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Why it doesn’t matter if the Impossible burger is healthy

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Impossible Foods aims to do the…impossible. In other words, the company aims to produce a juicy, delicious burger that tastes like meat but contains no animals.

The patty sizzles and sears when cooked in oil, it bleeds red juices when bitten into, and the texture of the meat is so similar to beef that long-time vegans often find it too similar. Naturally, the fleshy pink burger has garnered a lot of attention. Most vocal in the conversation surrounding the burger has been it’s environmental impacts, striking similarity to animal meat and whether or not it’s healthier than a standard beef burger.

What the conversation ultimately misses is that the Impossible burger doesn’t rely on exploiting animals. It provides another exciting, tasty option that all health talk aside, doesn’t come at the expense of animal lives.

While the environmental aspect is certainly important – Impossible Foods claims that their burger’s production process “uses about 1/20th the land, 1/4th the water, and produces 1/8th the greenhouse gas emissions” than a burger made from cow – the real kicker is that they use 100 percent less animal lives.

The beefy mouth-feel of the burger is no doubt kitchy and cool, a welcome outcome of the rapid growth of the faux meat industry. Despite it’s warm welcome, another substitute just isn’t necessary for veganism. Vegans have long lived off of half-hearted soy patties and mystery frozen meals, or simply legumes and grains. Celebrate the tasty success, but let’s leave the idea that veganism is possible because of these often expensive, impressive mock meats at the door.

The ingredient behind the beefy texture and taste is called heme. It’s a molecule than can be found in plants and animals, though especially abundant in animal tissue. Essentially, heme is what makes meat taste like meat.

One nutritionist pointed out this week that although a high source of iron, excessive amounts of the molecule are linked to colon cancer and heart disease. The key word there is excessive – health problems associated with large intakes of heme stem from diets consisting of red meat or heme-heavy dishes near daily. The Impossible burger is likely not going to be consumed four times a week, especially since it’s not available outside of restaurants.

The health discussion falls back on the age-old idea that veganism is about healthy eating. Every diet is different and though typically linked to lower rates of cancer and heart disease, vegan food can be unhealthy too – and that’s okay. So long as no animals are harmed in the making, bring on the greasy burgers and you bet I’ll get extra gooey cheese on top. The point is that the food we consume shouldn’t rely on exploiting living beings – whether or not it’s healthy is a personal choice.

We can’t avoid the fact that food is inherently political. From what food we consume, to who has access to what food, it’s a skewed system and every choice makes an impact. This is where the definition of what makes personal choice is key. A personal choice is one that doesn’t harm or negatively impact anybody else, like eating an oily plate of fries or eating a kale salad. A choice is no longer personal when it’s making harms others, like eating an animal. It’s not a matter of “you do you, I’ll do me”, it’s a matter of we, collectively, shouldn’t be complicit in the mass exploitation of living beings.

Veganism isn’t personal and it’s goal isn’t health-oriented. Everyone should probably be advocating for increased access to fresh, nutritious food so that every person can make the decision to eat as healthy as they choose. But framing veganism as a personal, health choice dilutes the importance of veganism by detracting from the root issue at hand – the exploitation of animals.

There are plenty of healthy vegan options, including the cheapest and most widely accessible choices. Something like the Impossible burger doesn’t need to be overtly healthy – it just needs to be vegan.

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  • One Step For Animals

    Thanks for your great article, Sorcha!

  • Propaar

    This article is good and reminds me of a good memory of mine. It occurred just a few months ago….

    My lady-friend Smupa and good friend Pratha and I were adrift on a small vessel in the vast ocean, participating in a journey of the mind, body, and spirit.

    While contemplating the very existence of time and its corollaries, we were suddenly jolted by a series of large and violent bubbles surfacing just beneath our tiny vessel, nearly capsizing us in the process.

    Soon after regaining our composure, a seriously foul odor was realized.

    Within seconds of inhaling the noxious fumes, I began to envision a wildly amusing collage of surreal colors and creatures, causing me to vomit all of my life’s frustrations in one major upheaval.

    Pratha reacted to the foul odor by chanting backwards in his native tongue while deep in his trance.

    Smupa began to smile in a most uncontrollable fashion and then proceeded to break wind from her bottom.

    Smupa’s gas pass served as the eureka moment. I then posed the question:

    Do whales fart??

    Smupa and I did some research and found the following:

    The short answer is yes, whales do indeed fart, flatus or pass gas depending on how you like to phrase it.

    In fact whales, dolphins and porpoises are all marine mammals belonging to the cetacean species and they are all known to fart.

    Today there are around 80 – 90 known species of cetacea currently in existence and they encompass all of the worlds major oceans from the tropics to the coldest of the northern and southern polar hemispheres.

    When it comes to passing gas, farting is a common characteristic that most land and marine mammals have in common with one another.

    Passing gas allows animals to release air that is trapped inside their stomach, which could lead to digestive problems, stomach cramps or other complications if not removed from the body.

    When an animal passes gas or farts the air that comes out of the body comes primarily from two main sources.

    The first source comes from oxygen that is pulled in through the air either while breathing (inhaling and exhaling) or when consuming food or drinking water; and since all mammals eat food and require oxygen to survive they all take in air.

    The second source of air or gas comes from food that is broken down by enzymes, stomach acids and bacteria in the stomach, which creates toxic gasses that need to be removed from the body to prevent it from doing harm to the individuals digestive system.

    In order to release these gases animals need a way to expel them from the body and for most mammals this means that the toxic gas has to exit through either the mouth, which causes burping or through the anal tract which causes farting.

    The gases that are expelled from a fart are mostly composed of hydrogen, carbon dioxide, and methane.

    The reason some gasses smell worse than others is because of the breakdown of the foods involved.

    Certain foods can cause obnoxious orders when released as gas while others do not.

    From some of the statements researchers have made about whales farting they have concluded that yes, it stinks when a whale farts.

    When a whale farts or passes gas underwater the sound is believed to be suppressed by the surrounding water making it silent or at least quite compared to the gas that is expelled from land based animals.

    In some cases bubbles or clouds can be seen rising to the surface of the water when a whale passes gas.

    Those most likely to experience whales farting are likely to be researchers involved in following whales and researching their dung or gathering information about their gestation period, habitat, social structure and other important factors.

    In some cases this may also be observed by tourists and whale watchers that are hoping to get a glance of these marine mammals in their natural habitat.

    Unfortunately not much research has been done on this topic, however there have been researchers who have experienced and confirmed that yes whales do indeed fart.

    Thank you for your time.


    • NoAlternativeFacts

      What’s wrong with you?

  • douglas gray

    The manufacturers do not sell it as vegan, but as a plant based product, as 80 rats died during the animal testing proccess to allow one of the ingredients to be used in it. They are pretty clear on this on their own web page.

    • ScriboErgoSum

      A pretty brave card for Ecorazzi to play as well, considering they’re all about calling out welfarists. The main vegan defense of the Impossible Burger is that a few rats << less land use, less water use and no cows killed, which is 100% a welfarist argument. That Ecorazzi chose to not even touch on this is tone deaf AF.

    • alltruthbrandon

      80 rats died? LOLOL u vegans are absolutely insane! Who the blank cares about a #$@% rat?

  • Page

    The impossible burgers’ makers won’t call it vegan. A bit of different phrasing is needed here. While no animals are in the burger itself, at the end of the day animals were exploited in its making (to use the author’s terms). I think the impossible burger is a great development, and I definitely agree with the arguement about why it doesn’t matter if it’s healthy or not, but maybe don’t put it on this pedestal just yet.

  • “…The Impossible burger doesn’t need to be overtly healthy – it just needs to be vegan…”

    Dr. Joel Fuhrman, M.D. would disagree with passion and so do I. Junk food is not just not “overtly healthy” but outright harmful. The more white bread the sooner you are dead. Fuhrman in his latest book Fast Food Genocide points out that even one serve of Frankenfoods a week – white flour, fried food, artificial additives, etc. – significantly increases the risk of developing all the common cancers, and it doubles the risk of depression. One in five Americans suffers of some kind of mental illness, an increase from one in one hundred in a few decades due to our love of junk food. Since what we ate during our childhood and what our parents ate even before they conceived us determine our genes and predisposition to cancers far more, it is even more important than ever to eat healthy and achieve long and prosperous lives we all deserve rather than ending up in nursing homes.

    Vegans already have the cheapest, healthiest and most appealing foods to their availability in all corners of the world: unprocessed fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.

    I follow the six principles of the Abolitionist Approach to Animal Rights myself and I agree that ethical veganism is not about health, but just as we would not advertise cigarettes in the 21st Century, we should not encourage consuming any other harmful substances either, and junk food is one of the deadliest ones. The animals need us to be healthy and energetic.

  • Great article! While I can appreciate that health is an important focus for many, I disagree that it should be a central issue for veganism. I never argue that veganism is healthier than omnivorism – it doesn’t have to be! If you can be just as healthy on a vegan diet, that’s all people really need to know. Veganism is primarily about preventing unnecessary suffering and exploitation, it’s not a cure-all or path to eternal life, and I do wish people would stop confusing the two.

    • disqus_rrpltnu4gZ

      modvegan ):

    • alltruthbrandon

      I think it makes sense for vegans to just admit that the vegan diet is unhealthy, which it obviously is. They should just say that they are “doing it for the animals” even though it’s unhealthy. That would at elast be honest. But noooo… they gotta lie.

      • Porry

        All truth Brandon should change his handle to onlywhatfitsmynarrative, Everyone knows vegan diets are healthier for everyone involved(animals, humans, planet, water, air etc.)

  • Linda McKenzie

    I agree that the animals need us to remain healthy and energetic in order to advocate for them. There’s also the fact that, if you make yourself unhealthy by eating junk food, vegan or not, you are making yourself a liability to society. If you make a habit of consuming junk food, at some point this will result in you most likely needing hospitalisation, or nursing care from a spouse, children or other relatives. Money will need to be spent on treatment to keep symptoms at bay, while you may not be able to earn any due to being too debilitated, once again becoming a burden to others. So damaging your health is never just a personal decision with no ramifications for the wellbeing of others. That idea ignores interdependence.

    I am not critical of unavoidable dependency and wholeheartedly support generous welfare provision for those who need it. I am critical of avoidable, self-inflicted ill-health and resulting dependency being presented as a matter of personal lifestyle choice devoid of any issues of responsibility. This applies as much to consuming vegan junk food as it does to nonvegan junk food.

  • wizzywoo

    While I do think that it’s important to avoid as much junk food as possible it’s more important to avoid downright dangerous food. Impossible burgers are GMO products that contain at least 26 newly created proteins with unknown dangers. The FDA wouldn’t even grant it a “Generally regarded as safe” designation which is really saying something considering the junk the FDA does give that designation to. I applaud the movement towards plant based alternatives but creating Franken-foods that have new unknown and potentially dangerous characteristics is not good for anyone.

  • Tiffany

    Something like the Impossible burger doesn’t need to be overtly healthy – it just needs to be vegan.

    YES, exactly!

  • Bog Roll

    The Impossible Burger is financed by Blue Horizon who also finance Livekindly and Mercy for Animals – I believe this money trail is why so many “vegan” outlets are promoting this as vegan, when it is in fact an animal tested product.

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