Slime Me Once

Richard Berman is slime, but you probably already knew that.

Berman runs the Center for Consumer Freedom, a notorious front group for agribusiness and food companies. His misdeeds are well documented, and Berman is a PR mercenary so beholden to the interests of his corporate food benefactors he’s been publicly disowned by his own son.

Because they keep their funders secret, Berman and Co advertise themselves as a shield for donors who don’t want public blowback for his bare-knuckle tactics.

That anonymity comes in handy, especially when the nascent plant-based food sector that aims to radically upend American’s protein consumption looks to be a new target for Berman and Co. Writing last week in a piece titled Clean Meat or Green Slime?, Berman says of the Impossible Burger:

To turn plants into what looks like and kind of tastes like a real burger requires a lot of chemical processing.

Metal drums churn a frothy red liquid, which contains yeast that’s genetically modified to produce vast quantities of the meat-flavor mimic, soy leghemoglobin.

To mimic the texture of ground beef, the makers of the Impossible Burger turned to textured wheat protein and soy protein isolate, two heavily processed ingredients that should churn your stomach faster than a vat of modified yeast.

Berman clearly doesn’t care about chemical processing and heavily processed ingredients. Because in 2012 he wrote this piece in the Daily Caller defending lean finely textured beef — aka pink slime — when it was discovered kids we’re unwittingly consuming the industrial meat filler.

In a nutshell, during beef processing there are little bits of meat that remain on bones. One company specializes in a way to round up these parts, remove the fat, and give it a brief puff of ammonia gas to kill any nasty pathogens. The resulting beef is used in hamburgers.

Is it unhealthy? No. The beef trimmings are processed in a centrifuge to remove fat, making the end product leaner than a lot of store-bought ground beef.

Apparently centrifuges and chemical processing are all fine and dandy until the product is plant-based.

The science is clear that our over-consumption of beef is bad for the environment and long-term human health. I love a good steak, but the prospect of protein in the future that looks, cooks, smells, chews and tastes like real meat should be viewed as a net benefit for the environment, human health and animal welfare.

So it’s a big tell that industrial meat producers are so worried at the threat posed by the alternative meat sector that they’re willing to pay for Berman’s dark arts. And Berman’s laughably hypocritical hit piece on the Impossible Burger’s timing is curious too, as the big meat groups like the Cattlemen’s Association are gearing up their PR campaigns to reframe the marketing over what “meat” actually is.

Maybe instead of spending time and money fighting what appears to be an eventuality in changing consumer taste, farm and ranch groups start putting all that energy into coming up with a plan for when the traditional meat sector craters?

Don Carr

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