Despite the marked reticence among most big green groups to address agriculture’s climate impacts, and Democratic politicians' outright refusal to do anything but grovel at the feet of farmers due to their place in our cultural pantheon (entwined with white supremacy), the meat industry remains a steady investor in disinformation to make people think that any day now, a liberal will show up in their kitchen (or car) to snatch the big juicy burger right out of their hand.
While sometimes such narratives arise seemingly spontaneously in response to climate proposals, like back in April when President Biden released his climate plan, there exists a steady campaign to keep this fear front of mind.
The most recent example comes courtesy of the Washington Times, who ran an op-ed by Richard Berman headlined “environmental wokeism is targeting your burger.” It recaps a smattering of climate-friendly diet op-eds that have been published throughout the year, and suggests that “the doomsday imagery is being stoked by animal liberation groups — including the radical PETA and the one percent Human Society of the United States — as well as the new synthetic meat companies who intend to profit if people consume less chicken, beef, and pork.”
(Side note: We're pretty sure he’s referring to his old enemies at the Humane Society of the United States because when you Google "one percent human society of the United States" only this post shows up, and when you try just the "Human Society of the United States" you get a Facebook group with 116 likes and a bunch of misspelled references to the real one.)
Of course, all this climate concern about how we can cut down some emissions by making key changes to the agricultural sector is really just marketing by PETA and Big Synthetic Meat! It makes so much sense!
What doesn’t make sense, though, is that Berman would be against eating chemicals in the first place. After all, he’s the guy who 60 Minutes once described as “Dr. Evil” because of his career spent defending the tobacco industry and various polluters (including lots of big restaurant and agricultural interests).
And honesty is definitely not his policy. For example, in his Times column, Berman suggests readers go to fakefoodfacts dot com, which redirects to a post on his Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) front group. It lists some of the scary (sounding) chemicals found in meat alternatives, like food coloring or magnesium carbonate, which Berman describes as being used “to retain color” in food, but also “in flooring, fireproofing, and fire-extinguishing compounds.”
Oh no! Just the thought of eating something as scary sounding as “magnesium carbonate” may have you reaching for an antacid to soothe your unsettled stomach. But when you do, just be sure to take a close look at its ingredients, because one of them may be magnesium carbonate- AKA “chalk.” (And it’s not like it’s new, either. Back in 1911, the Morton Salt company started adding it to prevent its salt from caking in the humidity, leading to the 1914 introduction of the Morton Salt Girl with her umbrella and the slogan, “when it rains, it pours.”)
By using scary-sounding ingredient names to make meat alternatives sound unnatural, Berman’s unfairly playing to people's fears about chemicals. And he knows that.
Because the irony is, Berman is more often posting things defending all sorts of chemicals. For example, CCF has a whole category of posts attacking organic activists, and 51 pages of “food scares” posts that defend pesticides.
In one post, Berman criticizes a Chipotle ad campaign proclaiming the company only uses simple, pronounceable ingredients is “taking advantage of Americans' discomfort with eating ‘chemicals’” despite the fact that “everything from dihydrogen monoxide (water) to ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) has a chemical name and formula.”
Now what would fear mongering about food coloring and calling chalk found in antacid by its formal name of "magnesium carbonate" be, if not “taking advantage of Americans' discomfort with eating ‘chemicals’?”