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Here’s the scoop on Vancouver’s Nice Vice Creamery

NiceVice_015

Nice Vice is Vancouver’s first ever 0% dairy, plant-based micro creamery, which opened in Yaletown in February. VHS talked recently to owner-operator Chris White about starting up a plant-based business. Here’s our Q&A with him:

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1. What inspired you to open Nice Vice?

I opened up Nice Vice Creamery after visiting many of the fantastic artisanal ice cream and gelato establishments around the city and never having very many D-F options. When I was making so many different flavours at home, my sons inspired me to open up a dairy-free scoop shop.

2. How have you found the reaction from the community?

Absolutely fantastic! I believed that Vancouver was ready to support a 100% dairy-free, plant-based vice cream shop. I think the awareness of plant-based foods has become much more positive in the last few years.

3. What do you enjoy most about running the business?

I love working the front counter and interacting with people. We have received so much good energy from our patrons you can’t help but feel good behind there.

4. What do you find is the hardest part?

We opened up an ice cream store during the winter,with a new brand, with a new product, and in a new location! We made it as hard as possible to succeed. So, if we can get through this and become profitable then we will achieve success.

5. How do you stay positive in a world where animal-based products are still so predominate?

I focus on how aware society is becoming about the positive aspects of choosing a plant-based product over the negative realities of animal-based products. After all, that is one of the motivating factors behind Nice Vice – the ability to participate in change through positive vibrations of consuming vice cream.

6. What is your most popular menu item?

Besides several of our classics, our Instagram @nicevicecream has our new flavours which regularly sell out within a day or two. (Buzz’d Coffee or Strawberry Lychee anyone?)

7. Who are your customers? Is there a predominate demographic?

When I wrote the marketing plan, I assumed that health conscious females between the age of 15-35 would be our predominate SHUs (Super Heavy Users). However, we have been surprised to see an equal number of male customers as well and, pleasantly, we seem to be catching on in the Asian community where over 70% of that ethnic group is lactose intolerant.

8. What do you think is the best way to encourage consumers to make more ethical choices?

This is a good question. At Nice Vice I tell our employees not to judge anyone for any choices they make. We believe that education and awareness of the ethical benefits of a plant-based diet are being portrayed by documentaries auch as Cowspiracy, Earthlings, and Forks over Knives. When the conversation comes up between a customer as to why I am plant-based, I point the customer to these three documentaries to guide them in their own decision making.

9. Do you think plant-based products and businesses are becoming more mainstream?

Absolutely! Plant-based food products and restaurants are the fastest growing sectors in their respective industries. The shift has happened because there is largely no where else to grow. Just look at Ben & Jerrys and the number of new vegan restaurants that have opened this year in Vancouver alone. We are at the beginning of a monumental shift in consumer choice. And thank God for that!!!

10. What are some of the lessons you’ve learned about running a plant-based business?

You can’t please everybody!! There is a wide variety of knowledge in society and we have experienced different levels of emotions from anger and anxiety to euphoria in our shop. Not everyone will believe in what we are doing as being positive – that is the reality and beauty of living in a free society. The other lesson is that dealing with the government can be challenging and requires patience and perseverance. The residual benefits of business are numerous and exciting! No matter what happens with Nice Vice, I can honestly say, I have never had a such a roller-coaster of emotions with this small business and the period of personal growth has been phenomenal.

Nice Vice Creamery is located at 1022 Mainland Street, Yaletown and is open 12-10 daily.

Tel: 778.379.6423

Email: info@nicevicecream.com

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Food and Drink News/Blog plant-based diet Promoted Recipes vegan

A Vegan Valentine’s Day

VHS volunteer Miles Linklater reveals the secrets of making a perfect vegan dinner for Valentine’s Day.

My partner travels a lot for his work, and we have rarely been together on the actual date of February 14. This year is no different, but we will be together February 13 and will make a great meal together. If we have any single friends without plans, we’ll invite them over as well.

I like to have a ‘theme’ when I cook for people. The courses should complement each other, so this year I’m choosing to look at recipes containing ingredients considered to be aphrodisiacs (it is Valentine’s Day after all). Not surprisingly, most foods that fall into this category are either fruits or vegetables; animal products are almost never considered ‘sexy’!

Let’s start with Asparagus

asparagus Asparagus is best served on its own, either lightly steamed or roasted, with just a touch of lemon juice, olive oil and sea salt. You can make it even fancier by using truffle salt or a tiny bit of balsamic vinegar (don’t use too much or you’ll overpower its unique flavour), but DO NOT overcook the asparagus. This will cause it to go limp and sometimes mushy. Always taste while it’s cooking and stop just before you think it’s ready. It will continue to cook (as all foods will) even after you take it away from heat.
Here are some dishes you can make using asparagus

And now onto Avocados

avocadoNot just for salads or guacamole, avocados are a vegan’s secret weapon when it comes to desserts! They impart a creaminess when used in desserts, whether as a main ingredient or as decorative frosting. Naturally they also work well in salads and are the perfect base for a creamy pasta dish.
Some recipes.

 

Bananas

Always popular in the dessert category, bananas are full of potassium, a nutrient key to muscle strength. Similar to avocados, bananas add texture and smoothness to any dish when they are ripe, and also be the base for an ‘instant’ ice cream.
Recipes containing bananas

 

Chocolate

chocolateFull of phenylethylamine, a stimulant that conjures feelings of well-being, plus it’s delicious! It’s easier than ever to find high-quality chocolate which doesn’t contain any dairy ingredients. Try some of these recipes for a decadent dessert.
Recipes using chocolate

 

Pomegranates

pomegranateFull of antioxidants, these exotic fruits add a unique taste and visual appeal when used in salads or desserts.
Pomegranate recipes

 

 

 

Red Wine

redwineIn addition to relaxing you faster than a neck rub, red wine contains resveratrol, an antioxidant that helps boost blood flow and improves circulation. If you’re looking for a vegan-friendly red wine, check out Barnivore’s list of red wines from Canada

 

 

Walnuts, Pumpkin seeds and Flaxseeds

walnutsAll packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which just happen to keep sex hormone production at its peak! Walnuts are perfect for adding texture to stuffed mushrooms, and also great in pesto recipes and desserts
Great recipes incorporating walnuts

 

 

Vanilla

vanillaVegan desserts and ice creams made with this sweet bean will help stimulate your senses. Why not spoil yourself, your loved ones, and your guests with a dessert full of vanilla?
Recipes containing vanilla

 

 

Given all these choices, what will I make for my Valentine’s dinner? I will include red wine, start with a Colombian avocado soup, a delicious salad with broiled hearts of romaine, a lovely pasta dish with roasted vegetables and avocado, and end with a fruit tart or dessert of some kind.

As you can see, there are so many vegan recipes available to try (thank you Internet) that there’s no excuse not to make a caring and comforting dinner for those you love.

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Going veg? Here’s what to stock up on

 

Vegetarian Sandwich Wrap or burrito made up of saute yellow squash, zucchini, bell peppers and onions rolled in a corn tortilla with rice and diced tomatoes and goat cheese and drizzled with a balsamic vinaigrette. Wrap is served with a baby lettuce salad.

 

 

If you’re transitioning to a plant-based diet, it’s important to stock up on some of the staples that are essential to a meat and dairy-free lifestyle. Below, we’ve compiled a list of key food ingredients and products that will help anyone going veg.  It’s by no means exhaustive and we encourage you to explore the many sources of information on plant-based eating available online. (At the bottom of this page we list some of our favourite sites.)

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DAIRY ALTERNATIVES

 

Alternative milks Almond, soy, rice, cashew are the most common. A new product is Veggemo, which claims to be “the first non-dairy beverage originating from veggies.”

Buttery spread (homemade): Store-bought, non-hydrogenated Earth Balance is popular. There have been concerns about its use of palm oil, which is destructive to wildlife habitat. However, the company has said it will use only sustainably produced palm oil by the end of 2015.

Dairy-free cheese: Vancouver-based Daiya melts like the real thing. Chao Slices are getting good reviews.

Cream cheese (homemade): Store-bought products include: Tofutti, Daiya, Go Veggie and Follow Your Heart all offer vegan cream cheese.

Sour cream (homemade): Ready-made brands include Tofutti, Follow Your Heart

Dairy-free yogurt (product reviews)

 

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MEAT ALTERNATIVES AND PROTEINS

 

Gardein does a range of healthy meat replacement products including veggie burgers, “chick’n scallopini”, holiday roasts and even “fishless filets.”

Tofurkey is famous for its holiday roasts but also does a range of meatless products

Field Roast is probably best known for its amazing meatless sausages but also makes roasts, slices and other products.

 

Yves does a range of meat substitutes, including burgers, sausages and bacon.

Veggie burgers (homemade) Store-bought (frozen and refrigerated) includes Gardein; Yves and Sol, which are some of the main Canadian brands.

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While ready-made meat substitutes can be quick and convenient, many people prefer less processed and more natural sources of plant-based protein.

Tofu: A long-time staple of meat free eating.

Tempeh: Soybean-based meat substitute.

Seitan: Made from wheat gluten, seitan is high in protein and has a meaty texture

Edamame (recipes): These young, green soy beans make a great high-protein snack.

Pulses (beans, dried peas, chickpeas, lentils): Dried and home-cooked are cheap and the healthiest but canned are convenient.

Nuts and seeds: High in protein and healthy fats. Cashews are especially useful as they can be soaked and used in a variety of ways.

Nut butters: Peanut butter is the best known but almond butter, cashew butter and others are increasingly popular.

Egg alternatives (for baking): Follow Your Heart has developed the VeganEgg, which can be scrambled and used in omelettes.

Mayonnaise alternatives (homemade): Store-bought brands include Vegenaise, Earth Balance’s Mindful Mayo.  The latest (and best, according to some) is Just Mayo, although it is not yet widely available in Canada (Costco has had it in stock).

 

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GRAINS

Brown rice: More nutritious than white.

QuinoaA great plant-based complete protein.

Steel-cut oats: Good for breakfast.

Whole-wheat couscous: More nutritious than regular.

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ONLINE RESOURCES (Plant-based recipes, nutrition advice):

Ohsheglows: http://ohsheglows.com/
Vegan Health: http://www.veganhealth.org/
Minimalist Baker: http://minimalistbaker.com/
Vegan Richa: http://www.veganricha.com/

 

LOWER MAINLAND GROCERS (Stocking many plant-based staples)

Donald’s Market
Parthenon
Vegansupply.ca
Whole Foods
Choices Markets
Vegan Essentials (online store)
Eternal Abundance
Sweet Cherubim
Famous Foods
 

Looking for more plant-based inspiration? Whether you’re going meatless on Mondays or every day, take our Meatless Monday pledge to receive a weekly plant-based recipe via email.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How I impressed fussy foodies with a gourmet vegan dinner

Dessert
Hazelnut Almond Dacquoise with Espresso Buttercream and Chocolate Ganache – Vegan version!

 

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VHS volunteer Miles Linklater loves to cook vegan meals but he had a challenge on his hands when some Gallic, gourmet guests came to dinner.

Two of my good friends are world travellers and very snobbish about their food. Whenever I visit them for dinner, they ‘deign’ to provide me with some kind of boring bean dish or uninteresting pasta, but serve all the other guests various forms of meat and cheese.

 

It is always a challenge I love when it’s my turn to cook for them. As a vegan I consider it my ‘job’ to show non-vegans how delicious and easy it is to create a wonderful meal without animal products. I always start with the idea of serving them something which they will find familiar and tasty and then proceed to ‘veganize’ it. I often take non vegan recipes and find a way to make them animal-free.

 

For appetizers I simply prepared some dips (hummus and tapenade) served with bread sticks and vegetables, and then created some ‘cheese’ toasts using a mixture of chopped tomatoes and vegan cheese (Daiya or Earth Island) mixed with some vegenaise and grilled on slices of baguette until bubbling and browned. No one misses the cheese.

 

For my first course I cooked a traditional onion soup. Onion soup is normally not made with animal stock; the deep colour and richness of the soup is obtained from slow cooking of large numbers of onions for 1-2 hours until they have browned. I made the base of the soup a mixture of dried portobello mushrooms soaked in boiling water and then puréed in the blender, with a little sherry. I didn’t want to repeat the ‘cheese baguettes’ I’d served as an appetizer so I made some tarragon dumplings. Nothing is easier than making vegan dumplings for soups and stews. Simply a mixture of flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, whatever herb you wish to use (I usually use fresh dill), and then the ‘buttermilk’ (which is nothing more than soy or other nut milk with a teaspoon or two of vinegar added to it which causes it to thicken and sour like buttermilk). Most dumplings are cooked on top of the soup/stew, but I prefer to ‘steam’ mine over water as you would Chinese dim sum. This makes it more likely that they will turn out nice and fluffy and dry.

 

The main course was a vegan shepherd’s pie. This was the easiest thing to veganize as one just has to use vegan mince (Yves ground or Gardein) in place of the ground beef. Mix that with some pre-cooked vegetables and mushroom gravy and top it with puréed mashed potatoes and you’re set. I served the pie with Brussels sprouts stir-fried in garlic and olive oil.

 

The dessert was where I knew I would impress them the most. I decided to make a Hazelnut Almond Dacquoise with Espresso Buttercream and Chocolate Ganache. I’d never worked with the new vegan ‘miracle meringue’ replacer aquafaba (bean water), but I found a recipe to use this leftover liquid from a can of chickpeas as the replacement for the egg whites normally called for in a meringue, and the base for the multi-layered dessert and I couldn’t have been happier with the results. After only 40 seconds in my stand mixer the chickpea ‘liquid’ had already begun to form beautiful white stiff peaks. The coffee buttercream was just a mixture of Earth Balance, icing sugar and espresso. The chocolate ganache made from vegan chocolate chips and soy creamer. It was a time consuming dessert as the ‘meringue’ had to be piped into circular shapes, baked for two hours at a low temperature and completely cooked before assembly, but the result was really impressive and my guests said they could not tell the finished dessert was any different from what they would purchase and consume in any French pastry shop! I’m looking forward to experimenting with aquafaba again soon, trying my hand at macarons and other ‘meringue’ desserts.

Recipes:

Hazelnut Almond Dacquoise with Espresso Buttercream and Chocolate Ganache

Traditional onion soup

Tips for a gluten-free version of this meal:

Use rice flour for thickening the onion soup
Use Gardein ‘ground’ in the shepherd’s pie, with rice flour to thicken gravy
The dessert is gluten-free (but has LOTS of sugar)

 

 

 

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BC’s plant-protein industry takes off

Seamless texture with legumes on black background

It was great to see the Vancouver Sun’s recent feature on local plant-based food companies Gardein and Daiya Foods, but they’re not alone in pioneering alternatives to animal-based products.  Here are some of the other Lower Mainland businesses leading the way:

The Global Gardens Group, based in Richmond, has just launched a dairy milk alternative called Veggemo, which the company says is “the first non-dairy beverage to originate from veggies.”

Vega, a fast-growing producer of plant-based nutrition products, was recently acquired by a U.S. food company but will remain Burnaby-based.  Vega says its goal is “to provide convenient plant-based products, made from real, whole food ingredients to support your health—without having a negative impact on the planet’s health.”

Left Coast Naturals, which includes the Hippie Foods brand, is also based in Burnaby.  Hippie Foods produces a range of plant-based snacks using whole food ingredients. On its blog, the company has stated that “Plant-based diets are no longer just for PETA protesters, hardcore tree huggers or Beyonce. The reality of becoming less reliant on meat and animal-based products is something we’ll all have to face.”

Another Burnaby company, Natera, specializes in hemp protein products (seeds and protein powders). On its website Natera says its products are “Perfect for vegan, paleo or gluten-free diets, hemp contains 35% protein and 45% oil in its dehulled state. That makes it earth’s number-one most digestible plant protein.”

Burcon Nutrascience, headquartered in Vancouver, is developing plant proteins as ingredients for the global food and beverage industry. The company says: “Both animal and plant protein production exert significant pressures on the environment.  However, the environmental pressures exerted by meat and animal protein production exceed those of plant and plant protein production many times, in both magnitude and extent of area affected.”

Ergogenics is a Vancouver-based company specializing in whole, plant-based nutrition products. The company says its mission is “to advocate a move towards plant-based nutrition for better health, Environmental Sustainability, and Compassion for Animals.”

The plant-protein industry is growing around the world but it looks like the Lower Mainland is becoming one of its hubs. While some vegetarians and vegans prefer not to rely on processed or convenience foods, these new products may help supplant animal proteins and reduce the need for industrialized animal agriculture – and that’s got to be good news for farm animals.

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Is fake meat the key to stopping the growth of factory farming?

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Will food science provide an escape from our unsustainable and inhumane dependency on meat consumption and animal agriculture?

Trying to stay positive about the future of farmed animals is not easy for the animal activists, ethical vegetarians and environmentalists who care about the animal cruelty and ecological damage caused by factory farms.

While some might be cheered by the decline in meat consumption in North America and Europe (which only applies to red meat, not poultry), the projections for consumption elsewhere, especially in China, are dispiriting.

One recent study found that per capita meat consumption in China has increased by 400 per cent since 1971 and is still growing. (But the Chinese still only eat 55 kg of meat per person each year, compared to 107 kg for Americans.)  According to the United Nations, total demand for animal products in developing countries is expected to more than double by 2030. This demand will almost inevitably be met by increasing numbers of large factory farms, with all their inherent cruelty and damage to the environment.

 

One proposed way of avoiding this dark future is to replace meat with sustainable plant-based products.   New processes, market trends and technical innovations in some developed countries suggest we might yet escape a massive increase in animal suffering and environmental degradation caused by the growth in intensive animal agriculture.   The “fake meat” industry is not without its critics and some vegetarians and vegans warn against heavily processed food, arguing that traditional, natural sources of protein (e.g. beans, lentils,) are the best alternatives to meat.  Others contend that creating highly palatable, convenient meat substitutes is the only way to draw modern meat eaters away from their ingrained attraction to sausages, bacon, burgers, hot dogs, chicken wings and steaks.

Europe appears to be leading the way in the development of meat alternatives, with the Netherlands most recently announcing the creation of a “steak” made from vegetable protein.  Scientists at Wageningen University produced the steak using Shear cell technology, an energy-efficient process that researchers claim reproduces the fibrous texture of steak. A Dutch firm, The Vegetarian Butcher (which helped fund the research) is already a highly successful purveyor of meat substitutes, with more than 1000 dealers and distributors across the Netherlands.

In famously meat-loving Germany, sales of new meat substitutes are increasingly popular, showing double-digit growth.   Even meat companies see the potential.  “Surprisingly, German companies that are traditionally associated with manufacturing meat products are now entering this market for meat substitutes, going so far as to launch meat imitations using the same brands as their meat-filled counterparts,” says one recent report.  The director of a German meat company recently referred to sausages as “the cigarette of the future” and said that he wanted at least 30 per cent of the company’s sales to come from its vegetarian range by 2019.

In North America, companies like Beyond Meat, Hampton Creek and Gardein have already tapped into the growing consumer interest in alternatives to animal-based products. Market analysts predict that alternative protein sources could claim up to a third of the protein market by 2054.

All these companies have had to overcome technical hurdles as well as consumer and media scepticism. Yet, science appears to be succeeding when product development hits a wall.  For example, pea protein has presented a problem to companies seeking to use it in plant-based products because of its bitter taste.  But recently, food researchers found a way to reduce the bitterness, making the taste neutral – a small development but one that opens the door to using this non-animal protein in a range of new food products.  If the meat alternative industry continues to resolve such issues, they could yet end up with products that will appeal to the most diehard carnivores.

It is difficult to know whether the new plant-based food industry is the answer to curtailing the horrors of factory farming, but with global meat consumption and production still rampant, it may be the best chance we have.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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New meat alternatives offer great promise

 

Homemade Healthy Vegetarian Quinoa Burger with Lettuce and Tomato

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But don’t look to ‘lab meat’ for a solution

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Guest post by David Steele

There is a promising trend in food these days. Meat substitutes are on the rise. More and more plant-based meats that look and taste like their cognate animal products are coming to market. They have been in the news big time lately. The New York Times, The Guardian, Time Magazine and Slate are just a few of the publications that have run feature stories in recent months.

 

Most recently, the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof wrote effusively about the latest products. High in protein and other nutrients, these plant-based meats, Kristof tells us, are nearly indistinguishable from cooked animal flesh. What a wonderful development! As The Guardian bluntly states, modern animal agriculture is one of the worst crimes in history. Soon, just maybe, we’ll be able to consign that crime to the past.

 

The vast majority of animals raised for meat, eggs and dairy today are raised on factory farms. Debeaking, tail docking, castration, even tooth cutting – all without anesthetics – are standard practice. Dairy cows have their calves taken from them within hours of giving birth. Egg laying hens live six or eight to a cage; each has less than a standard 8½ x 11” sheet of paper’s ‘floor’ space to her. Pregnant and mother pigs live individually in cages so tiny that they can’t even turn around.  As the Guardian article points out, “The fate of animals in such industrial installations has become one of the most pressing ethical issues of our time.”

 

And the severe problems don’t end with the animals’ hellish lives. Raising livestock and the grain and soybeans to feed them is easily the biggest contributor to rainforest destruction; credible analyses indicate that animal agriculture is responsible for roughly 15 to 25% of global warming.  And animal agriculture is grossly inefficient.

 

As Cornell University’s David Pimentel calculates it, the way we raise meat, it takes some 28 calories of fossil fuel to generate one calorie of food value. This is enormously wasteful. And worse, because so much grain and soy is fed to animals instead of humans, the price of basic staples is raised, pricing out hundreds of millions of the world’s poor (see, e.g., this book review). In effect, we’re throwing away the majority of the protein and calories that humans could have taken in. Clearly, we can’t allow this to go on. Not for long, anyway.

 

In step the meat substitutes

That is why the appearance of ever more meat substitutes is such a very good thing. As Kristof says, “If the alternatives to meat are tasty, healthier, cheaper, better for the environment and pose fewer ethical challenges, the result may be a revolution in the human diet.” And he may very well be right. Tech giant Google wanted to bet big time on it this summer. They made a $200,000,000+ offer for one of the new startups – Stanford biochemist Patrick Brown’s Impossible Foods. Brown’s product won’t even be out until next year! Google, by the way, was turned down; Impossible Foods has raised $108,000,000 on its own instead.

Dr. Brown’s big innovation? He’s adding plant-derived heme to his new veggie burgers. Heme, he argues, is responsible for much of the flavour of meat. If Google’s interest in it is any indicator, he’s probably right. His products will join those of Beyond Meat and the older Tofurky, Yves, Gardein, Field Roast, etc., etc., etc., on store shelves soon.

All of these substitutes for animal products save animals from horrific lives and reduce the environmental footprint of our meals. There are other products on the horizon, though, that are nowhere near as beneficial. They are not even benign.

 

“Lab Meat”

 

Mark Post and colleagues at the Maastricht University in the Netherlands and New York City’s Modern Meadow are attempting to make meat outside of animals’ bodies. Beef seems to be their main goal for now. This is not artificial meat, per se, but rather meat made by growing cells taken from animals. On the surface, it sounds like a great thing. But, when you dig deeper, you see that it is nothing of the sort.

 

The first lab meat burger was made, cooked and eaten a couple of years ago. Constructed from 20,000 tiny strips of muscle cells, the thing was reportedly on the flavourless side and cooked up well only with the liberal use of butter. It was lauded by Peter Singer, author of Animal Liberation, as the world’s first cruelty-free burger.

 

Unfortunately, in this case Dr. Singer was wrong. Immense cruelty went into it – and goes into the continued work on it and its competitors.

 

Lab meat is made by taking cells from the bodies of living animals and growing them in a liquid medium. The end result is short strands of muscle-like tissue that are then stuck together. Post, at least so far, manually assembles them; Modern Meadow is trying 3D printing.

 

Growing those cells requires serum. Serum is the liquid left over when all of the cells are removed from blood. The serum used to make these burgers comes from fetal calves and, in later stages of the cells’ growth, from horses. Fetal calf serum is ‘harvested’ by killing a pregnant cow, cutting her still living calf from her belly and then puncturing the calf’s still beating heart. About 1 litre of serum is obtained from each calf. Producing those 20,000 strips in the first ‘lab meat’ burger probably required hundreds of liters of the stuff. That’s hundreds of fetal calves taken from slaughtered cows … all for one 4 oz. burger.

Modern Meadow says that it gets more meat from a liter of serum but their claim (as stated in The Guardian) of getting 22 lbs of meat per litre is outrageously high. I doubt very much that anyone with any experience in tissue culture believes that they’re really getting even a tenth of that. My guess would be more like a fiftieth. In any case, if one wants to grow ‘meat’ in the lab, one needs the serum.

 

And, sadly, the prospects for doing away with that serum in the process are bleak. Serum contains enormous numbers of growth factors, hormones and proteins necessary for cell growth. Expert scientists have been trying for decades to come up with an alternative but so far none matches serum in promoting cell growth and all are wildly more expensive (in dollar terms, at least) as well.

 

Still, you might say, it’s not nice to animals but it must be better for the environment. You might cite the paper that says so. It loudly claims that ‘lab meat’ would require 99% less land, 82-96% less water, even 7-45% less energy than meat produced from animals raised in Europe.

 

True, that paper is out there. It got a lot of publicity. Unfortunately, it also is just about the worst example of a failure of peer review that I have ever seen. The study is deeply flawed. Its assumptions are highly questionable, to put it mildly: i.e., that the meat would be raised as free cells in unheated vats, that 80% of the water used to grow the cells would be recycled without treatment, and that the cells would be fed entirely with cyanobacteria. None of these assumptions are even close to realistic.

 

There is not the slightest chance that meat can be grown like that. Instead, the complex mix of nutrients, growth factors and hormones found in fetal calf serum will be required. The media will have to be heated to a constant 98 or 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37-38 degrees Celsius) for the cells to grow; oxygen will have to be delivered and waste products constantly removed. Reusing even 1% of the water without treatment is extremely unlikely.

 

And, because there is no immune system in cell culture, large amounts of antibiotics and antifungal drugs will be needed to keep the growing meat from being over run with germs. The possibility of viral infections will be high.

 

Beyond those problems, growing something that approximates the beef or pork or chicken that people expect will be a daunting task. The meat that Mark Post is producing is only 100-200 micrometres (1/250th to 1/125th of an inch) thick and roughly an inch long. It is nothing like what most people would call meat.

To grow a steak or a piece of chicken will require some sort of degradable scaffold with a complex vascular system capable of bringing food and oxygen to the growing cells and taking waste and carbon dioxide away. 3D printing may help, but it’s hard to imagine a meat anything like what people think of as meat emerging from this process. (I suppose that it might be pulled off by putting the animal cells into one of the excellent plant-based meats, but what would be the point of that?!).

 

All in all, this seems insane. It is true that animal agriculture needs to go. But it does not make sense to attempt to replace it with an enormously expensive high tech system that, if it does work, is highly likely to require major inputs of blood serum. There is little chance, even, that a venture like this will ever be economically viable.

 

And there’s no need. If one feels the need for something that tastes like meat, there are already plenty of plant-based alternatives available. Field Roast, Gardein, Tofurky, Yves, etc. As noted above, ever more flavourful alternatives are on the horizon.

 

By the way, there is a new cheese alternative on the horizon, too. This one will even have plant (actually, yeast)-based casein in it. The cows’ milk protein has been engineered into the yeast. It’s not as scary as it sounds.

 

And, if you must eat meat, do the responsible thing. Eat the plant-based stuff.

 

David Steele is a molecular biologist retired in 2013 from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of British Columbia. He has also held faculty positions at Cornell and Queen’s Universities. Dr. Steele has been Earthsave Canada‘s President since 2009. He is also a regular contributing writer to the Earthsave Canada newsletter and an occasional contributor to various other publications.

 

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New shocks follow Europe’s horsemeat scandal!

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The horsemeat scandal that has rocked Europe may be just the tip of the iceberg, as new revelations about the food supply emerge.  European consumers expressed revulsion when it was revealed that frozen lasagne and other products where contaminated with up to 100 per cent horsemeat.

But now a new shock about food products has turned the stomachs of shoppers and diners in Britain and across the continent:  It has emerged that the flesh of other dead animals, not just horses, is rampant throughout the food system.  For example, it has been revealed that dishes such as roast lamb and lamb stew actually contain the flesh of a baby animal of the same name.  Investigators have also discovered that the entrée known as veal is made from another baby animal called a calf.  There are now indications that the entire human diet may be contaminated with the flesh of a range of dead animals.

British consumers interviewed about the revelations were appalled.  “You mean every Sunday I’ve been eating one of the cute little spring lambs I’ve taken my children to see in the countryside?” said one horrified woman.

A man in a pub refused to finish his lunch when told that steak and kidney pie actually contains the organs of a slaughtered animal.  “What, you mean the kidney is actually a kidney?” said the disgusted diner.

Another diner, who said he had been sick to learn about horses being used for food because they were so sensitive and intelligent, was dumbstruck when told that his ham sandwich was made from a sensitive and intelligent animal called a pig.

Government officials have suggested that the contamination may be the work of “organized criminal gangs” who have introduced the flesh into the food chain.  There are dark rumours that this may even have happened on a global scale, with so-called “factory farms” keeping billions of animals in inhumane conditions before killing them and distributing their body parts for huge profits.

However, scientists and bureaucrats have dismissed the rumours, stating that it’s unthinkable for such a cruel system to exist.  “It’s impossible to believe that anyone could organize something so brutal on such a scale,” said one official.  “No civilized society would ever allow such a thing to happen.”

An environmental expert said such a system would also be unsustainable.  “It would use up an enormous amount of resources, pollute our air, land and water and contribute to climate change through massive releases of greenhouse gases,” he said.   “The human race would never be so self-destructive.”

And health officials say that if people were eating a diet heavy in animal flesh we would be seeing high rates of obesity, cancer, heart disease and diabetes.  “It just couldn’t happen,” said one medical expert.  “It would be almost suicidal for society to take up such a diet and we’re a lot smarter than that.”

 

 

 

 

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Why we say “eat less meat”

Visitors to the VHS website will note that we have a project called ‘Eat less meat,’ which provides information on the consequences of meat production and consumption.  It explains the animal suffering caused by factory farming and also refers to the negative impacts on the environment and human health. And, obviously, it encourages people to respond to these issues by eating less meat.

For some, especially ethical vegans and vegetarians, eating “less” meat may seem a tepid response to a system responsible for the slaughter and abuse of billions of animals.

It’s absolutely true that veganism, abstaining from all animal products, is the best response to factory farming and other forms of  animal cruelty.  If all human beings were vegan an immense amount of animal suffering would simply disappear.  It’s something worth aiming for, as both a personal goal and as an ideal for human society.

VHS’s position is that any movement toward that goal should be encouraged and that no one who falls short should be demonized.  So a heavy meat-eater who reduces meat consumption or a flexitarian who becomes a vegetarian or a vegetarian who becomes a vegan should all be applauded.  They are all on the same path and they are all making a difference.

Animal advocates, academics and philosophers are currently engaged in complex debates about human responsibilities toward animals and the moral issues surrounding meat consumption. Sadly, these debates can be bitter and divisive, leaving the animal rights movement fractured and fractious.

To outside observers it can sometimes appear that the debate is about competing for moral purity rather than addressing animal suffering.  Negative stereotypes of vegans and vegetarians, often fostered by the media, portray them as intolerant, humourless zealots.  Such misconceptions, though unfair and untrue, do have to be taken into account when encouraging people to address farm animal suffering by moving toward a plant-based diet.  Perceptions matter.

There is some evidence that omnivores resent ethical vegetarians because they perceive (inaccurately) that they are being harshly judged.  It is possible that the very people the animal rights movement wants to engage on this issue are being turned off by this perceived “holier-than-thou” attitude.  They feel demonized as morally inferior before anyone can even begin a discussion with them about the benefits of reducing or eliminating meat consumption.

That’s why VHS advocates eating less meat.  Anyone can do that.  And, once you start, it’s not hard to reduce meat consumption one step at a time.  There has never been a time when cutting out meat was so easy.  There are more meatless options in supermarkets and restaurants than ever.  There are more vegetarian and vegan cookbooks available and a wealth of online information on plant-based diets.

There are also plenty of studies showing why reducing meat consumption is good for human health, the environment and, of course, animals.  More people are becoming aware of these facts.  By becoming one of them and taking whatever steps you can to address the issue, you can make a difference.

 

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Food and Drink News/Blog

Vancouver’s Oakwood Bistro latest to go cage-free

Oakwood uses local certified organic free-range eggs

The Oakwood Canadian Bistro is the latest Vancouver restaurant to eliminate eggs from caged hens from their menu, and use certified organic free-range eggs instead. The Oakwood already serves Oceanwise seafood and meat that is local, organic and free of antibiotics and hormones. Regarding their switch to cage-free eggs, owner Mike Shea said “We want to be consistent in what we are providing our customers, whether they are joining us for brunch or dinner.”  They also serve up THE BEST vegetarian warm winter salad (warm kale, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts in a lemon parmesan dressing, or remove the parmesan for a vegan version).

Visit The Oakwood Bistro on West 4th near MacDonald, 604.558.1965, or view their menu online.

VHS’s ChickenOUT! campaign is working to encourage more restaurants to go cage-free.  Here’s a list of restaurants that have already gone cage-free.