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Hart Attacks: What happened to the “reality check”?

Increasingly I am getting the message that the world is running from reality.

Maybe it’s been happening for a half million years or so of evolution, but it seems just about every day someone is excited about something artificial being better than “real.”

Take food for example. Meat and potatoes (with vegetables in season) kept humans running for thousands of years (the menu was probably a bit more complex than that, but I’m trying to keep the point simple).

Today it seems a growing number of consumers (along with food service companies) are falling over themselves trying to build and later enjoy artificial meat.

Some companies have devoted themselves to actually growing protein tissue in a lab to produce meat without animals. In another stream the focus is on producing products that look and taste like meat but they are really plant based. Beyond Meat produces plant-based products. Why is it called Beyond Meat? Beyond Meat makes me think of a galaxy far, far away, or at least another level above meat. It would make sense, for example, to call brandy Beyond Wine since it is made from distilled wine.

But Beyond Meat has nothing to do with meat. And why dress it up to look so much like a good old beef burger? If you really want to get away from the horrifying image of a dead cow burger, make plant-based patties green, white or tan coloured.

And on another point, too bad somebody doesn’t have a patent on what defines a hamburger or beef burger. The dairy industry got up in arms a few years ago when soy milk and other products that contained no dairy were actually in the dairy case at the grocery store. So now consumers have to look for soy or almond beverage products (its not called milk) and a block of Velveeta is a few feet away in the “we’re not sure what it is” grocery aisle.

A & W and Tim Hortons are all over this artificial food fad or trend. I was reading an article with a picture of a happy and healthy young Ontario family with a baby, just so glad that they had found Tim Horton’s new meatless and eggless breakfast sandwiches made from plants. I can see the marketing campaign now — “Pork sausage and a real hen’s egg isn’t good for you so try our new mung bean protein-isolate products on our real freshly baked, gluten-free, almond flour English muffin.” That’s a catchy message with a “real” ring to it.

Another so-called new area that seems to have people avoiding reality, particularly over the past year, is the interest in marijuana (let’s say drugs in general). I’m no old prude planning to launch a 2019 temperance league. Go ahead. Enjoy a few drinks or smoke a few joints, relax and mellow out, there is nothing wrong with that. But there just seems to be an importance or urgency among certain people to have cannabis as accessible as possible. I somehow read into that urgency a message that says “I need this stuff because otherwise how will I cope with my day.” I might be wrong.

On a similar but different level, there is the opioid crisis which continues to take a daily human toll across this country. Are all the opioid and other drug users essentially collateral damage from prescription painkillers handed out to deal with real physical pain? I think there is a certain percentage of the addicted who were looking to take the edge off reality and got snagged by addiction.

It is a costly business. The most recent figures from the Canadian Centre on Substance Use estimate substance use (or abuse) in Canada (that’s booze, drugs and tobacco) costs the Canadian economy nearly $40 billion per year, representing a cost of $1,100 to every man, woman and child in the country, and resulting in nearly 68,000 deaths.

I was trying to find similar statistics on the economic toll of people eating and dying from the effects of real, whole food, like meat and potatoes and vegetables in season but it’s just not showing up. The numbers must be too staggering to contemplate.

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.

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