Where’s the Beef?

You’ve seen them in the supermarket: “Not Dogs”… “Chickenless Nuggets”… “Faux Franks”… the names are always a bit tortuous, but the goals are admirable, and many consumers have taken a liking to these synthetic meat substitutes.

Several budding companies now use soy, pea, corn, and other proteins to extract and rebuild the essential compounds of traditional meat, without the use of actual animals. Yet these products create many separate unintended and less visible consequences for individual health and the environment.

Many of our customers choose Walden for our animal welfare assurances and commitment to sustainable agriculture. Walden guarantees that the animals we buy are humanely treated and our partner farms function more sustainably than their industrial counterparts – for example, reinforcing soil fertility & health rather than destroying it.

Industrial monoculture production of corn and soy already control US agricultural output at 84 million acres and 73.8 million acres, respectively. Together these TWO crops alone consume almost 40% of our total farmland.

Virtually all of this corn and soy is genetically modified, and demands billions of gallons of water, pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizer. Relying on soy or corn based meat substitutes simply increases demand for these commodities and their chemical dependencies. Additionally, most US grain production occurs far from populated areas, demanding more energy in transportation, storage and distribution than proteins from farms closer to home.

From a health perspective, the American diet is already disproportionately full of corn and grain. Todd Dawson, a plant biologist at UC Berkeley, can test a single strand of hair to determine the amount of corn in a person’s diet. A typical American’s hair contains around 69% carbon from corn due to the amount of corn additives in our culture. After 3 months in Italy, Dawson tested his own hair and found only 5% of his diet was corn. Exchanging traditional meat for a corn or grain-based substitute exacerbates an already unbalanced diet far too weighted towards two plants.

Increasing industrialization and a growing population promise a much greater demand for meat in the coming century. Scientists tell us that with the help of industrial chemicals and fertilizers we can now yield more corn and soybeans on a per acre basis than ever before. However, modern polyculture farming is the most productive option for harvesting nutrients on a tight land budget. These systems can compete in total nutrient production through rotational planting, grazing, and good pasture management – and they don’t require the conversion of productive existing perennial pastures into monoculture cropland.

Buying grass-fed beef and pastured pork promotes a natural biological cycle. Like plants performing photosynthesis, farm animals take inedible grasses and forage and convert them to healthy proteins and nutrients – without the use of chemical fertilizers or herbicides. Plus, multi-use, local farms have the added benefit of bringing people closer to their food – making for healthier communities, animals and people.

So for now, we’re lukewarm on “not dogs.”