Progressive kooks in San Francisco want to ban Happy Meals but they can't have a beef with vegan burgers, right?    Just down the road from 'Frisco, at Stanford, biochem professor (and founding co-director of PLoS - yayy, open access!) Pat Brown is trying to make vegan burgers that will appeal to humans and maybe keep McDonald's in business in the bay area.

Brown wants to make a vegan cheeseburger to replace what you get at fast-food franchises like McDonald's, his goal being to decrease the global impact of animal farming.   

What is that impact?  Well, no one knows.   The UN uses fuzzy advocacy math like that it takes a gallon of gas to make a pound of beef and 140 liters of water to make a cup of coffee so they can't be relied on here either but vegan shills insist it must be true.  Science acceptance is lacking in just as many places on the left as it is the right but both fringes claim to care about science so always reach for your wallet when you see outrageous facts quoted as objective.  The reality is that the chain is complex in food production so you can find statistics and data that agree with any position you want - vegans even outraged environmentalists by claiming, from a global warming perspective, it is better for the environment to drive a car to the store than walk if you an are an evil meat-eater.  

Advocacy aside, Brown's biochemistry is, of course, at odds with biology.   Vegans can insist humans are not only able to live without the complex proteins in meat but are not even designed for eating meat, but that is junk science - however, going vegan is a valid lifestyle choice so it is good that academics are tackled an applied science problem, like making a vegan burger that tastes good enough everyone will eat it.
He has two obstacles in his cheeseburger, though - cheese and burger.  If you are going vegan today, you aren't eating any diary and to get the flavor a burger in a veggie burger (some are quite good!) requires a lot of processing and artificial chemicals, which is not really healthier than plain meat.   He doesn't have a lot to work with in that sense.

“If you only determine nutritional value by protein and calories … you can provide the nutritional equivalent using plant products at one-30th of the cost,” Brown told Nira Krasnow at (1), but didn't say where he got that math from.    Al Gore also insisted throughout the 1980s and 1990s and, really, until Republicans agreed and made it into law in 2005, that ethanol was better for the environment and cheaper than oil too - except it wasn't.  Al Gore, at least, confesses now that he knew he was running for President and wanted votes so he let that desire skew his science position but there is no Big Vegan conglomerate so we have to assume Brown believes it - more importantly, he is doing something about it.

Oddly, you would think cheese is the hard thing to make vegan - not so, he says, the cheese is close but it still costs $6 a pound to make, compared to real cheese that sells for $2.50.  And keep in mind dairy products are considered a strategic asset, like wheat, so those are subsidized and cost-controlled.  Real cheese would be even cheaper if the free market determined price but it would also get outsourced to China and outsourcing strategic resource staples like wheat and dairy would be very, very bad so just this once I am not arguing for less government involvement.

“We’re definitely going to be producing [cheese products] for our friends and collaborators to be trying very soon,” he said. “When we’re going to start producing it commercially is unclear, probably within a year. The meat project will take at least a year.”

How do I get on that list?  While I disagree with vegans when they frame their data to match their preferences, I am all for trying vegan cheese.    

A Vegan burger at McDonald's?   These people produced the McLobster and the McDLT so if they think there is a market, they are going to put it in stores - heck, given those products even if they don't think there is a market they may try it.  Maybe Brown's work will  get Vegans back into McDonald's in a way even the best toys in Happy Meals cannot.  Then he can work on genetically modifying dogs and cats so they can all live together.

Enjoy Jason Alexander - famously "Seinfeld"s George Costanza, as he dances about food:


(1) interestingly claims to specialize in getting news for 'underserved' (that is Orwellian for 'poor') areas but the median home sale price for Palo Alto before the housing crash was over $1.3 million, so I am not sure they understand where poor people live.   People in Palo Alto can afford newspapers.