Healthy Food Comes from Healthy Land, Not from Laboratories

Manufactured meat substitutes do nothing to restore the ecosystems and rural communities ravaged by industrial agriculture.

Will Harris September 5, 2020

Impossible Foods CEO Pat Brown holds up a plant-based Impossible Burger at a press event in Las Vegas in 2019. Photo by Robyn Beck / AFP via Getty Images

Edi­tor’s Note: This arti­cle was orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished by Regen­er­a­tion Inter­na­tion­al and is repub­lished here with permission.

All of my life I have heard, and used, the expres­sion Liv­ing off of the Fat of the Land.”

To me, that expres­sion means doing well from the excess­es that come from what you have. It is kind of like liv­ing on the inter­est that is paid on your sav­ings account.

The def­i­n­i­tion of the idiomat­ic phrase sup­ports that meaning:

To live off the fat of the land means to live well, to live off the sur­round­ing abun­dance. The term live off the fat of the land was first used in the King James Ver­sion of the Bible, trans­lat­ed 1611, in Gen­e­sis 45:18: And take your father and your house­holds, and come unto me: and I will give you the good of the land of Egypt, and ye shall eat the fat of the land.”

The Fat of the Lab is very new. The Fat of the Land has been under testing for a really long time.

An ecosys­tem that is oper­at­ing opti­mal­ly results in an abun­dance, which is true wealth. This abun­dance occurs only when the car­bon cycle, water cycle, min­er­al cycle, ener­gy cycle, micro­bial cycle, and all of the myr­i­ad of oth­er cycles are oper­at­ing properly.

Food that is pro­duced nat­u­ral­ly in a good work­ing ecosys­tem is good for you. It is what nature pro­duces, and what we evolved to eat. It is the true Fat of the Land.

(Photo courtesy of White Oak Pastures Farm)

Sad­ly, indus­tri­al, cen­tral­ized, com­mod­i­ty farm­ing prac­tices are very effec­tive at break­ing these nat­ur­al cycles. Much of the food that we now eat is man­u­fac­tured in a lab­o­ra­to­ry. I think of it as the Fat of the Lab.

We now make meat in lab­o­ra­to­ries through meth­ods that come from reduc­tion­ist sci­ence. We are told that this fat (and pro­tein) of the lab are bet­ter for us than the fat (and pro­tein) of the land.

In a recent inter­view with CNBC, Impos­si­ble Foods CEO Patrick Brown expressed how he thinks the meat mar­ket will be obso­lete in 20 years.

From a nutri­tion­al stand­point our prod­ucts match the pro­tein qual­i­ty and con­tent of the ani­mal prod­ucts that they replace,” Brown said in a Mad Mon­ey” inter­view. Ours is a clear win­ner from a health and nutri­tion standpoint.”

This is why I think peo­ple are increas­ing­ly aware plant-based prod­ucts are going to com­plete­ly replace the ani­mal-based prod­ucts in the food world with­in the next 15 years. That’s our mis­sion. That trans­for­ma­tion is inevitable,” he said.

What could pos­si­bly go wrong in these lab­o­ra­to­ries? Many sci­en­tif­ic process­es and tech­nolo­gies are invent­ed through reduc­tion­ist sci­ence. These sci­en­tif­ic meth­ods almost always have unin­tend­ed con­se­quences that go unno­ticed, often for decades.

Of course, there can be good con­se­quences (like peni­cillin, for exam­ple). But more often than not, what we may call a sci­en­tif­ic break­through” at the time can lat­er be rec­og­nized and recalled for dan­ger­ous unin­tend­ed consequences.

Think about the num­ber of mod­i­fi­ca­tions that we tried to impose on nat­ur­al cycles, only to find out the unin­tend­ed con­se­quences lat­er: using chlo­ro­flu­o­ro­car­bons (CFCs) as a refrig­er­ant or in aerosol sprays that deplet­ed the ozone, adding antibi­otics in poul­try and live­stock feed that are grow­ing antibi­ot­ic-resis­tant dis­eases, elim­i­nat­ing wolves from nation­al parks that led to over­pop­u­la­tion and starvation.

Brown says that the trans­for­ma­tion from meat to plant-based prod­ucts made in a lab is inevitable.” To that I say:

• There is no nat­ur­al cycle that cre­ates fake meat.

• There is no regen­er­a­tion of land when meat is made in a lab.

• Nor is there any rever­sal of the impov­er­ish­ment of rur­al Amer­i­ca that was caused by indus­tri­al­ized agriculture.

• There is noth­ing inevitable or per­ma­nent about cre­at­ing a new man­u­fac­tur­ing process, unknown to nature.

The Fat of the Lab is very new. The Fat of the Land has been under test­ing for a real­ly long time. In our fam­i­ly, we’ve been liv­ing and eat­ing The Fat of our Land since 1866. I trust cows and hogs a hel­lu­va lot more than I trust chemists and marketers.

Will Har­ris, own­er of White Oaks Pas­tures Farm in Bluffton, Geor­gia, is a fifth-gen­er­a­tion farmer and ranch­er and a co-chair of the nation­al coali­tion of U.S. Farm­ers & Ranch­ers for a Green New Deal.

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