Is the Future PFPB or WFPB?


You might be interested in listening to the following podcast which discusses how big business is now about to break into producing plant-based lean meat substitutes that they claim meat-eaters simply cannot differentiate from real meat.

Plant Yourself – Embracing a Plant-based Lifestyle

By Howard Jacobson, PhD

Fooling Meat Eaters with Plant-based Replacements with Rody Hawkins: PYP 257

Released 06 March 2018

Howard’s comments on the podcast

“I personally wouldn’t have predicted that the guy behind Lunchables and Slim Jim jerky sticks  might save the planet. But Rody Hawkins, muscle physiologist, consultant to the meat industry for decades, nutrition wonk, and pioneer in shelf-stable food technology, has just launched a plant-based meat replacement company that’s getting global attention for the quality and environmental benefits of its product.

In case you missed it: Rody is no vegan.

He supports animal agriculture. He thinks that animal protein is a healthy food for humans, much more so than carbs (yes, I will be giving him copies of Proteinaholic and Whole and The Low Carb Fraud, which he promised to read). And he sees the writing on the wall for the meat industry: there’s not enough planet to feed us all on a meat-based agricultural system.

So Hawkins has figured out a way to cut out the middleman (actually middle-cow, middle-chicken, and middle-pig) and turn soy directly into a product that can mimic the texture and cooking properties of any kind of meat – beef, chicken tenders, flaky fish, you name it.

In case you missed it: this isn’t a whole food, plant-based product. I don’t recommend that my fellow WFPB adherents ditch the WF part and start eating fake meat made from plants. But if this product can do what Hawkins claims it can, then it will:

  • Save billions of animal lives per year.
  • Allow ecosystems decimated by animal agriculture to recover.
  • Reduce the scourge of feedlots and abattoirs.
  • Feed the growing human population while buying us time to transition to a truly sustainable agriculture.

Have a listen to my interview with Vegan Permaculturalist Will Bonsall for an idea of what the foregoing might look like.

Also, Hawkins’ company, Improved Nature, is located in my home state of North Carolina, which is one of the worst animal ag offenders in the nation. So regional pride compels me to point out that we’re doing some things right (and once Dr. Garth Davis moves to Asheville in the spring, we’ll be totally rocking the plant-based world).

Hawkins and I discussed:

  • growing up on a farm in Tennessee and wanting to be a veterinarian and feed the world (gee, who does that remind us of, T. Colin Campbell?)
  • studying meat science in college
  • creating Lunchables for Oscar Meyer in the 1980s
  • running R&D for Slim Jim jerky sticks
  • developing shelf-stable military rations that will last three years in your car
  • soy as a major input in the meat and animal agriculture industry
  • “is there any way to make a product that has the same eating experience and nutritional and cooking profile without the animal?”
  • the key to plant-based meat replacement: texture
  • can we turn plant proteins into meat-like fibers? * how to you feed 10 billion people in 2050 with the same resource base?
  • Hawkins is not a convert to anything
  • his background in meat science allowed him to understand what meat-eaters actually want and how to produce it
  • the foods with complete sets of amino acids
  • a single-ingredient product (vs other meat replacements)
  • “meat-eaters can’t tell the difference”
  • partnering with different producers and retailers (just like a beef producer)
  • soy-based meats are 20 times more efficient than meat
  • Memphis Meats – cool technology, worth pursuing, but unclear whether it will every achieve efficiency
  • the unconventional launch: crispy tenders in the Los Angeles school lunch program
  • adding other plants beyond soy
  • and much more… Enjoy…”

Joe’s Comment

Anyone like Rody Hawkins is more likely to have a bias towards a nutritional viewpoint that can better support his commercial ambitions. Thus, it’s no surprise that he has adopted the position that animal protein is better for you than carbohydrates and that there is a different diet to suit every human rather than one optimal diet for all.

Having said this, I have little doubt that the big changes will come from big business, probably US companies in the first instance. This is most probable because there is a fortune to be made from producing animal-like foods from plants (soy).

It would be an idealistic fantasy to think that the majority of meat-eaters are going to make a direct transition to a WFPB diet.

Having listened with interest to this podcast, I came up with the acronym PFPB (Processed Food Plant Based). It’s much more likely that it will be a PFPB diet rather than a WFPB diet that will be adopted by the majority of populations used to eating meat.

Is this a good thing?

I suppose it’s good compared with the unhealthy, unsustainable, cruel and environmentally disastrous alternative of continuing with animal meat consumption.

But, although I haven’t researched the details of the products being produced by Improved Nature, I suggest that it’s not a good thing in terms of human nutrition. Not everyone can tolerate soy products – that’s one thing. Another bigger consideration is that whatever processed products are produced, they are still fragments of foods and this is never a natural source of nutrition for the body. Additionally, there are potentially harmful effects of eating large quantities of intensively processed soy products that have not yet been explored.

For my part, I’ll be keeping a keen eye on development of companies like Improved Nature, but changing from a WFPB to PFPB diet would be a backward step, away from the optimal diet for human health and the only diet that has been proven to reverse heart disease and other chronic diet-related diseases.

Finally, I suppose it’s a sad but inevitable indictment of human nature that modern society’s dietary macro-directions almost always end up being controlled by powerful self-interested mega-companies that are able to make huge profits out of packaging, marketing and selling fragments of foods that nature so perfectly supplies whole.