Weird Science: Can Lab-Grown Meat Be Considered Vegetarian/Vegan?

This is my first blog post while on my internship in Idaho! I am going to examine in vitro meat, and discuss with consumers if it’s something they are interested in, and if it can be considered vegan or vegetarian.

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Hello from Pocatello, Idaho!  I am finally on my internship, meaning my route to becoming a Registered Dietitian is super close!

Anyway, in food, there are a lot of oddities that arise when science gets thrown in.  For example, the botanists told the food people that strawberries are NOT a berry, but bananas are (it has to do with where the seeds of each plant are located, and skin thickness).  One such example of something new is in vitro meat, or more commonly referred to as lab grown meat, or cultured meat.

Cultured meat is essentially meat cells are added to a solution, and that allows them to grow free of the animal.  This can reduce concerns about ethical treatment of animals, can reduce the carbon foot print of meat production, and can make meat much more affordable.  However, the invention of in vitro meat brings about other questions, such as can cultured meat be considered vegetarian/vegan, and how will consumers perceive it?

Lab-grown meat is made when muscle stem cells are added to a collagen “goo,” and allowed to grow with other regenerative solutions.  This essentially allows meat to be made without killing an animal.  However, it has not been perfected yet, and still lacks some components of what makes meat desirable, such as marbling.

My stance is that cultured meat is not going to be considered vegetarian or vegan for the large population.  While an animal is not directly involved in the process of making the meat, it is still made from animal cells.  For me, vegetarian is not eating meat, aside from animal products (such as eggs, cheese, and milk), whereas vegan is NO animal products whatsoever.  Lab-grown meat does not fit in with either of these definitions, as it is still made from animal muscle, even if it’s grown in a pitri dish.

As a fun thing I asked a few people I knew what their opinion on the topic was.  Sara Kerr, a fellow nutrition student, had this to say: “I would think by definition it may be able to be considered vegan, but I wouldn’t think all vegans would be interested in eating it since people choose to be vegan for a spectrum of reasons, be it moral, health, social, cultural, or economic. I could see there being some variation on vegetarianism that this would fall under, similar to lacto-ovo vegetarian. Maybe synth-meat vegetarians or a trendier moniker that rolls off the tongue a little nicer.”

Another person said “Yuck. I won’t eat it. I support sustainable and humane animal raising. How are we to know is this “meat” is animal, vegetable or even human. No Petri dish sirloin for me! Soylent green next?”  To answer the question, it has to do with where the stem cells come from, so for example, while plants can move, they do not have muscle.  There are standards for food in place that would prevent humans from being eaten… for now.  Someone else was in agreement with the previous statement saying ” I don’t think I could handle it. Gross!”

However, not all people are opposed to the idea.  One person said “ Lab grown meat sounds amazing,”  with another saying ” If they can make it work and make it affordable I’d be down. My only wonder is whether or not this meat would be all lean or if they could also grow marbled meats.”  Right now, it sounds like it’s only lean meats are being grown, but I would think marbling would be possible.

So what do you all think?  How does lab-grown meat sound to you?  Do you think it could be considered vegan or vegetarian?  Comment your opinions below!

I’d like to give special thanks to Sara Kerr.  You can find her website here, and her Instagram here.  Go ahead and check out her work, she has some fantastic photos and artwork.

Fake News: How to Navigate Information

There is a lot of trash on the internet. This is some of my advice on finding what is useful to you.

Wow, look at this!  Mr. Blogman is back at it again.  Maybe this term will be kinder to me by actually allowing me to have freetime.

Fake news is one of those terms that people throw around like crazy.  Something for your point is valid, whereas if something goes against it, it becomes the increasingly cliched term “fake news.”  However, within the realm of food and nutrition, there is a lot of fake news.  I jokingly tell many people in my dietetics cohort “anyone online who is writing about nutrition either knows jack-shit, or is a dietitian.”  While this is a hyperbolized statement, it highlights the fact that there are many blogs out there from people who have no idea what they are talking about.  This post (which may or may not be fake news) is going to help you navigate the confusion.

Who wrote the article?:  This can show a lot about how reliable the article is.  Moms are fantastic people.  In fact, one helped to make me the sarcastic asshole  intelligent young man I am today.  However, a good portion of them are not educated in nutrition or medicine.  A mommy blog arguing against vaccines and promoting homeopathy is not reliable, because they are going against the vast amounts of research done showing the contrary.  Same goes for scientists as well.  Science is attacked by everyone, including other scientists.  When I research a topic, I look where there are more voices, rather than the loudest.  If 99 published articles say something (like fruits and vegetables are healthy), and one opposes it (if they say that fruits and vegetables are actually going to give you cancer because of some compound in all plants), then we need to examine the one that’s against.  Sometimes, this is can find something new that we did not know yet, and warrants further education.  Other times, they are full of shit.

What do they have to gain from writing the article?:  Nobody does anything for nothing.  Hell, I write this blog because I want to get my nutritional foot in the door.  Most times, articles are written for money.  Most of the times, money comes from ads, and advertisers want view and engagement.  This means articles get trashy and worthless.  Sometimes these articles will use catchy titles to bait you into clicking on them (for example, THIS one Food in Your Kitchen is DEADLY, and You are EATING It.  The answer is water, because it can be dangerous when super heated, and can cause electrolyte imbalances if too much is drunk).  Emotional trickery, especially anger, can lead you to share the article with people, leading to more views.  Sometimes, health professionals and amateurs can be paid to sponsor a product.  This does not mean it’s a healthy product, but that someone paid someone to say something valuable about it.

How reputable is the source?:  Sometimes the platform can make or break a source.  Several media outlets have shown themselves to not be reputable with their reporting, and this is used against one side or another (be it politics, health, or current events).  I can assure you, whether you are for or against a topic, there are good and bad sources on either side.  On social media, I’ve seen so many image macros (or memes) about bashing one side or the other.  There are valid points to both sides, yet it gets lost with who you are talking to.  I can even praise homeopathy for a component that modern medicine lacks:  empathy.  Some sources have tarnished their credibility to Hell.

Glory: Are Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Healthier than Canned or Frozen?

Right off the bat, some readers out there might be thinking “Yeah, of course it is.  Canned goods have extra stuff added to them.”

Some might be thinking “No, because otherwise why would this guy make a blog post about it?”

Well, the latter is correct.  From what I have researched, fresh, frozen, and canned all have similar nutrients across the same product.  Meaning it would be unfair to compare something like the Vitamin A content of canned pumpkin puree to canned applesauce, because pumpkin naturally has a higher vitamin A content (1 cup of cubed pumpkin has 197% of the Daily Value of Vitamin A, whereas 1 cup of cubed apples only has 1%).

One research study from 2007 found that while canning a product does lower the amount of water soluble vitamins (such as Vitamin C and the B vitamins), the process happens the same if you were to cook the product.  So even if you bought the produce fresh or frozen and cooked it, you would still experience some of the nutrient loss.

However, another study from 2012 found that while there are these losses in canned products, the loss exists in the “juice” with the canned goods.  Canning also increases the available Vitamin A and fiber in some products.  This study also looked at the nutrition quality across fresh, frozen, and canned and found for the same product their nutrition was pretty much the same, or similar enough.  Canned goods might actually be cheaper than fresh or frozen, too.

In my nutrition classes, we have talked about this too.  One thing that happens with fresh produce is that it loses its quality overtime.  Fresh produce might have been picked too soon and ripened elsewhere, or the quality degrades as it’s shipped from farm to where you bought it, and then further when you leave it in your refrigerator.

My opinion is buy what you are able to, and what you want.  Eating your fruits and vegetables is a good thing.  Even looking into ways to use some of these foods in new and creative ways might be fun (such as using frozen fruit in a smoothie, or using canned produce in a soup or stew).  To take a phrase from a behavioral marketing campaign from where I work:  “Fresh, Frozen or Canned, It’s All Good!”

What do you guys think?  Have a preference of fresh, frozen, or canned?  Any ideas on how to use them in cooking?  Feel free to comment them below!

Fat Country: A General Guide for Different Fats

Food and nutrition can be confusing.  One such way is with fats.  There are so many types out there, and debate about if they are healthy or not.  Thanks to its poorly-moderated nature, the internet has all sorts of misinformation out there.  Today I am going to be making a short-hand guide to hopefully help you be a better educated consumer!

 

FAT:  This is a general term for boring biochemical stuff.  It comes in one of three forms in foods (I know there’s a lot of different ways this stuff can end up before or after being eaten, but this is a general short guide for any of you science people out there who want to criticize me for overly simplifying this!).  It can be found in saturated, unsaturated and trans-fat varieties for cooking.  Other forms are used in the body for various functions

SATURATED FAT:  This is the kind that doctors call “unhealthy fat.”  It plays a role in increasing blood cholesterol, which can cause damage to the blood vessels and heart.  It’s found in foods like butter and other animal products.  Typically, this is found in a solid form at room temperature.

UNSATURATED FAT:  This is the kind that doctors call the “good fats.”  It can help lower bad cholesterol in the body.  These are found in liquid form at room temperature.  Foods like nuts and avocados are high in saturated fat.

TRANS-FAT:  These are most commonly found as synthetically made fats (they can actually exist in nature, but they are pretty rare).  Essentially some food chemist does their mumbojumbo science stuff to some unsaturated fats, and it becomes solid at room temperature.  They are also more shelf stable than other kinds of oils.  However, they also increase the risk of developing heart and vessel issues.  In fact, the FDA removed it from the “generally regarded as safe” list!  This means that foods with trans-fats in them must undergo reviews to ensure consumer safety.

TROPICAL OILS:  These are things like palm oil and coconut oil.  Many people think coconut oil is a healthier option when compared to butter.  Unfortunately, this type of oil has A LOT of saturated fat.  More so than butter!  Some websites proclaim this as a healthy oil, but so far my research does not indicate that.

 

Any comments, questions, or anything else you would like to say?  Leave them below!

Stay Bullet: Why I Don’t Believe in Silver Bullet Miracle Foods

Why I don’t believe the media hype involving certain foods.

Recently, Time magazine posted an article about how the spice turmeric might not be a “miracle spice” after all.  A recent research article reported that there has not been a well-designed research trial done on the spice yet.  So, what gives?  Why is this even a big issue with food?  Can’t people just enjoy their food in peace without some asshole on the internet blogging about it?

To answer the lattermost question:  No, I blog about food, it’s what I do.  Secondly, the term “miracle food” or any derivative gets thrown out there like it’s no big deal.  Anything that might have some semblance of increasing metabolism or being incredibly rich in vitamins and minerals causes media to latch on and blow up its properties to hell.  Even Googling “miracle food” turns up results that things like chocolate are a miracle food.

The issue with proclaiming foods have mystical properties can have a variety of effects.  In the best situation, some foods can be found to be beneficial, in worst cases, it can have harmful effects.  For example, news media lists several health benefits of drinking beer.  A Huffington Post article lists some of these benefits as being high in some micronutrients, such as vitamin B, and healthier aging in women because it might play a role in improving blood circulation.

Now, I love me my local brews.  Being an Oregonian, I have access to several craft beers.  Not a hipster, though, as much as I can sound like one.  However, alcohol does have several downsides.  Alcohol can be addictive, which can lead to alcoholism.  Alcohol can also cause issues with the liver, which for those of you not familiar with human anatomy, the liver is a detoxifying organ.  Alcohol also inhibits a hormone in the body that helps regulate hydration, which means over consumption of this “healthy” beverage is detrimental.

I also hate the term “miracle food” or “silver bullet to combat _____.”  Might be because I am a hypercritical douche, but that’s beside the point.  To me, the terms imply that the food is a be-all-end-all to becoming healthy.  Imagine, a world in which all you need to do is eat turmeric (a spice in curry powder) and drink beer, and suddenly you become the pinnacle of human health!

What do you guys reading this think?  Am I off base here, or is “miracle food” an overused term that overemphasizes the benefits and downplays the negatives of certain foods?

Happy Thanksgiving!

College student explains the Thanksgiving sleepiness.

Here’s wishing my  readers that celebrate it a happy thanksgiving.  I know I for one am thankful for the break; these past few weeks have been punching my dick into oblivion with all the classwork.  For everyone else readers, well, happy Thursday to you.

One thing people believe about their upcoming meal of turkey and all the other foods out there is that the turkey meat knocks you into a coma.  It makes sense.  When do a lot of people eat turkey meat?  Thanksgiving.  But, what if I was to say that this thought process is wrong, and it seems to be more the meat is at the wrong place at the wrong time.

The theory on the Post-Thanksgiving Meal Coma is that turkey is high in the amino acid, L-Tryptophan.  Tryptophan (in biochemical terms, the “L” simply means if it is facing one way or another) is a precursor to serotonin and melanin.  Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that helps regulate things like appetite, sleeping, and mood.  Melanin is the neurotransmitter responsible for sleep cycle regulation.  So here is where the misconception is.  Everyone knows turkey is high in tryptophan, which means that eating it causes your body to produce more sleepy-time chemicals.  Case solved, let’s go get hella wasted.  But not so fast, Capt. Drunko, there is more to this case than association.

Foods high in tryptophan include red meat and cheese.  Basically foods that are in almost every single meal in America.  Which is odd, because by that logic, people who eat a cheeseburger should be passing out once they eat their meal.  Huh, interesting.  So after all that biochemical bullshit using words I learned in my biochemistry class, that was NOT the reason why people get sleepy after Thanksgiving dinner?

Well, there is actually a very simple reason that might have been overlooked.  We really need to get to the heart of this.  Or actually, more like the cardiac sphincter.  As in the stomach.  You see, digestion requires energy.  The stomach and intestines actually have muscles that need blood.  When you consume a lot of food, there is a lot of blood needed in this area, and not in others, like your skeletal muscles.  What is a good way to make sure more blood goes to the gut, and not anywhere else?  Immobilize the person.  So essentially, the reason you get tired is because you ate too much.  Kinda interesting to think about, right?

Change in the House of Food: The Upcoming Changes to the Nutrition Panel

A brief run-down of what changes to the food label the FDA is implementing soon.

There are some changes happening with the nutrition panel.  You know, that thing on the back of foods that you might or might not look at, depending on how much you care (or how much you want to scare yourself with some foods).  These changes come from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), citing things like updated research, better links between food and chronic disease, and easier readability.

Some of the changes include bolding the amount of Calories per serving, and removing the Calories from Fat information.  Labels still need to put fat content on the label, but research shows the type of fat matters more than the amount of Calories from eating it.  Instead of being required to list vitamins A and C on food labels, manufacturers are now required to put vitamin D and potassium on the label.  The amount of added sugars is also being listed, as it has been found that excess sugar consumption can make it difficult to reach nutrient goals.  Below is a picture highlighting the relevant information:

difference.png

© US Food and Drug Administration 2016

The label is also changing the serving size of many foods.  The serving size is now being based off of what people actually eat, rather than what manufacturers think people should eat.  This means some packages that are typically eaten in one sitting are now listed as one serving.  Other packages might have multiple columns; one showing per reference serving, and one showing per package.  To make sense of this, the serving size of soda is going up from 8 oz. to 12 oz.  A 20 oz. bottle would be labeled as one serving, because it is less than two servings.  A 24 oz. bottle would be dual columned, one for the 12 oz. serving, and one for the whole bottle, since people often consume this in one sitting.  Again, below is a picture from the FDA detailing the changes:

serving-sizes

© US Food and Drug Administration 2016

So, when can people expect this change to happen?  In July 26th, 2018, food manufacturers that make more than 10 million in sales are required to update to the new label, whereas those who make less than 10 million have until 2019 to comply.

So what do you guys think?  Is this change a beneficial one, a negative one, or something in between?

For more information check out the FDA website here.