"Here try this burger, Jerry." I was at an outdoor barbecue on July 4, with all in attendance maintaining the social distancing required in this age of Covid-19. I peered at my friend with eyes above my suitably placed face mask. "No thanks, Bob. I stopped eating beef over two years ago." And it was true. I had wanted to eliminate beef from my diet for a long time, not for any particular health reason, but rather because of ethical concerns. It all began when I was asked to write an article about grass-fed beef, which is touted to be a healthier form of beef because the animals are not fed grain and the meat offers a healthier nutrient profile compared to commercial beef. In the course of my research for that article, I discovered the existence of "factory farms," which turn out beef, eggs, turkey, and chicken but also involves repellent treatment of animals. I was horrified to read about how cows, chickens, and pigs are treated on such farms and it disgusted me. Although I had been eating beef for all my life up to that time, I could not even look at a hamburger for several months after that. I did eventually return to eating meat. But after adopting my first dog, I became an animal advocate and felt hypocritical about my continued consumption of animal foods, including beef. I got my chance to finally end my gustatory relationship with beef when I fell ill with a severe gastrointestinal illness three years ago. During my hospitalization I had nothing to do but read medical articles on the condition that put me in the hospital. When I learned that eating red meat was considered a minor risk factor for the disease, that was my chance to end my beef eating completely.
And so I did. I continued to consume small amounts of other animal proteins, mainly chicken and eggs, but no beef at all. Cut to the July 4 barbecue where I am offered some beef. It did look and smell good. So I figured what would be the harm of taking a bite or two out of this apparent hamburger. I commented about how I felt guilty about breaking my meat ban and told that to my friend. "You didn't," he replied with a smirk on his face. It turned out that what I tasted that day was not actual meat, but something called an "Impossible burger." This turned out to be a plant-based meat substitute that looked, smelled, and tasted like real beef. But it contained only plant products. This made me ponder whether products such as this could replace beef in the diets of bodybuilders and athletes who for reasons that vary, don't want to eat beef anymore.
Beef substitutes are not new
Although I wasn't familiar with beef substitutes or "fake" beef products, they've been around . . .