I recently saw an article for a new alternative milk called, ‘NOT MILK.’ The developers were proud to have created something that is, according to them, indistinguishable from real milk. Add it to the rapidly growing list of other options for fake alternatives to real food, and I can’t help but ask – why?
To be fully transparent – as a child of the 60’s, I thought fake, processed food was pretty cool. Hey, Chiffon Margarine could fool Mother Nature, kids who drank Tang could become astronauts, and Frosted Flakes could make me as strong as a tiger!
We’ve had “veggie burgers” on the “meat” menu for decades, but now we have products that promise to achieve the impossible, going beyond what we could have ever imagined. The marketing has been really well executed – I actually admire it. But it primarily taps into the desire for overly simplified answers to incredibly complex questions, and in my opinion, it fails to convey the whole truth.
I wholeheartedly agree on this much – the products of our current industrial food system have been marvelous at delivering abundance and affordability, BUT at a hidden cost to the health of people and planet.
In truth, the real problem with dairy and beef is not the cow, it’s the how.
Some parts of the problem are visible. A cow was born to thrive on a grassland. When we take that cow away from this rightful home, confine her in a pen, and feed her processed food designed to make her obese, it’s no wonder she’s sick and needs drugs. It would be like me sitting on the couch eating Twinkies day after day.
But there’s another hidden part of the currently broken how. Supporting that feedlot is the industrial farming system for producing corn (and other feed) that is also degrading our planet. That current system is based on tillage and chemistry, which means it inevitably releases the carbon from the soil, disrupts the habitat above ground, and poisons much of whatever is left. But it’s how you grow cheap “Twinkies” for cows, so that’s what industrial agriculture does.
Here’s the kicker – behind any form of synthetic alternative, that production system for industrial inputs is still there, just concealed. This is true whether that beyond impossible alternative is made in a blender, or grown in a bioreactor vat. A bioreactor is just a stainless steel feedlot for cells eating “micro-Twinkies” that came from a plant grown somewhere else. So if that plant wasn’t grown in a way that healed the land instead of degrading it, we didn’t really solve the problem, did we?
This is why I think of our meat as the other alternative. Instead of changing the cow, we change the how. We take the cow out of the feedlot, put it back into a real pasture, manage it in a way that improves the ecosystem, and then the problems caused by the behind-the-scenes system begin to dissipate. In fact, the problems are replaced with real benefits – restored habitat, retained water, stored carbon, and a more viable livelihood for farm families. The result is just honest to goodness real beef that is also making a real difference.
We have a long way to go to learn modern marketing here at Blue Nest Beef, but maybe we ought to simply say that our beef is Just Real.
Co-Founder & CEO of Blue Nest Beef