Will Fake Meat Increase Corporatization of Our Food System?

CC BY 2.0. Tony Webster

Or is that (plant-based) cat already out of the bag?

My family and I went to see Mary Poppins Returns yesterday (awesome!) at Silverspot Cinemas in Chapel Hill (lovely!), and noticed that they too are serving the plant-based Impossible Burger. I didn't eat it, because I was planning on grabbing some cauliflower tacos at Bar Taco next door (delicious!), but it did get me thinking about something:

This burger is bloody (sorry!) everywhere.

On the one hand, this is a very good thing. As I wrote in my post about White Castle's Impossible Slider, the idea that a not-insignificant portion of the industrial food complex's output could effectively switch from animal-based to plant-based proteins is very promising, for planetary and human health—not to mention animal welfare.

But the very idea of industrialized, centralized food systems runs counter to the romantic notions of small farms and heirloom produce and artisan farmers that many of us TreeHuggers tend to gravitate toward. Is there a danger that an increase in plant-based meat consumption will exacerbate the centralization of our food system?

I thought about this for a good while, munching as I was on cauliflower tacos—and then I remembered that the taco restaurant I was in was a chain, that the cauliflower they were serving was most likely grown in California by a giant conglomerate, and that much of the food system has already shifted to a centralized, large-scale, industrial model. Indeed, meat in particular is often produced and distributed by a few huge mega corps, some of whom are now investing in the plant-based meat trend.

While I love my farmers' market, love my local producers, and love an heirloom tomato, it's important to recognize where we are—not where some of us wish us to be. The fact is that most of us, even if we buy a portion of our sustenance from local folks whose names we know, are also participants in corporate food culture. And some would argue there are environmental advantages to the efficiencies that come with going big.

The fact is that for the foreseeable future, the food we eat is going to be a mix of local and globalized suppliers. If and when you eat meat, then it's probably a good idea to know the name of your farmer and hope that they maybe knew the name of the cow you are eating. If and when you don't, having a plant-based, lower carbon foodprint alternative to industrial meat readily available will be a very good thing.