I'm a livestock producer and I'm not afraid of fake meat

Some things are a fad — like fanny packs — whose popularity seems inexplicable, but wanes quickly. A fad, even as terrible as a fanny pack, can and does come full circle, as it is now, but it’s rare that its popularity will stand the test of time.

A trend, however, is usually larger, more subtle, slower to catch on, and more permanent.

There are those who tell me that fake meat and plant-based diets are a fad, but also an incredible threat to livestock production systems. These are two different things, though. Let me explain.

I think that fake meat, both plant-based and petri dish-created, lend themselves more to a fad. A shift to plant-based diets and foods, however, is a bona fide trend. Should livestock producers be worried? Yes, because ignoring any food trend isn’t smart business, and no, because humans are fickle.

The way I see it, the fake-meat/meat substitute “burger” or “sausage” is akin to a magic diet pill. We want to change one small thing and fix all our problems, from being overweight, stressed and anxious, to being rather terrible to our planet. We don’t however, really want to make big, sweeping changes, because change is hard.

Take, for example, Starbuck’s move away from plastic straws. Did Starbuck’s do away with their plastic cups and lids? Nope, just the straw. Why? Because it’s a super easy, super simple gesture that seems like the “right” thing to do and now their customers don’t really have to change their habits, but they can feel — morally — like they’ve taken the high ground.

Plant-based diets, or consuming less meat, is a trend, and, as a livestock producer myself, I’m not overly threatened by. Yes, really. I understand that someone who is ACTUALLY committed to their health and wellness and who is interested in food, food preparation, and valuing where their food comes from is likely someone who will choose to maintain a varied and diverse diet —  likely one that includes animal-based protein, even if it is less frequent.

They’re also someone who will buy chickpeas, peas, lentils, and black beans — supporting Canadian farmers — versus someone who simply buys a meat facsimile — heavily processed, full of salt, loaded with extra bits of this and that, and wrapped in plastic. Only the retailer and processor see a bump in their bottom line, and no one is getting healthy.

I raise lamb because there is a demand for it, I can do so profitably, and I enjoy it. I know the science is clear: meat is part of a healthy diet and livestock production is a key part of vibrant ecosystems. Our livestock, just like livestock on countless other farms, are well-cared for and lead good lives. For these reasons, I’ll continue to raise and sell lamb. I’ll also support those who choose to eat falafel, black bean burgers, and any of the other super delicious meatless meals I make in my own kitchen.

A push for plant-based eating doesn’t have to be anti-meat or anti-livestock production. If health is the goal, I know that salt-laden patties sourced from plants are nothing more than a paper straw in a plastic cup.

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