I’ve had an Impossible Whopper or two in my time, and sure, it was fine, but it’s definitely not the same as an actual hamburger. But people like Bill Gates (we just can’t get rid of him, can we?) and Jeff Bezos really, really want plant-based protein – or fake meat – to be the future of food.
Is this really about acknowledging harmful carbon emissions, the unethicality of factory farming, and building a better future? So they’d have us think. But in reality, it’s about protecting an investment.
Meat Shortage Pushes Alternatives
The Covid-19 pandemic has wrought havoc on our global economy, small businesses, and communities, and food production wasn’t exempt either. Interestingly enough, just after Memorial Day this year, one of North America’s predominant meat supply companies was infiltrated by hackers, resulting in lost wages and canceled shifts, and a widespread panic over the impending shortage in the U.S. and Canada. Meat prices were expected to hike as factories temporarily halted their supply chains.
The closed plants are responsible for processing thousands of cattle per day, and the canceled shifts and factory closings were projected to increase the cost of available meat up to 30%.
One of North America’s main meat suppliers was hacked, resulting in lost wages and canceled shifts.
This isn’t the first meat supply shortage the pandemic has seen, but in the wake of factories questioning their mandated vaccine policies and an economy overflowing with more jobs available than workers to take them, it was expected to cause serious harm in the industry. With that in mind, it’s understandable that meat substitutes or alternatives, like the popular Beyond Meat and Impossible brands, were being heavily pushed by their marketing departments and by individuals who’ve already adopted them in their diets (and raking in millions in the process). But they’re not alone.
The Money behind the Meat
Food tech start-ups really sound like something that shouldn’t exist, but unfortunately, they do. One such start-up is Nature’s Fynd, a meat and dairy substitute brand that has some huge wallets behind it.
Nature’s Fynd was initially founded in 2012, and it specializes in genetically engineered meatless chicken nuggets and beef patties, and dairy-free yogurt and cream cheese. The company has raised an estimated $158 million – and not from crowdfunding campaigns. The bigwigs behind the millions are billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Al Gore.
Meat substitutes, or “alternative foods” as they’re sometimes known, shot to popularity and average household recognition in 2020, growing in retail sales 27%. The total market value is now estimated to be around $7 billion dollars.
Many of the studies declaring soy leghemoglobin’s safety were conducted by Impossible’s own employees.
But, one of the main ingredients in these synthetic alternatives (which Gates has advocated shifting our entire market to, by the way) has a popularity marred by controversy. A non-profit consumer interest and environmental advocacy group, known as the Center for Food Safety (CFS), filed a lawsuit against Impossible Foods, Inc. for its use of soy leghemoglobin, a genetically engineered ingredient that adds to the color, taste, and texture of synthetic meat. Though the FDA has approved this ingredient, the CFS argues that many of the cited studies declaring the ingredient’s safety were conducted by Impossible’s own employees (a conflict of interest).
Punishing Organic Farms
The shadiness doesn’t stop there, though. As Bill Gates argues for entire countries to shift entirely to synthetic alternatives, family-owned and operated organic farms are being penalized through prosecutorial measures by the very parties which should be supporting them.
One such example is Amos Miller, who owns Miller’s Organic Farm in Upper Leacock Township, Pennsylvania. The organic farm has long specialized in unpasteurized dairy products and unprocessed meat and has thousands of buyers.
Going back several years, the FDA and USDA have repeatedly targeted Miller’s Farm, claiming its unprocessed products were even allegedly responsible for several deaths and outbreaks of listeria in the community. Mr. Miller, for his part, continues to argue that arbitrary government regulations don’t necessarily make food any safer and that these guidelines inhibit his business from selling purely organic products.
The government has carte blanche to decide if your farm is “safe” by their own standards.
Mr. Miller and his business have been continuously persecuted by state and federal courts as to the safety and legality of the production of his goods and his business structure. It should be noted, though, that the U.S. is one of the only countries in the world which heavily pasteurizes dairy beyond necessary requirements and overly processes meat, which comes with its own health risks.
What’s even crazier is that, due to legislation passed in 2010, the FDA has the authority to target organic farms and small businesses if it’s suspected that “a foodborne illness outbreak might be linked to the farm, even if there is no proof that the farm is the cause of the outbreak, and even though there may not be an immediate threat to public health,” according to the Alliance for Natural Health USA. Essentially, a government agency has carte blanche to decide if your farm is “safe” by their own standards and without evidence to the contrary.
You would think that with the recent meat shortages (and most likely with more to come) coming from big suppliers, that family farms and small businesses would be encouraged to fill in the gap, not targeted.
Once you learn that Bill Gates and his company’s fundraising arm, the Gates Foundation, have repeatedly partnered with the FDA on supposed “public health” initiatives, the picture starts to become a little clearer.
For all the very real issues and problems with today’s modern agriculture system and industrial farming, alternative “meat” really doesn’t look much better. When the traditional institutions are displaced in favor of billionaire-backed brands, who fund the research and the production of these foods, we’ve replaced one bad seed with another, and compromised small, family-owned businesses in the process.
This might sound crazy, but maybe we shouldn’t passively be letting small businesses die and business stakeholders with private jets dictate what our families eat. Billionaires like Bill Gates may push synthetic beef as a new fundamental part of our future diets “for the good of the environment,” but if you took the dollar signs out of the equation, the whole motivation would likely fall flat.
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