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February 10, 2019, 8:16 pm GMT

By Olivia Roos

Located in a vibrant area of ​​Manhattan's NoHo district, Saxon and Parole offers a meat-based menu with two-way bone marrow and four different steaks. But the restaurant also serves something called the Impossible Burger.

It is a laboratory pulp containing wheat and potato proteins, coconut oil and heme, a protein derived from soybeans that is the key to the hamburger. appearance and flavor of meat. The latest version of the Impossible Burger, published at Consumer electronics showcase in January, won good reviews of the gourmetswho says it tastes surprisingly fleshy.

Chef Brad Farmerie, eager to rise to the challenge of making an indiscriminately meatless dish between his beefy cousins, was one of the first five chefs that Impossible Foods chose to test the burger in 2017.

"They chose reputable chefs for cooking meat," Farmerie said. "Because as they say, it's not something they're trying to get vegetarians to hang on to."

Impossible Foods created the hamburger so that 92% of the population regularly eats meat to try meat substitutes. But despite his initial popularity, Impossible Burger does not seem likely to lower demand for beef burgers.

Americans love their beef and nothing indicates a slowdown in their consumption. In 2017, Americans consumed about 12 million metric tons (26 billion pounds) of beef, an increase of 8% from the 11 million metric tonnes (24 billion pounds) consumed in 1990.

The bond with beef is preserved by a huge machine marketing industry and fully supported by politicians at all levels. The federal government directly encourages Americans to consume large quantities of beef through a system called "Beef sampling program" supervised by the Department of Agriculture. And this year, Nebraska lawmakers will consider legislation restricting the label of "meat" to label herbal foods as meat.

Missouri passed such a law in August, and Wyoming, Tennessee, and Virginia are considering similar regulations. Such laws would prevent alternative meat companies from starting to label their products as "clean meat. "

Roger Horowitz, historian and author of "Putting Meat on the American Table", believes that American traditions around beef consumption go beyond hot dogs during the events of July 4th. Easy access to beef was appealing to many early immigrants.

"Having this access to meat equitably on all economic scales is part of democracy in America," Horowitz said. "Detractors in the food system need to think a lot about inequities and how these inequities translate into food choices."

Today, the American beef tradition has allowed the beef industry to become exceptionally popular and profitable, generating $ 95 billion a year, according to the report. United States Department of Agriculture.

Its place in the American culture can even be summed up in a well-known phrase: "The beef: it is what it is necessary for the dinner".

The slogan was an original idea marketing campaign funded by the Beef Marketing Board in 1992. Recently, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association reorganized this old campaign in an effort to use nostalgia to attract millennials who have grown up watching this TV marketing campaign.

This campaign is just one example of the beef industry's efforts to encourage the American beef tradition. In 2018, the meat industry spent a total of $ 6.52 million on lobbying campaigns (amounts calculated by combining Livestock and Processing of meat and products contributions from OpenSecrets). The National Cattlemen's Beef Association made the largest contribution, with $ 678,100.

In his book "Meatonomics," David Simon attempts to show how money lobbying campaigns on beef affect the federal government.

"The meat industry has been successful in convincing the government to help it continue to sell its products to consumers," said Simon. a lawyer, animal rights advocate and vegan. "Our government is spending $ 80 million just for beef to generate additional sales of $ 400 million each year. It's about telling people to eat beef. "

Simon thinks that reporting on beef, meat consuming the most resources, and climate change, will not convince Americans to reduce their consumption of beef. He added that the government should instead intervene and offer incentives, such as those offered occasionally to buyers of electric and hybrid cars.

"Senators have a lot of power and the beef industry has tremendous lobbying power because they are present in all states."

Marion Nestle

Former New York University nutrition professor Marion Nestle does not believe this is something the government would ever do. She has spent her career analyzing how the food sector and government influence consumers' food choices. Nestle said the government supports and relies on big beef.

"Senators have a lot of power and the beef sector has tremendous lobbying power because they are present in all states," she said.

The beef industry puts hundreds of thousands of dollars into political campaigns. As indicated on Open SecretsDuring the 2018 election cycle, livestock societies donated $ 278,656 to Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, $ 46,897 to representative Jim Costa, D-Calif., and $ 46,678 to Senator Martha McSally, R -Ariz. campaigns.

When the Advisory Committee on Dietary Guidelines 2015, consisting of health experts planning the dietary guidelines of the USDA, proposed to insert sustainability into the guidelines, the industry's beef knew who to talk to.

"They went straight to Congress and Congress asked the Secretary of Agriculture not to include food guidelines for sustainable development," said Nestlé.

The sustainability of the guidelines could encourage consumers to eat less meat, but on March 12, 2015, 30 senators, many of whom were receiving significant funding from the meat lobby, sent a message. letter to the USDA telling them not to include this in the dietary guidelines. (No Democrats have signed the letter.)

When the guidelines were published, sustainability was not mentioned.

The threat of climate change could become stronger, but so far, it does not seem to be a threat powerful enough to face a giant like the beef industry.

While Farmerie is happy to serve the Impossible Burger as an alternative to its meat-based menu, it does not expect it to replace the traditional beef patty soon.

"The beef industry is a gigantic machine," he said. "I think the huge machines are spinning very slowly."

CORRECTION (February 11, 2019, 10:56 ET): A previous version of this article inaccurately indicated the amount of beef consumed by Americans. This represented about 12 million tonnes of beef in 2017 and about 11 million tonnes in 1990, not 12,011 tonnes and 11,046 tonnes, respectively.