Deena Shanker, Food Writer for Bloomberg

The Plantbased Business Hour

We’ve all seen the Bloomberg article declaring plant-based meats a fad. Author of the article and long-time food reporter, Deena Shanker, joins Elysabeth Alfano on today’s Plant-based Business Hour to get into it.

Specifically, we discuss

  1. Do the grocery store sales figures from 2022 represent the whole sector?  What about food service numbers?
  2. Do plant-based foods claim to be healthy or healthier and is a healthier option meaningful for the consumer?
  3. Should we consider the environmental benefits that will push adoption and government investment?
  4. What about food insecurity and national security benefits that will push government investment and adoption?
  5. Is it too early to announce fad v. trend?

Here is a short clip and transcript from our long-form conversation.

Elysabeth: A big part of your article was also on health and the health benefits or not and I think this is where it gets, to me, the diciest. You pretty clearly feel that this is not a health food, am I summarizing that right?

Deena Shanker: I would just say that it’s not that I feel that it’s not a health food, it’s that I have not heard from a single person that isn’t selling these products that it’s a health food.

Elysabeth: Interesting.

Deena Shanker: So health professionals do not call it that.

Elysabeth: Interesting, so I’ve had Dr. Kim Williams, the lead cardiologist from Rush Medical Center in Chicago who’s the past president of the American College of Cardiology say specifically that he sees these as healthier than. Nothing’s a carrot.

Deena Shanker: ‘Healthier than’ is very different than health food.

Elysabeth: Well define health food, right?

Deena Shanker: A health food is something that promotes health.

Elysabeth: Loose.

Deena Shanker: Have you ever met a doctor that just said you should eat this? Or is it usually ‘you should eat this instead of’ or ‘is this a better choice’ or ‘maybe it’s a better choice?’ I’ve never heard any health professional that gives the kind of recommendation towards plant-based meats that they would give towards something like lentils or chickpeas.

I think that people want to say it’s healthier-ish maybe?

Elysabeth: And that’s the point: healthier. No one says it’s a carrot. I don’t think the companies themselves even claim that they would replace lentils or- they’re not in competition, for lack of a better expression, with lentils.

I do want to pull up some studies here. I’ve got to put on my glasses, gosh darn it. I want to pull up some studies here because you’re mentioning health professionals. I’ll just pull this up. I’m sorry for everyone listening on audio podcast. I’m reading here from the National Library of Medicine, “Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in men and the second in women worldwide. More than half of the cases occur in developed countries. The consumption of red meat (beef, pork, lamb, veal, mutton) is high in developed countries and accumulated evidence is convincing of an association between the intake of red meat and especially processed meat for colorectal cancer.”

I can do the same for- this is a Harvard study talking about trimethylamine N-oxide. From the Harvard study called, “Red Meat, Trimethylamine N-oxide and Your Heart.” It says “A substance called trimethylamine N-oxide is produced in your body when it digests red meat. It may raise the risk of cardiovascular problems.”

And then there’s also animal heme. “Animal heme is an essential nutrient from dietary proteins and critically impacts diverse physiological and pathological processes” basically saying here “a wide range of epidemiological studies have focused on examining the association of dietary heme intake, mainly from red meat, with risks of common diseases.” So you have asked about health professionals and I read these articles and see the ‘better than’ option.

New episodes are out every week. Never miss the Plantbased Business Hour or Minute. Subscribe on iTunes and Youtube, and sign up for the newsletter. Follow Elysabeth on Linkedin. For information on Plant Powered Consulting, click here.

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