veggie burger
Whatever this dry hockey puck is missing in flavour is more than made up for by the benefits of self-righteous virtue-signaling when eating it. Smug is the new satiety
Exploiting guilt has probably been used as a manipulative technique for driving behavior since humans evolved the ability to feel emotions. Most of us are thoroughly conditioned to do whatever is necessary to reduce feelings of guilt, and the reality-creators who decide what is and is not acceptable are as adept as an Italian mother at exploiting this fact. Global warming, identity politics, smoking, being overweight - by establishing through repetitive conditioning what is considered acceptable, and thoroughly admonishing those who don't conform to such behavior, the actions of the populace at large are controlled via emotional manipulation.

People are heavily guilt-tripped into correct behavior via diet. A lot of this comes from advertising, which is manipulative by nature, but it's also coming from most diet-related 'news' items in the mainstream media. These days the party line is essentially that meat is bad for you, bad for the environment, bad for the planet - and is unspeakably cruel on top of that. The closer you are to hardcore vegan, the better you are as a person.

See this manipulative meme as an example:
meat guilt
Rock-solid logic

An article recently published in New Scientist is typical of modern dietary propaganda. While framed as an exploration into how far food science has come in mimicking an actual burger through hyper-processed plant extracts, it serves as further fodder for manipulating people into eliminating the healthiest components of their diet (which are meat-based).

While vegan activists will accept nothing less than worldwide conformity to their enforced dietary utopia, the food industry has apparently opted to target a more modest market. Rather than going after non-meat eaters, they're going for the market that has already been guilt-tripped into eating less meat. While vegan is still the absolute highest status one can achieve on the self-righteous dietary hierarchy, the flexitarian is the next rung down on the ladder - a person who is flexible enough to only eat meat sometimes, and enjoy vegetarian meals at other times. Rather than ruin your health full-time, it seems at least partly acceptable to the diet dictocrats that you ruin it part-time.

The arguments put forward for curbing meat consumption usually come in three different flavors:
  1. The health argument - eating meat is bad for you, will clog your arteries, give you cancer, diabetes, ruin your credit rating, etc.
  2. The ethical argument - eating animals is cruel (never mind the fact that the fate of pretty much all prey animals on the planet is to get eaten by something; if you do it, it's cruel).
  3. The environmental argument - eating meat is bad for the environment because greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint and land use and a bunch of other settled science.
The New Scientist article first establishes that the author is one of us - a meat eater. Maybe even a more extreme version of us, because he's a meat lover.
I LOVE meat. I love the smell of it cooking, the sound of the sizzle. I love the fat dropping onto the coals beneath a barbecue, the deep-pink "give" of a medium-rare steak, the smoke, the blood. I particularly love eating burgers in the US, where the act of griddling meat is an art form that has been perfected into juicy, salty, fatty heaven.
Meat, am I right? If I conjure up enough appetizing imagery to show you my love, you'll identify with me. I'm your meat brother. We're spirit siblings in carnal indulgence.

burger bbq grill
I get the one in the middle.
Now I'll hit you with the guilt...
I am painfully aware that I should reduce how much meat I consume. According to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, livestock graze on a quarter of our planet's ice-free land while another huge swathe is used to grow fodder. The greenhouse gas emissions associated with the industry are vast, around 15 per cent of the total from human activity. Raising animals for meat also guzzles water and energy.
While our meat-loving bond is surely strong, I'm here to tell you, spirit sibling, that we're actually paving the road to hell. Much like the destructiveness of a heroin problem, our love of our addiction is taking us down a dark path to personal and planetary destruction.

The paragraph quoted above is basically the New Scientist piece's argument for why reducing meat consumption is the right thing to do: 'because climate change' (née global warming). The author, Niall Firth, doesn't actually say 'climate change' or 'global warming' - but he doesn't have to. Bringing up how much land livestock take up and greenhouse gas emissions, we're left to make the connection ourselves. And because we've been primed since 2006 to believe we're guilty of planetcide every time we flip a light-switch, tying veganism to an already established guilt-trip is a very effective strategy.

In responding to a piece critical of sustainable farming in the New York Times for Grist back in 2012, Joel Salatin, the owner-operator of Polyface Farm, an organic grass-fed farm serving thousands of clients, makes some very good points:
Actually, the amount of methane emitted by fermentation is the same whether it occurs in the cow or outside. Whether the feed is eaten by an herbivore or left to rot on its own, the methane generated is identical. Wetlands emit some 95 percent of all methane in the world; herbivores are insignificant enough to not even merit consideration. Anyone who really wants to stop methane needs to start draining wetlands. Quick, or we'll all perish. I assume he's figuring that since it takes longer to grow a beef on grass than on grain, the difference in time adds days to the emissions. But grain production carries a host of maladies far worse than methane. This is simply cherry-picking one negative out of many positives to smear the foundation of how soil builds: herbivore pruning, perennial disturbance-rest cycles, solar-grown biomass, and decomposition. This is like demonizing marriage because a good one will include some arguments.
The problem is that those making the case that meat-eating hurts the environment consistently conflate meat consumption with factory farming (CAFOs). They are not the same thing, as Joel Salatin has repeatedly shown. As has Lierre Keith in her must-read The Vegetarian Myth. Yes, factory farming is not good for the environment, but to say that all meat eating supports and depends on this type of farming is incorrect. Farming that mimics how grazing animals naturally interact with the environment is good for the environment - in so many ways that humans will likely never be able to engineer from scratch. The same is true for monoculture farming versus polycultures - the former exploits the environment, the latter builds and protects it (and it's not without irony that the vegan diet essentially depends on monocrop farming).

Again from Salatin:
[O]ne of the biggest reasons for animals in nature is to move nutrients uphill, against the natural gravitational flow from high ground to low ground. This is why low lands and valleys are fertile and the uplands are less so. Animals are the only mechanism nature has to defy this natural downward flow. Fortunately, predators make the prey animals want to lounge on high ground (where they can see their enemies), which insures that manure will concentrate on high lookout spots rather than in the valleys. Perhaps this is why no ecosystem exists that is devoid of animals. The fact is that nutrient movement is inherently nature-healing.
And here's a talk by Zimbabwean environmentalist Allan Savory about how managed grazing animals can turn deserts into wetlands:

Meat farming, when done properly, is good for the environment. Yet when confronted with facts, vegans inevitably fall back to the ethical argument, saying there's no such thing as ethical farming since eating meat is inherently cruel. This argument is ridiculous from the outset - obviously an animal living in an ideal environment, cared for by providing it with its ideal diet and surroundings is less cruel than one that is raised painfully in confinement. The only substantial difference between an ethically farmed animal versus one in the wild is: who ends up eating it at the end of its life? One could even argue the pampered life of the farm animal involves less overall suffering (though I'm not sure how one would actually measure that).

So once we take a real look at the arguments behind why we should all be eating less meat, the New Scientist article is exposed for what it is: an advertisement for food industry players trying to exploit a lie to create a market for their science project. It's the same tactic being used by the lab-grown meat ventures (ironically referred to as 'clean meat'): convince people there's a problem that needs fixing; make those people feel guilty for causing said problem; then make money from your proposed solution. In the process you justify the existence of your false-assumption-based science, get loosh from like-minded investors who feel guilty enough to throw money at the non-problem (yes, Bill Gates, we all see you're doing your part), revel in the self-satisfied smugness that you're doing something that matters, making a difference, making the world better for our children and getting richer in the process. Everybody wins!

The article quotes one franken-burger maker as saying:
"This [burger] isn't aimed at vegans," says van der Goot. "Meat analogues are meant for meat-eating people who feel they should do something but don't know how. It's easier if you have a product to help."
I can't tell you how many times I've thought to myself: "if only I had a product that would help me behave in a way that conforms to prescribed pseudo-solutions to non-problems, my life would be complete. I care about this. I really do. I just can't act until I have a product. Sorry."

The article focuses on a particular company called Impossible Burger, and I'll just summarize the scientific gymnastics they've gone through to try to imitate the look, texture, taste and aroma of real meat:
  • genetically engineer yeast to produce leghaemoglobin, a close equivalent to haem iron found in meat
  • replace the natural fat composition of meat with coconut oil
  • isolate wheat and potato proteins and manipulate them to try to mimic the texture of meat
  • add yeast extract and soy protein to impart "more umami flavours"
  • add in some isolated vitamin supplements to replace the natural vitamin content of meat, making it more resemble actual food
  • bind the whole thing together with plant gums
And while it all sounds delicious, the author confesses to feeling like there's a ways to go before your average carnivore will be convinced.

Here's another current attempt at faking meat, out of Wageningen University in the Netherlands:
Really winning over carnivores will require something that splits and breaks apart like a prime cut of meat. His technique starts with the usual suspects: soy and gluten protein powders, to which food colouring is added to give them a more appealing hue. This mixture is then pumped with water into a specialised piece of equipment called a Couette cell, consisting of two cylinders, one of which rotates inside the other under slight pressure. This exerts a shear force on the proteins that causes them to elongate into fibres and wrap around one another.
fake meat production
Are you gonna eat that? Cuz I didn't have any breakfast, so...
This is not food. The fact that they're trying to convince you that it is, and that it's preferable to eating actual food that your body has genetically selected to eat, is a HUGE red flag. Perhaps the most audacious part of the article (for me, anyway) is when the author actually delves into the health implications. Unsurprisingly, the author resorts to the usual mainstream reductionist markers for what makes something 'healthy', and is surprised to find that the Impossible Burger isn't much 'healthier'. Here's a graphic of how it measures up:

impossible burger nutrition
© Impossible Foods; USDA
Yes, because cholesterol, calories, saturated fat and salt are what's relevant to how healthy something is. Just ignore the gluten, soy, plant gums, 'natural' flavours, GMOs and the overall hyper-processing these ingredients have to go through to become a 'magic steak'. They are concentrating entirely on the wrong things, which is unsurprising since these are the established markers for determining 'healthy food'. The fact that this product apparently makes it through digestive tracts is a miracle. Maybe it should be called the 'Impossible to Digest Burger'. Eating the box the burger comes in would probably be less nutritionally detrimental than the burger itself.

While we're gauging the nutritional value of vegan fake food, here are the ingredients listed for the Impossible Burger. See if you can spot any actual food:
Water, Textured Wheat Protein, Coconut Oil, Potato Protein, Natural Flavors, 2% or less of: Leghemoglobin (soy), Yeast Extract, Salt, Soy Protein Isolate, Konjac Gum, Xanthan Gum, Thiamin (Vitamin B1), Zinc, Niacin, Vitamin B6, Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B12.
Don't be fooled by its mundane appearance: the humble veggie burger is the culmination point of everything that's wrong with what the mainstream's reality-creators believe about the world. Nutrition - wrong. Environment - wrong. Morals and ethics - wrong. Eating something you actually want to eat - wrong. Even our New Scientist author says - with some resignation - that only for the sake of his conscience, he'll make the sacrifice to eat these abominations. It's the apex of doing nothing but contributing to the problem while living under the complete delusion that you're helping. It's the Dunning-Kruger effect embodied in simulacrum.

I'm not necessarily suggesting that these fake meat purveyors are willingly deceiving the public, but they're essentially exploiting a market spawned from the lie we're all being fed. This is why veggie burgers taste like lies. Saving the planet does not require fake food masquerading as what we're designed to eat. What's required is the exact opposite of that: getting back on track, using our brains to figure out how to raise our food animals properly and to stop trying to reinvent what nature has already provided for us in all its perfection. Going further down the path of trying to make our food "better through science" just takes us further away from what our food is supposed to be.