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Viewpoint: The outright lies coming from Impossible Foods’ VP

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I’m not a big fan of Impossible Foods. I was reminded why when Jessie Becker, the company’s Senior Vice President of Marketing, recently gave an interview about the company’s future. She joined SiriusXM Business Radio’s Marketing Matters to double down on the ridiculous goal of eliminating animal agriculture by 2035.

Unfortunately, Becker’s meat-is-destroying-the-Earth theatrics was devoid of facts and heavy on misleading statistics. But why should she care about honesty and truth when Impossible Foods is able to capitalize on the anti-meat narrative?

Too bad I don’t play that game. I want to correct her misstatements, put those statistics into context, and bust some myths. So that’s what I’m doing here.

But I feel as though I have to start this article with a disclaimer. So allow me to just say this: I’m not opposed to faux-meat products. Humans must find a way to continue feeding an exploding population in a sustainable way. There’s definitely a place for these items in the market. But Impossible Foods has purposefully targeted animal agriculture as an adversary. And I’m not about to sit by while they distort the truth.

Myth: The most important thing people can do to combat climate change is stop eating meat.

Jessie claimed:

The fundamental reason we exist as a company is because we think that the way people eat food today is a huge contributor to climate change. And we actually think the biggest thing that people can do is not change your car to electric, which I recently did, or add solar power to your roof, but actually to stop eating animal meat.

I’m not sure how she could be more wrong. Let’s start with the fact that transportation, industry, and electricity represent 79 percent of all greenhouse-gas emissions in the United States. Call me crazy, but it seems like we should be more focused on those sectors.

Agriculture, on the other hand, contributes only 9 percent. Now that’s not something to sneeze at, but every ag sector has improved over time while providing more and more people with their nutritional needs.

impossible-corporate-headquarters
Impossible Foods’ corporate headquarters in Redwood City, Calif. (Image by Sundry Photography)

So will quitting meat make you a climate-change savior? Not even close. Even if every single American ditched animal proteins, it would reduce U.S. carbon emissions only by 2.6 percent. Despite what clever marketing people are telling you, ending animal agriculture isn’t the magical answer.

Myth: Grazing animals use too much land compared to people.

Jessie said:

If you think about all the land that we use in the world that’s devoted to cows grazing, to raising the stuff that cows eat and all of that, it takes up 45 percent of Earth, non-ice-covered land. Huge amount. Now, then you look at how much land is taken up by people and cities. It’s 1 percent.

I’m almost speechless after reading this. Does anyone seriously believe that downtown Manhattan is better for the environment than literally any farm in rural America? It’s a terrible comparison.

Cattle usually graze on marginal lands. Marginal lands are those that aren’t suitable for growing crops — like that on extremely rocky soil or that’s located at the edge of deserts or other desolate areas. And some research shows that livestock animals are a big deal for global ecosystems.

We also can’t underplay the importance of meat in our diet. Beef provides us with zinc, iron, protein, B vitamins, and healthy fats — it’s more nutritionally dense per calorie than any other food.

Myth: The only way to save the climate is to stop eating meat.

Jessie claims:

We want to take away animal agriculture as a way to restore the climate to a place where we can live.

Not quite. It’s much more impactful to have one less child, living a car-free life, and avoiding plane travel. I’m not advocating any of those suggestions, but they would all reduce your carbon emissions more than giving up meat. And that doesn’t even consider all the things that may occur if we just eliminate animal agriculture.

Here’s the bottom line: Impossible Foods wants to make this a black-and-white issue. Meat: all bad; Impossible Foods’ products: all good. It isn’t that simple. And while there is space for meat and plant-based “meat” in our food system, there’s no room for companies that aren’t being honest.

 

Amanda Zaluckyj blogs under the name The Farmer’s Daughter USA. Her goal is to promote farmers and tackle the misinformation swirling around the U.S. food industry.

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