• Do Plant Based Meat Products Miss the Point?

    Karina Meysel has issues with plant based fake meat products, namely that their creators have succeeded at their goal of creating more environmentally friendly (and arguably more humane) replacement for meat that actually tastes the way people want to (facepalm!):

    Renewed fascination with vegetarianism and veganism has spawned the latest trend toward meat-free eating, and with that, the latest generation of commercially available “plant-based meat” products. There is, however, something disingenuous about the current vegetarian and vegan craze, when those “plant-based meat” products look, taste and feel just like the very products they are meant to replace.

    What is her real point? She continues:

    Cognitive dissonance theory posits that conflicting beliefs, thoughts, attitudes and behaviours that a person has on a particular matter will spur an effort by the individual to mitigate those tensions. Here, plant-based meat products seem to assuage the tension between thoughts of “I shouldn’t eat meat; it’s bad for animals, the environment and me” and “I love meat, the way it looks, feels and tastes; it’s the quintessential protein source.”

    …These plant-based meat offerings are scrutinized for being overly processed and questionably healthy, seeing that the “plant” in “plant-based” has all but faded into obscurity. 

    Social psychology suggests that enduring attitude change necessitates changes to that attitude’s underlying structure, namely its cognitive, affective (emotional) and behavioural components. As replicas of real meat, plant-based meat only serves to reaffirm the consumer’s conceptualization of meat as the foremost dietary protein source. A sincere and sustained embrace of a vegetarian or vegan diet requires a severance of deeply held notions about meat’s status as a pre-eminent food source.

    I agree with her that fake meat is basically junk food. It is typically filled with added oils, which carry negative health consequences (see Dr. Michael Klaper’s lecture here or Mic the Vegan’s ‘Oil: The Vegan Killer’ and references). However… I for one notice that I feel better after eating fake meat than I do after a trip to McDonald’s, and we all like a little junk food now and again. I will admit that my personal experience is not a scientific argument, but until we have scientific data comparing the long term health consequences of fake meat versus real meat, that is what I am going with. I believe that whole food, plant based (hereafter WPFB) eating, with no added oils, sugar and limited salt is ideal, but even so, many WPFB recipes, like black bean burgers and ‘Tuno’ salad, are still basically just super healthy meat replacements. This is a good thing, because people need to maintain a bit of connection with familar flavors, textures and styles that they grew up with and like. Complete alienation from your standard fare would make WPFB impossibly hard and would take many years for a person to get used to, and people are often reluctant enough to change as things stand. Please, let’s not make it any harder on people than it already is.

    Moreover, there is also a slippery slope argument here: If it is somehow wrong to enjoy a soy burger, is it wrong to eat vegetarian chili (since chili is typically prepared with meat)? If someone likes french fries but wants to get rid of oil in their diet, should they avoid baked potato wedges via the cognitive dissonance argument she uses? If I take oatmeal and add fennel seeds, garlic, black pepper etc. to make sausage oatmeal, am I doing something wrong just because sausage is typically seasoned that way? Think about it: all I am doing is adding a familiar set of spices to a grain instead of a meat. But if you follow her line of reasoning, such a simple activity should be condemned.

    Article I am responding to may be found here.

    Category: Uncategorized

    Article by: Nicholas Covington

    I am an armchair philosopher with interests in Ethics, Epistemology (that's philosophy of knowledge), Philosophy of Religion, Politics and what I call "Optimal Lifestyle Habits."