quality and health benefits, which again begs the question “Why would you?”

The cost of lab-grown meat alternatives is also horrific with a simple meat patty costing $26. It was down from over $1m 10 years ago. Chicken nuggets cost $78.80 to produce.

I heard an interview with British food critic William Sitwell on RNZ. It was fascinating. “Too much vegan stuff that apes conventional food is overprocessed, transported across the country … To me the simpler the food the better.”

“When you see a piece of beef and the only thing its got in it is cow … versus a piece of simulated beef created in a laboratory in Israel with a 3D printer and about 3000 ingredients. I know what I’d go for. I know what feels natural.”

You’d have to agree.

Why would anyone eat a product made in a laboratory with about 3000 ingredients? Why would you consume a lookalike product with between four and 25 times more GHG emissions than the original? Why would you consume a food product that is made on a 3D printer?

Give me a hunk of naturally raised pure beef any time.

Internationally, the move against synthetic meat is interesting. It’s taken a while but we’re getting there.

In Texas they’ve just passed legislation that requires detailed labelling of synthetic meat, so the consumer knows what they’re getting and how its produced.

We should be doing that in New Zealand.

Correspondingly, Italy has banned all cultured meat products in a bid “to preserve its cultural heritage”.

The Italians are to be congratulated. They’re setting an example the world should be following.

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