This post originally appeared on October 12, 2019, in Amanda Kludt’s newsletter “From the Editor,” a roundup of the most vital news and stories in the food world each week. Read the archives and subscribe now.
This week on our podcast, Eater’s Digest, we highlight the new public-relations campaign against plant-based meat companies coming from the meat lobby. I think it dovetails pretty nicely with this impressive and thorough piece from Tad Friend at the New Yorker, which provides a great look at the state of the plant-based-meat industry right now. And this shorter take from Vox that debunks much of the recent backlash we’ve been seeing from major food figures like Mark Bittman and Whole Foods’s John Mackey.
Four big takeaways:
- Replacing the worldwide creation and consumption of beef is the biggest single thing we can do to combat climate change. One third of the world’s arable land is used to grow feed for livestock, which is responsible for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. That doesn’t even take into account the land used to raise cattle or the impact of water to grow the feed and raise the animals, shipping feed, etc.
- Lobbying works! Twenty-five U.S. states have introduced bills and 12 states have already passed bills restricting the use of the word “meat” when it comes to meat alternatives. A federal labeling law will require Impossible to add the term “bioengineered” to its products in 2022.
- PR works! The meat lobby hired Richard Berman, the man behind successful PR campaigns for cigarettes, alcohol, and high-fructose corn syrup, and the inspiration for Nick Naylor in Thank You for Smoking. Since his hiring, we’ve seen a spike in stories focused on how unhealthy and “hyperprocessed” plant-based meat burgers are, as if they were supposed to be a health food. The goal of these products is to replace the temptation of burgers so we eat fewer animals. It’s not to provide a low-calorie, low-sodium, low-fat food source.
- Elitism is real. As Vox points out, one aspect of the backlash to plant-based meat is that it’s made in a factory, and our relationship with food should be intimate — which completely ignores the fact that 99 percent of meat produced for consumption comes from factory farms! The Vox writer also finds it suspicious that plant-based meats were lauded when they were only available in high-end restaurants and grocery stores, and are pilloried now that they have expanded so intensely to fast-food restaurants.
But my final takeaway is that this industry is here to stay. The sales, production, and reach of these products are up, but so is investment. Impossible has raised $750 million. Beyond Burger had one of the biggest IPOs of the year. Meat giant Cargill has invested in lab-grown meat and pea protein. Nestle, Kellogg’s, Purdue, and Tyson all have plant-based or hybrid meats on the market or in the works. The meat industry will dominate the market for a long time but these upstarts are gaining ground fast.
- Intel: Michelin announced its stars for London; a gorgeous Sri Lankan restaurant just opened in Seattle; a Pasadena cafe is serving food that looks strikingly similar to the food at popular Konbi; New York has two big natural-wine fairs coming up; SF brunch icon Brenda’s opened in Oakland; Gabriel Rucker will close his Portland restaurant Little Bird at the end of the month; Dave Chang has a trailer for his new Netflix show; the manager behind Austin’s best wine shop is opening a natural wine bar next door; cultishly loved Taiwanese chain TKK opened this week in Dallas; a 10-year-old wall doodle at NYC dive bar Niagara might be worth millions; a restaurant serving Chamorro food from Guam opens in Vegas; Miami empire-builder Michael Schwartz will launch a delivery-only deli; star LA bartender Kevin Lee is leaving the ambitious bar the Wolves; chef Patrick O’Connell aims to open a casual spinoff of his three-Michelin-starred Inn at Little Washington in D.C.; SF bar Trick Dog and bartending competition Speed Rack are among the strongest voices calling out the World’s 50 Best organization for giving an “icon” award to a noted sexist; the Bay Area’s oldest African and Caribbean market will close after 40 years; food halls are holding Denver’s culinary scene hostage; Williamsburg’s Sunday in Brooklyn opened a branch in LA’s Hoxton hotel; Blue Hill at Stone Barns could get a Michelin star for the first time; and here are some photos of the dishes at the hotly anticipated Emilie’s, now open in D.C.
- The most excruciating Succession dinner scenes, ranked by distress.
- The big difference behind ”tiki” and “tropical” bars seems to be respect.
- How writer José R. Ralat went from a Sonic Drive-In fry cook to taco editor at Texas Monthly.
- The unreasonable lengths restaurant workers have to go to take time off.
- Watch: My podcast co-host Daniel Geneen really went the extra mile to learn about the magic behind Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, and it’s absolutely disgusting and hilarious.
- An anchovy onesie, chic spoon rests, and more things to buy this week.
- Bon Appetit has long been treating its staffers like influencers (spon and all), and now it’s putting them on the cover of the mag. [Digiday]
- Per usual, we laugh so that we don’t just cry. [McSweeny’s]
- The candles, eye cream, luggage, and hoodies beloved by Antoni. [The Strategist]
- A flashy, wildly expensive “smart” bassinet will not solve the real problems new parents face. But I’m grateful to the person who gave me one, because it most definitely saved me some sleep. [Curbed]
- Man, everyone loved raspberry vinaigrette. [Taste]