This article appeared in the June 18, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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Where’s the beef?

Richard Drew/AP
An Original Impossible Burger (l.) and a Cali Burger, from Umami Burger, are shown in this photo in New York, May 3, 2019. A new era of meat alternatives is here, with Beyond Meat becoming the first vegan meat company to go public and Impossible Burger popping up on menus around the country.

What goes on your grill this summer is becoming a moral statement.

America, it seems, has reached a culinary tipping point: The taste, texture, and smell of the plant-based and bovine-based patties are now nearly indistinguishable. See for yourself at Burger King or Wahlburgers. Veggie burgers are no longer just for vegetarians.

Bills to stop plant-based or lab-grown protein from being labeled “meat” or “beef” have been filed in 25 states. The Missouri Cattlemen’s Association calls it a question of integrity. It’s about protecting consumers from confusing nomenclature and deceptive ads. (OK, maybe it’s a little bit about protecting market share.)

They have a point: ”Meat,” according to Webster, is “animal tissue.”  

But producers of these burgers say shoppers aren’t confused. All labels have clear qualifiers (“plant-based” or “meatless” or “vegan”) in front of “meat.”

Food companies have long fought over labels such as “natural” or “organic.” But this quest for the moral high ground goes beyond integrity or free-speech rights. It veers into what food is best for the planet.

Most research says growing vegetables uses less water and produces far less greenhouse gas than raising cattle. But a recent study in France suggests that when meat is omitted, people eat more fruits and vegetables – and that puts the two diets more environmentally on par.

Perhaps what’s needed is more research. Reynolds Wrap just posted a new position: chief grilling officer. The two-week gig pays $10,000 plus all expenses to travel America in search of the best barbecue ribs.

 What if the winning ribs were plant-based?

Now to our five selected stories, including the quest for security in the Persian Gulf, how climate change is reshaping an iconic American park, and a look at whether political pragmatism is a viable path for a Democratic candidate.

This article appeared in the June 18, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 06/18 edition
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