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John Sanbonmatsu: Why ‘fake’ meat isn’t

January 21, 2020


Source Wikimedia Commons, Vegan Ripple Milk


Source St. Louis Post Dispatch
By John Sanbonmatu

Is it fraud to sell “veggie burgers”, “chickenless nuggets”, or “tofu dogs”? What about to call a beverage made from soy beans “soy milk”?

According to the meat and dairy lobbies, it is. Alarmed by declining sales of dairy and beef and by growing interest in veganism, agribusiness has been pushing legislation to outlaw the use of “meaty” and “milky” words in the marketing of plant-based foods. Last year, Missouri enacted a “real meat” law, making it illegal to sell plant-based products using meat-like words. Louisiana and Mississippi passed virtually identical bills last summer, and similar legislation is pending in half of the nation’s states.
Backers of the new bills claim that referring to plant-based foods as “meat” or “milk” is unprecedented, and therefore deceptive. However, it is they who are deceiving the public — by ignoring a thousand years of past English usage.

Only in recent decades, in fact, have we come to associate the word “meat” exclusively with the flesh of animals. The word derives from the Old English mete, for food, nourishment or sustenance. As late as the 1970s, the Oxford English Dictionary still gave the primary definition of meat as “food in general: anything used as nourishment for man or animals; usually solid food, in contradistinction to drink.” Meat was therefore synonymous with “meal, repast, or feast.”

Once common, now archaic terms listed in that dictionary include “meat-giver” (one who provides food), “meat-while” (“the time of taking food, meal-time”), and even “meat-lust” (signifying not an erotic attachment to bacon, but merely “an appetite for food”). Even “meatless” (a word we now associate only with vegetarianism) for centuries merely meant to be “without food.”

Potatoes, too, were considered meat, as were “crumbled bread and oatmeal.” A child sent to “collect meat for the cattle” would have been asked to gather provender, not carcasses. “Green-meat,” as it was termed, referred to any “grass or green vegetables used for food or fodder,” whether consumed by humans or domesticated animals. Similar usages of plant meat remained common into the early 20th century.

“Meat” has also long been used in its more restrictive sense, to refer to animal flesh. But again, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, it was more common for “meat” to refer to “the edible parts of fruit, nuts, eggs, etc.; the pulp, kernel, yoke, and white, etc., in contradistinction to the rind, peel, or shell.” Hence the still common expression, “getting to the meat of the matter.”

Why this broader usage? Because for most of human existence, flesh has played only a supporting role in the human diet. Vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts and legumes have oftentimes provided the bulk of our nourishment. It was bread that our ancestors called “the staff of life,” not chicken or pork.

A similar falsification of the history of English usage is now occurring too with “fake milk” bills. In April, the Louisiana Legislature, under urging by the Louisiana Cattlemen’s Association, passed a bill making it illegal to sell as “milk” anything that doesn’t come from a “hooved mammal”.

The Food and Drug Association proposes that milk be defined as the “lacteal secretion … obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows.” Chris Galen, vice president of the National Milk Producers Federation, has similarly stated: “You don’t got milk if it comes from a nut or a seed or a grain or a weed.”

In fact, referring to the secretions of nuts, seeds and grains as “milk” has been common since at least the 15th century. The Oxford English Dictionary cites “the milk of cocoa nuts,” the milk of figs, and the “milks of wild-poppies, garden-poppies, dandelions, hawk-weed, and sow-thistle.” “Milk” need not even refer to a foodstuff. At your local pharmacy you’ll still find a suspension of magnesium hydroxide used for upset stomachs, called Phillip’s Milk of Magnesia. (And where would we be without “the milk of human kindness”?)

If we have forgotten these once-common usages, it is only because the animal industry wants us to believe that only foods derived from animals can be truly nourishing. Amid growing public awareness of the ecological and ethical problems associated with raising and killing billions of animals for food, the industry now hopes to obliterate the last cultural traces of these earlier meanings, wiping clean our collective memory. But we should be allowed to have our plant meats and milks — and eat and drink them, too.

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Food for thought
As we all know
Only eat that which
From the ground,

Karen Lyons Kalmenson

6 Comments leave one →
  1. January 21, 2020 12:43 pm

    Food for thought
    As we all know
    Only eat that which from
    The ground, grows.


  2. January 21, 2020 12:44 pm

    Food for thought
    As we all know
    Only eat that which
    From the ground,

    Liked by 1 person

  3. January 21, 2020 1:03 pm

    Yes, I’ve already read stuff like that. They really make me smile… little bastard assholes.
    But tell me: what the heck of difference does the use of “similar” words to define a without cruelty article?
    The problem is that humans are so accustomed to the consumption of food of animal origin that it is difficult to “coin” a new vocabulary.
    Not that it’s impossible, I’m sure.
    But it takes time…
    Calling sausage or hamburger a piece of cornatur or soya, what difference can it make?
    Ahhh, but of course, the damned competition to make money, more and more money (by the Lobbies and producers of products derived from animal meat).
    Then let’s not forget the different languages ​​spoken around the planet… and the need to translate each word.
    As for me, the cow’s milk I would call it “cow breast secretion”
    eh eh eh eh enough to make you pass the desire to drink it!
    Let their skin peel off, cause of their lucubrations.
    But of course, the planet is burning, in Davos, they are filling their bellies and then going to the bathroom… smiles, and promises that end in nothing, while more than a billion of poor creatures are burned alive in Australia.
    This. Fuck. This is what should be considered to bring down there billions, try in every way to put out the fires by saving the poor creatures always in danger. And then reforest, rebuild, start from scratch…
    I also read very sad news of Aboriginal people (the real masters of Australia) who are at risk, having to move to the metropolises… you don’t have to look in dusty books to realize what happened with other primordial civilizations: the Indians of America, tribes of the Amazonas, ethnic groups all over the world who have been exterminated by diseases unknown to them, and then defaced in their centuries-old traditions.
    Yeah, nice stuff: this is the White Man, the powerful asshole on duty.
    Sorry Stacey, but sometimes the rebel inside my heart must come out. I can’t stand any longer silent using a proper lady-language.
    Please forgive me and if you feel necessary, you can avoid publishing my comment. Hugs and love :-)c

    Liked by 1 person

    • January 21, 2020 5:47 pm

      People feel threatened when vegans use their “terminology”, it is absolute inanity, like you can copyright a word, and as was demonstrated very well by John, they’re wrong in the first place. But really, it’s not enough that they cause suffering and then kill innocent sentient beings, now they want to patent a word? Why don’t they call what they eat, what it really is, it’s not meat or milk, it’s as you say, secretions, or flesh, or bloody pulp.

      You never have to apologize for speaking out and on behalf of those who are oppressed or victimized, you feel free to say what needs to be said, I appreciate your input. Nothing is more offensive than treating other people like trash or animals like products and then killing: that’s offensive, not the words people use to speak out against such atrocities.

      No forgiveness necessary, beautiful Claudine, thank you as always for your comments and wisdom. xox

      Liked by 1 person

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