Contrary to popular belief, red and white meat have equal effects on blood cholesterol levels, according to new research from the United States.
The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and led by scientists at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (Chori), found that eating large amounts of red meat or white meat increased levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) – often dubbed “bad” cholesterol – present in the blood.
The study focused on generally healthy men and women aged 21-65 years, who were randomly split into two groups.
Volunteers were allocated to red meat, white meat or non-meat protein diets consumed for four weeks each in random order.
“When we planned this study, we expected red meat to have a more adverse effect on blood cholesterol levels than white meat, but we were surprised that this was not the case – their effects on cholesterol are identical when saturated fat levels are equivalent,” said study senior author and Chori senior scientist and Atherosclerosis Research director Dr Ronald Krauss.
Often associated with contributing to “bad” cholesterol levels, red meat consumption is generally recommended in moderation, while white meat, which is generally leaner, is usually considered a healthier alternative.
However, the study suggests that this may not be the case.
In fact, the results suggest that restricting meat altogether – whether red or white – could prove more advisable than previously thought for lowering blood cholesterol levels.
Indeed, the study suggests that plant proteins, such as beans, are the healthiest choice for blood cholesterol levels.
“Our results indicate that current advice to restrict red meat and not white meat should not be based only on their effects on blood cholesterol,” Dr Krauss said.
“Indeed, other effects of red meat consumption could contribute to heart disease, and these effects should be explored in more detail in an effort to improve health.” – AFP Relaxnews
- To prepare for its nationwide launch next week, Impossible Foods had to change the recipe for its “bleeding” veggie burgers.
- Courtesy Impossible Foods
When veggie burger startup Impossible Foods tried to pitch its “bleeding” patties to Burger King last year, the restaurant chain told the company it had a problem. Its system of cooking burgers – which involves broiling them over an open flame – didn’t work with the Impossible Burger. Instead of browning like a traditional meat burger, the Impossible patties crumbled and fell apart.
So Pat Brown, Impossible Foods’ founder and CEO, charged the staff at his Silicon Valley startup with creating the Impossible Burger 2.0: a second version of the patty that more closely mirrored traditional beef. While they were at it, he challenged them to make the patties juicier, healthier, cheaper to make, and even more environmentally-friendly.
That was a year and a half ago. Today, the team has surpassed every part of Brown’s request, he told Business Insider in a recent interview.
The new Impossible Burger is gluten-free, lower in fat, saturated fat, and sodium, and cheaper to make than the original. Those changes are what allowed the company to launch the first Impossible Whopper in Burger King chains in St. Louis, Missouri at the end of last month. Burger King plans to roll out the veggie option in 7,200 restaurants nationwide by the end of 2019.
“We’ve left the cow in the dust,” Brown said.
The market for a better vegetarian burger is beginning to sizzle. Rival Beyond Meat held an explosive initial public offering earlier this month. As a result, Beyond Meat’s share nearly tripled, and it’s now valued at about $3.9 billion. Impossible Burger was valued at $2 billion in a funding round this week, according to Reuters.
The St. Louis launch exposed a big challenge for the startup. Demand quickly exceeded supply, threatening to turn disappointed customers back on to traditional beef.
So starting in about a week, the first Impossible patties made with a final new ingredient – genetically-modified soy – will roll out. Brown anticipates the news could strike some customers as controversial. But he hopes it will help them meet another surge in demand when the burgers roll out at Burger Kings nationally in roughly 6 months.
“There are people who don’t like it, and they tend to be disproportionately vocal about it,” Brown said.
Here’s the inside story of how a Silicon Valley startup went from tempting Bay Area techies with the first high-end “bleeding” veggie patty to replacing meat burgers at fast-food chains like Burger King across the nation.
‘It lit a fire under our plans’
- The Impossible Whopper was an instant hit last month.
- Burger King
The nation’s first Impossible Whoppers rolled out at the end of April to a network of Burger King restaurants in St. Louis, Missouri.
The city-wide launch was meant to be a test. Would burger lovers bite? Or would the meat-like patty fail to win over meat lovers in the second-largest meat-producing state in the country?
The veggie patties were a hit. The leadership at Burger King cheered, with some boasting that even they couldn’t tell the difference between the Impossible Whopper and the real thing.
The Impossible team panicked. Demand was quickly outpacing what their Oakland factory could supply.
Within days, other restaurants that had been selling the Impossible Burger had to turn customers away because they were out of the burgers.
Some burger joints tried appeasing people with an alternative: they offered the rival Beyond Burger, a veggie patty that’s also meant to taste like the real thing. But according to at least one report, customers who flocked to a restaurant that once offered the Impossible Burger left when they were informed the Beyond Burger was on the menu instead.
In other words, people didn’t want Beyond – they wanted Impossible.
No one felt the squeeze more than staff at Impossible Burger’s manufacturing plant in Oakland. According to Brown, the facility was originally designed to churn out a couple million pounds of Impossible “beef” each year.
Last year, demand started to rise. By the end of 2018, Impossible staff needed to turn out a million pounds of Impossible meat every month. Since launching across the globe in Hong Kong last year and then in Singapore this February, sales in Asia have risen more than three-fold, the company said. But in the US, the Burger King launch sent them scrambling.
“It lit a fire under our plans,” Brown told Business Insider.
To meet Burger King’s appetite, Brown started calling for volunteers. He asked staff to help pack and assemble patties in below-freezing temperatures as part of a series of temporary 12-hour shifts that kept the plant running around the clock. Some started at 3 a.m. One of the first people to heed the call was Brown’s 32-year-old daughter, who works in Impossible’s research and development department.
“We’re all in on this,” Brown said. “When we needed people to stack burger patties in the freezing cold, she signed up.”
Despite all their best efforts, though, Impossible wasn’t able to make enough patties to satisfy growing consumer appetites.
The startup raised a fresh $300 million from investors like Katy Perry and Serena Williams earlier this week, adding more celebrities to an already star-stacked lineup that includes Bill Gates and Richard Branson.
Impossible plans to use the funds to ramp up its manufacturing capabilities, Brown said. That will include hiring up to 50 new employees and adding a second production line this summer.
The company is also tweaking its recipe. The soy in the patties, which was added to replace wheat at the beginning of the year, will be sourced from American farmers who use genetic modification, Brown told Business Insider. That means the soy in the burgers will technically be a GMO.
Impossible’s shift from wheat to soy: more protein, no gluten, and one small problem
- Impossible Foods recently swapped the wheat in its patties for soy. The new burgers will include soy made with genetic modification.
- Courtesy Impossible Foods
If there’s a single thorny ingredient in Impossible’s new, higher-protein, lower-fat, and more broiler-friendly burger, it is its soy.
This wasn’t always the case. Impossible used to use wheat in its recipe, but consumer demand for gluten-free products – coupled with Burger King’s request for a burger that could be grilled over an open flame – led the company to swap it out for soy. As a result, the Impossible Burger 2.0 is significantly healthier than its predecessor. Customers say it tastes better too.
Still, Impossible Foods is no stranger to controversy. Last year, the company faced ire from activists and journalists who questioned the safety of a substance called heme in its patties. (Heme is the ingredient that allows the Impossible patties to “bleed” and imbues them with their beef-like flavor.)
That heme was made using genetic modification and, according to some activists, had not yet been proven safe to eat. Last summer, regulators at the Food and Drug Administration deemed heme safe, cooling off the controversy.
Starting last month on the heels of the Burger King launch, a new problem arose. This time, it had to do with the soy in their burgers.
For several months, Impossible had been contracting with a supplier to get GMO-free soy, or soy produced without genetic modification. Brown – who was once a Stanford biochemistry professor – said this was part of the company’s aim to avoid unnecessary public controversy: while there’s broad scientific consensus that GMOs are safe, some activists are vocal about the ingredients’ potential for harm.
Still, Impossible ran its own analysis and compared the ramifications of using GMO soy versus non-GMO soy on human health and the environment. As far as health, both ingredients were roughly the same, the company concluded. When it came to the environment, however, the GMO soy had a slight leg up, Brown said.
Some research suggests that GMO crops are linked with moderate reductions in soil erosion, meaning they could be less damaging for the planet overall. In addition, if Impossible chose to use only non-GMO soy, it’d have to import it roughly 6,500 miles from a supplier in Brazil, pushing loads of extra carbon into the air in the process.
There was a second component of the analysis that struck Brown in particular, however.
If his company failed to make enough of its product to go national, it could lose thousands of customers who, rather than opting for a vegetarian Impossible Whopper, might just get a regular beef burger instead.
“The worst thing we could do is limit the production of our product and not compete against the cow,” Brown said.
Impossible’s new recipe rolls out nationwide next week.
Some refer to it as “cultured” or “cell-based” meat. Others call it “fake” meat. What is it?
It’s a new technology to grow meat in the laboratory and it may show up in the meat sections of our supermarkets someday soon.
Cultured meat has nothing to do with its social standing. Rather, it is meat produced when cells from animals are “cultured” or grown under laboratory conditions.
Not to be confused with plant-based meat substitutes made from vegetable proteins, cell-based meat is grown from actual animal cells. So, it is an animal product, not a vegetarian option.
Why do we do need another method to produce meat?
Some say it’s to keep up with the growing demand for quality protein sources in our expanding world.
Others say it is an alternate way to produce meat for human consumption.
Is cell-cultured meat the same as regular meat? Depends on who you talk to.
Muscle fibres produced in the laboratory are the same as that found in a steak, say leading researchers in this technology from Maastricht University in The Netherlands.
Yet, they also say that they need to tweak the procedure to get the same nutrient content, such as iron, that is found in red meat.
Some groups have petitioned the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to better define the term “meat”, so we know if we are buying the traditionally produced type or the cultured variety.
Hopefully, we will see some labeling guidelines on these products before they show up in grocery stores.
And that may be a few years. Regulatory issues and cost (the first lab-grown hamburger patty cost a mere US$330,000 [RM1.375mil] to produce) could delay the introduction of cultured meat into our food supply for a while.
Are there any concerns with growing meat in the laboratory?
Depending on who you listen to, some groups say this method of meat production would result in less land and water use.
Other organisations voice concerns that growing meat in the lab would impact the environment more negatively than our traditional way of raising cattle as it would take massive amounts of energy resources to produce meat in this way.
Nutritionally, these products would be similar in some nutrients such as protein, and different in others. Scientists say they are looking into modifying the type of fat in lab-grown meat, for example.
Lastly, what will cultured meat be called? Is it real “meat” or a meat-type product?
That remains for either the US Department of Agriculture or FDA or both agencies to decide. For now, we can call it something new on the horizon. – The Monterey County Herald/Tribune News Service
Read Part 1
Chicken super-farms and Vitamin D
Large-scale commercial meat production, or factory meat farming, probably started with chickens in Delaware, United States, at a farm run by Mrs Wilmer Steele. Selling a batch of 500 broiler chickens in 1923 inspired her to devise new methods to intensify meat production – and by 1926, she had the world’s first indoor chicken super-farm with a capacity of 10,000 birds. The numbers and sizes of such large scale chicken farms expanded exponentially when Vitamin D was included in the birds’ diets – before that, chickens tended to be sluggish or even die off in winter due to lack of sunlight, but the addition of Vitamin D ensured that meat and egg production became a viable operation all year round. The rationing of beef during World War II and Howard Pierce’s competition for super-chickens colluded to make chicken the cheapest and most readily available meat in the world today. For more, read “The story of a super chicken”.
In Britain, factory farming started in 1947, when a new Agriculture Act provided farmers with grants to utilise new technologies in crop and animal farming. It was the period after WWII when the UN was still promoting food security by the “intensification of animal production”. Such intensification was mostly confined originally to chickens as they were the cheapest way to breed meat. However, newer techniques developed for other animals allowed the US and Europe to begin serious large-scale factory meat and dairy farming with pigs and cattle around 1966. This eventually led to practices such as CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) where huge numbers of animals are crowded together and fed with fattening grains, nutrients, antibiotics (and often growth hormones), with no opportunities to graze or exercise normally. These large-scale farms are now replicated around the world.
Clearly, such intensive methods to mass-produce meat and dairy have practically nothing to do with natural or even humane conditions for the animals involved. For example, confining hundreds of thousands of chickens in indoor factory farms is so stressful that their beaks are routinely sliced off to reduce injuries due to fighting. The birds also usually live their entire lives in a caged space smaller than a piece of writing paper.
The harsh concrete surfaces of factory farms often painfully deform the feet and skeletons of animals evolved to walk on soft soil. A sample of 34,000 pigs in the US some years ago found 65% had pneumonia-like lesions in the lungs – there is no indication whether this may be hazardous to humans. The use of growth hormones for speeding up meat production is well-known and still continues in many countries despite concerns about dangers to humans. This practice is banned in the EU. Note that almost all factory meat farms routinely ban visitors in case they take pictures or write about the conditions inside.
More worrying is over 80% of the world’s production of mammalian antibiotics (including for humans) are given to livestock – this is to ensure the animals can resist the bacteria inherent in crowded, often unhygienic conditions in factory farms. But we all know bacteria can evolve to develop resistance to such overuse of drugs, and some superbugs which affect humans now cannot be treated with conventional antibiotics.
As mentioned, most agricultural land is now used to grow feed for animals, even though cereals provide two to 10 times and legumes 10 to 20 times more protein than animals for the same land area. This anomaly is even more bizarre in developing countries where land for meat production often crowd out land for human food crops.
The growth of factory farms over the last century is staggering. Globally, around 50% of pork, 40% of beef and 70% of poultry are now derived from factory farms. In the US, the statistics are even more sobering: around 95% of pork, 78% of beef and 99% of poultry are supplied by factory farms.
The only explanation for the explosion of such a pitiless business is the expanding and seemingly insatiable human demand for meat. Such vast, inhumane factories can only exist because the meat industry keeps offering meat consistently at prices around or below consumer reference points – and hence it is all about economics, not nutrition or even common sense (because the environmental damage is not sustainable). For more about reference points, please read “What we think of (when we think of food)”.
Anthropocene Epoch – what’s next?
As stated earlier, this new epoch may end up being the shortest in Earth’s history. The damage to the planet caused by human practices (eg. global warming, desertification, ocean pollution, etc) is already potentially mortal and any immediate remedial action can only be helpful. Although many people are not aware of it, the geophysical impact of factory farming is a significant issue. The irony of course is that there is no requirement for such overwhelming meat production – it only leads to a vicious cycle of ever bigger factory farms to reap economies of scale so as to be able to sell meat at lower prices than competitors. The other irony is that over-consuming such meat is also probably detrimental to health in several ways. This may be evidenced by many of the current generation of Americans having a lower life expectancy than the previous generation.
It therefore makes sense to break away from the maddening crowd, if only because a lot of research has indicated that over-consuming animal proteins/fats can reduce human lifespans and alter the death pattern for entire populations. For example, prior to 1950, the main causes of mortality in China were measles, tuberculosis and senility (diseases related to old age). Since 1985, the main causes of death are cancers, strokes and heart disease – and as in other countries with a similar death pattern, it has been linked to an increase in meat consumption.
You know by now that a flexitarian diet just means reducing the amount of meat and replacing it with non-meat substitutes, with no rules attached. However, if one is really interested, then some additional comments may be added, as follows:
Humans need only a pretty small amount of daily protein, around 0.8g per kilo of body weight. So someone weighing 70kg needs only 56g of protein a day, though of course most people eat rather more than this. This is also fine as long as they do not have any chronic kidney disease.
Of this optimal amount of protein, try to limit animal proteins to 5% or less of your total calorie requirements. There is roughly four calories per gram of protein. So if your daily requirement is, say, 2,000 calories, try to limit animal protein consumption to 25g a day. The rest should be made up of non-animal proteins.
For the same daily calorie requirement, carbohydrates should be 50% to 55% of the total, so it means roughly 250g to 275g of carbohydrates.
The rest should be vegetables with lots of soluble and insoluble fibre in any proportion you like – plus of course, fats, especially those with Omega-3 fatty acids, so as to offset the Omega-6 oils normally present in most modern foods. A good balance would be four or fewer parts of Omega-6 to one part of Omega-3.
However, I confess I have personally never strictly followed the dietary suggestions above, mainly because I enjoy eating good food (and drinking wine) too much. So it is just a guideline for anyone curious. My opinion is if everyone would cut their meat consumption by 30% to 50% or more, that would already be an excellent step towards keeping the Anthropocene Epoch alive a while longer. It is also remarkably easy to do, even for meat-loving Germans, especially with ultra-modern foods – see “A modern food story – Part 3”.
Curious Cook appears on the second and fourth Sunday of the month.
- Ecovative, a startup that made a name for itself with its sustainable packing and building materials made from mushrooms, is planning a pivot into lab-grown meat and other areas.
- The company wants its mushroom scaffolding to be a central material for startups aiming to create everything from clothing to meat without slaughter.
- The material could have uses for plant-based “meat” companies like the Bill Gates-backed bleeding veggie burger startup Impossible Foods, too.
A startup that makes environmentally-friendly packaging for IKEA is planning a big transition into the realms of lab-grown meat and beyond.
Ecovative – which made a name for itself by inking deals with brands like IKEA and Dell to swap styrofoam containers for packaging grown from fungi – now wants to use its mushroom-growing capabilities to become the backbone of several manufacturing efforts, including plans to make meat without slaughter.
It might sound like an odd pivot. But a critical obstacle for the “cell-based” (or “clean”) meat industry is taking the raw materials for meat – lab-grown cells from the fat and muscle tissues of chickens, pigs, and cows – and crafting them into materials that mimic the complex structure and texture of a marbled steak or sinewy chicken breast.
Several startups in the space claim to have succeeded in making prototype products that take the form of sausages, burgers, and meatballs. But these products involve essentially smashing together a mix of muscle and fat tissues – not creating actual pieces of flesh that mirror the real thing. What could be missing is a good scaffold, a delicate structure on which the cells can thrive.
Ecovative wants its mushroom technology to be that scaffold.
Using a new platform which the company is calling MycoFlex, Ecovative will be able to tailor a foam-like product it makes from mushroom roots (or mycelium) and craft it into a variety of end materials, from performance foams for clothing and shoes to cellular scaffolding for lab grown meat. In April, the company worked with licensee and fellow startup Bolt Threads to make the first MycoFlex-enabled product, a leather-like bag made with material it called Mylo.
Most recently, Ecovative has also been trialling growing animal cells on the MycoFlex platform.
“The key thing mycelium does is go from a single-celled organism to a 3D structure in space,” Eben Bayer, Ecovative’s co-founder and CEO, told Business Insider. “We’ve been growing animal cells on it and they’ve been growing really well.”
If it works, the partnership could help usher in the first slaughter-free products with the texture and structure of steaks and fillets.
The mushroom’s unique structure is hard to find elsewhere in the vegetarian-friendly organism kingdom. Plants can only do so much. But fungi knows no such boundaries.
“If you look at plant scaffolding, you’re limited to the geometry of something like a spinach leaf,” Bayer said. “With mycelium, we can make a sheet that’s many feet long and however thick. We can control the density. It’s this massive scaffold you can grow relatively inexpensively.”
Ecovative’s mushroom-powered structure could have uses beyond the cell-based meat space as well. In the plant-based food arena, for example, mycelium could be used as the foundation for new, even meatier versions of already popular vegetarian items like the Bill Gates-backed “bleeding” Impossible Burger or the Beyond Burger.
Those companies could essentially “use our scaffolding and infuse it with their ingredients and flavorings,” Bayer said.
Several other startups aiming to replace animal products with vegetarian options have turned to fungi for its preferential texture and naturally neutral flavor.
Wild Earth, a startup making vegan dog treats, uses koji – the fungi that gives soy sauce and miso soup their umami kick – in its products. Similarly, startup Terramino Foods is exploring using koji as the central ingredient for its “salmon” burgers.
For now, Ecovative isn’t sure which path in the sustainable food arena – whether it’s cell-based meat or plant-based meat alternatives – the company will end up pursuing the most heavily. The company’s overarching goal is to make its mycelium design platform available to everyone, Bayer said on Tuesday at a launch event hosted by global science conference SynBioBeta.
Regardless, Bayer said he sees a place for his company at the food-of-the-future table.
“This is the next natural step in this evolution to use natural products to make things,” Bayer said. “As the biology advances and the tech advances alongside it, you’re going to see more people building on this platform.”