Where’s all the meat?Aug 27, 2020 01:57PM ● By Wendell Fowler
Due to the pandemic, some Americans are experiencing meat scarcity
Americans love meat, and plenty of it! Since prehistoric times, mankind’s relationship with outrunning, catching, butchering, fire roasting and eating fleshly protein for survival is deeply embedded into mankind’s DNA. Hardcore carnivores passionately spar with plant-eaters: “We’re not made to be vegetarian; we need meat to be healthy.”
The TV reality series “Naked and Afraid” graphically illustrates the importance of daily protein to human survival. Protein is the main building block of the body that forms the foundation of our hair, skin, nails, bones, muscles and cartilage used to make muscles, tendons, organs and skin, as well as enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters and various tiny molecules that serve many important functions.
Protein helps repair and build the body’s tissues, allows metabolic reactions to take place and synchronizes bodily functions. In addition to providing the body with a structural framework, proteins also maintain proper pH and fluid balance. Finally, proteins in all forms keep the all-important immune system strong, transport and store nutrients, and can act as an energy source. Hence, without protein, life as we know wouldn’t be possible.
Disrupting the supply chain
So when there’s meat scarcity, or packaged grocery meat becomes unavailable, where can meat eaters get protein? The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine recommends men over 50 get at least 56 grams of protein daily. For women in this age bracket, 46 grams a day is the minimum, depending on weight and health status.
Time magazine reports: “By the end of April (2020), the pandemic changed the economic and agricultural landscape so drastically that Tyson Foods, one of America’s biggest meat producers, warned in a full-page New York Times ad that the ‘food supply chain is breaking.’ Experts warned that shoppers should prepare for meat to be more expensive, less varied and harder to find.”
In April, ABC News reported, “Some massive meat processing plants have closed at least temporarily because their workers were sickened by the new coronavirus, raising concerns there could soon be shortages of beef, pork and poultry in supermarkets.”
Forbes added, “Grocery store popularity of alternative meat has skyrocketed amid the pandemic in the U.S., with sales about doubling for top brands; experts attribute this to consumers’ desire for sustainable and healthy food—compounded by meat facility closures and supply chain disruption.”
If meat scarcity or rising prices are affecting you, what else can fill the empty spot on the dinner plate?
Seeking alternative sources
Ask any plant-crunching vegan or vegetarian and they’ll pontificate how easy it is to get protein into their daily diet. They’ll suggest trying more recipes with a variety of beans, lentils, soy-based tempeh cakes, tofu, seitan (wheat meat), TVP (textured vegetable protein), nuts and flax, chia or hemp seeds, jackfruit, Greek yogurt, and the constellation of meat substitutes lining grocers’ shelves. Biscuits and gravy with fake sausage has fooled many a carnivore.
Use tempeh and TVP in sloppy joes, burrito and taco filling, chili, or fake hamburger in spaghetti and lasagna sauce. Consider home-cooked oats for breakfast that provide about four grams of protein per cup. One ounce—about a standard handful—of almonds contains about six grams of protein. One cup of pumpkin seed contains about 12 grams. And, one cup of cooked quinoa contains about eight grams of protein.
Don’t forget canned tuna, salmon and sardines in water, and low-fat dairy products like Greek yogurt, hard cheeses and cottage cheese. A single avocado contains about four grams of protein and one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids—the good fat. Spinach, asparagus, broccoli, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, mustard and collard greens, and alfalfa sprouts are protein sources as well.
Incorporating varied proteins into our meat-centric diet is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s difficult changing lifelong eating behaviors. Americans might take this opportunity to circle back to hunting and gathering like our grandparents, sourcing meats, cheese, and other wide-ranging products from hardworking, local, family farming communities. As a result, you’re supporting the local economy and bravely exploring alternative sources of protein that nature offers.