McDonald's Going Vegan? Not Just Yet
    By Hank Campbell | July 14th 2011 04:16 PM | 30 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Hank

    I'm the founder of Science 2.0®.

    A wise man once said Darwin had the greatest idea anyone ever had. Others may prefer Newton or Archimedes...

    View Hank's Profile
    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.


    I gave up meat for emotional reasons, but what made it so easy is that I am one of those mutants who has always preferred the taste of bread. sesame seeds. ketchup, relish and mustard to that of flesh. So when I have veggie versions of hot dogs or burgers, it's the condiments and buns that I look forward to, not the soy or lentils!
    And like most non-mutants, I would even watch "so you stink and can't dance" if it came with fries.
    Gerhard Adam
    This tends to just be goofy.  I read this quote from one of the links:
    “Thirty percent of the entire land surface is devoted to animal farming," Brown said. "A question I would ask is, do we want to use 30 percent of land for something that is not essential?”
    Hmmm, let's see what should we use this land for?  Well, obviously it can't be for the animals, so they'll have to die or be killed.  So, what else could we do with it?   Hmmm ... I'll bet it so that we can breed even more humans. 

    Of course, his statement is nonsense, but it does lead to some interesting math...

    Apparently there are 148,940,000 km2 of total land surface.  However, most of this is actually filled up with stuff like mountains, ice, desert, so it doesn't do us any good.  However, it appears that only 13.31% of the land is actually arable (13,805,153 km2), but this is misleading because it doesn't actually represent all the land that "could" be used to grow food, so that is classified as agricultural land and is actually much larger (48,836,976 km2).

    Therefore, as near as I can tell, the 30% seems to come from taking the total arable land divided by the total agricultural land (13,805,153 / 48,836,976) and obtaining 28.3%. 

    This doesn't actually consider how much of the arable land is used for permanent crops, pasture, etc.  but it does make for a dramatic claim, regardless of how much bullshit (no pun intended) it actually contains. 
    Mundus vult decipi
    Yes, I didn't even do any math since I did it too many times on other articles making strange claims - but I am glad you did!   You should write an article on it with a catchy title so people looking for similar data reach it easily.
    Gerhard Adam
    Well, help me think of a title.  :)  I'm liable to just call it something stupid like "Green Math".
    Mundus vult decipi
    "Would fewer cows lead to a greener world?"
    Gerhard Adam
    LOL  ... when I first saw that, I thought it said, "Would fewer cows lead to greener pastures".  :)

    Yeah, I know... the world is always greener from the other side :)
    Mundus vult decipi
    Which is why yours is actually a much better title!
    I love that title. I promise to read the article even if I am all for cows. I mean, I am a country girl. Cows are natural ingredients in the cultural landscape as far as I'm concerned. :-)
    Bente Lilja Bye is the author of Lilja - A bouquet of stories about the Earth
    Gerhard Adam
    It looks like I"m on the hook to write an article that has to live up to that title :)
    Mundus vult decipi
    Right on, Gerhard! :-) Very observant of you. hahaha
    Let me know if you need some fresh 'cows in green pastures' images. I was in Ireland, you know the emerald island, and there were plenty, brown, beige, black, black&white etc. ;-)

    Bente Lilja Bye is the author of Lilja - A bouquet of stories about the Earth
    I really haven't cared much for McFood since they destroyed the french fries a while back. I would, however, like to try out the veggie burger. I love the taste of well prepared beef, but my current diet calls for far less than I have become accustomed to eating. In fact only six ounces per week! Holy crap. I used to inhale that much when I had the grill fired up.

    I still haven't recovered from Coke replacing sugar with HFCS in 1980.   And forget about Fritos without the transfats, they are inedible, but they used to be my favorite snack.

    But some of that is cultural (and sentimental) - a generation of kids growing up with vegan burgers might think cows are icky.     I don't think a fine Kansas City steak is going out of business but for low-end products this might be acceptable.
    And forget about Fritos without the transfats, they are inedible,
    A few sites report that the original ingredients in Fritos were just " whole corn, corn oil, and salt.". Unless I wasn't eating the originals in the 1970's, this can't be right because I definitely recall calcium hydroxide as being the last ingredient, maybe as a preservative but also to release more niacin from the corn. But have they turned away from partially hydrogenated vegetable oil or simply lowered frying temperature? Since I just finished painting our bedroom, your comment put me in the mood for an article on Fritos, which I also loved as a kid!
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Good, because I don't even know what a Fritos is, sounds like a corn chip?
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at
    <!--[if gte mso 10]><![endif]-->Hi Enrico,

    Thank you for writing to us. Fritos Original Corn Chips have always had the same ingredients, corn, oil, and salt.

    Calcium hydroxide is a natural compound made by adding water to limestone (not lime juice). It is also called “slaked lime.” The corn is soaked in a solution of lime and water to remove the husk or bran (hard outer shell of the corn kernel). Since it doesn’t remain in the corn after cooking, calcium hydroxide is not listed on US ingredient statements; however, it is listed on the Canadian statements.

    We consider you a valued consumer and hope you will continue to enjoy snacks from Frito-Lay.

    Best regards,

    Frito-Lay Consumer Relations
    I can't help but assume she is not being intentionally disingenuous and just doesn't know about the reformulations - and those matter, obviously.   Changing the amount of salt makes a difference as does changing the 'frying' process and switching to cottonseed oil and other changes at various times.   She makes it sound like this has not changed since 1932 or something and that is clearly untrue.    As they have continued to change the formulation, the taste finally reached that inflection point where it is no longer very good.    Obviously it could be that the formulation they came out with at one time was one I liked (and may not have liked a formulation had I been 10 years older and simply never liked Fritos) and when that changed I moved on.
    You're right about her misleading tone. The type of oil and the salt percent, each on their own, will make a world of a difference in taste.
    But her response at least cleared the calcium hydroxide mystery---notice however that she went through the trouble of emphasizing how "natural" it is, catering to the public's misconception of the term. Calcium hydroxide, regardless of its source, is chemically Ca(OH)2. But synthetic chemicals actually have to meet higher purity standards.
    So if they add in ricin and strychnine they can say it is both natural and organic.   That's awesome!
    wow, this is a terrible article, hank. very disappointed by your complete ignorance and demeaning toward a well researched field with more than enough results.
    maybe you've heard of the Google? try it out, even that's something YOU can do.

    well researched 
    What are you talking about?  It isn't 'well researched' or there would already be a tasty vegan burger at McDonald's.    If you think his research is stupid, it has nothing at all to do with me.
    Gerhard Adam
    I'm with Hank on this .... what results are you referring to?
    Mundus vult decipi
    "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."

    How is that junk science? There are more than enough resources that state how it's a healthier option for everyone and everything.
    A vegan burger that tastes good? Have you ever had one? They're delicious. Far better than any hamburger I've tasted. if you don't like the one's that your market has, it's as easy to make your own burger from simple ingredients that's both rich in nutrients and absent from common carcinogens that appear in meats.

    Also, sorry for being a pisser earlier; just... couldn't believe what I read. By-the-by, you're one of only two feeds from sci2.0 that I'm subscribed to.

    How is that junk science? There are more than enough resources that state how it's a healthier option for everyone and everything.
    I can find resources stating that prayer works, astrology is real and homeopathy can cure anything.  Junk science is when a lifestyle position gets data mapped to the topology necessary to validate the position as scientifically valid.    If you were not a vegan, would those resources be valid?   If I want to know what is wrong with an Apple iPhone I asked a guy who works for Blackberry - an Apple person will not be skeptical enough.

    I don't know if I have had a vegan burger, per se, but I have had veggie burgers, the two main brands, and they are good but clearly different than a meat burger.   "tastes good enough everyone will eat it" is because there should be no reason to compromise.  Compromises are why we have a huge swath of society resenting heavy-handed government that wants to ban trans-fats, smoking and goldfish.    It's the antithesis of a liberal society to have progressives legislating choice out of existence.    So the best scientific solution would be a burger that could pass a taste test - then there would truly be a choice for everyone.
    Gerhard Adam
    A vegan burger that tastes good? Have you ever had one? They're delicious. Far better than any hamburger I've tasted.
    When someone mistakes it for beef, then you'll be believable.  Until then, my own experience is that they taste like crap.

    I'm also put off by the faux concern about how meat is processed.  The reason why it's fake, is that you would be just as put off by my eating beef that I've raised myself, so spare me the concern regarding carcinogens, hormones, antibiotics, and all the other issues people have.
    Mundus vult decipi

    Gerhard Adam
    That's what happens when you don't eat meat.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Becky Jungbauer
    McD's is also adding apples to Happy Meals and launching a "nutrition-focused mobile phone app as part of a broader health push."

    "Would fewer cows lead to a kinder world?"

    Hank the Yank, you've been heavily-brainwashed from infancy on.

    It's kind of a silly question, more amateur philosophy than anything.  Why do cows make people mean?  You realize the crank who came up with that 'meat eaters have bad moods' study was shown to be a total fraud, right?  Got thrown out of his university and his other papers, like 'people with messy offices are racist', got retracted too.

    If you raised a baby on a vegan diet, you should be in jail.  I am not kidding.