Debunking You Are What You Eat: A Twin Experiment

You Are What You Eat: A Twin Experiment, is a slick, emotionally driven Netflix documentary series positing that two key problems—the degrading health of the human species and ecological destruction—are both addressed by eating less meat. The series goes further by pushing a vegan agenda and highlighting the industrial food “solution” of fake meat.

We’re led to believe that a vegan diet is superior for our health based upon the 8 weeks of data from several pairs of twins, one randomized to an omnivorous diet and the other a vegan diet. Reading the original paper that the series is based upon, it’s clear that the producers overextended the findings to make this claim. Humans are unequivocally omnivores and cannot live optimally without consuming some animal foods. For that story, see this Chris Kresser interview of Ty Beal. Here I’ll focus on debunking the ecological argument against animal husbandry.

While the series points out some interesting and favorable solutions for sustainable food production, such as indoor mushroom farms, a nuanced discussion on regenerative agriculture is absent. Regenerative agriculture, particularly the integration of mixed livestock and crop farming, presents a sustainable approach to food production, offering significant advantages over processed, fake meat dependent on industrial agriculture with chemical inputs. 

Regenerative agriculture, especially when it includes a mix of livestock and crops, emphasizes a holistic approach to farming that enhances soil health, sequesters carbon, and creates a more resilient ecosystem. This contrasts sharply with the processed fake meat industry, which often relies on monoculture and heavy chemical inputs typical of industrial agriculture.

The Advantages of Regenerative Agriculture

Land Utilization: Much of the land suitable for grazing is not ideal for commodity row crops. Regenerative agriculture optimizes this land use by integrating livestock grazing, which contributes to soil health and biodiversity1.

Soil Health and Carbon Sequestration: Practices in regenerative agriculture, like crop rotation, no-tillage, and the use of cover crops, improve soil structure and fertility. These practices not only enhance soil health but also actively sequester carbon, thus mitigating climate change2.

Biodiversity and Ecosystem Resilience: Mixed farming systems foster biodiversity both above and below the soil. This diversity creates more resilient ecosystems, capable of withstanding extreme weather events and reducing pest outbreaks3.

The Limitations of Processed Fake Meat Production

Image by DALL-E, OpenAI

Dependence on Monoculture and Chemicals: The production of processed fake meat often relies on crops like soy, which are typically grown in monocultures requiring high levels of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. This form of agriculture contributes to soil degradation, water pollution, and a decrease in biodiversity4.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Environmental Impact: Industrial agriculture, a key component of processed fake meat production, is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. The heavy use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides in this system exacerbates climate change and environmental degradation5.

Lack of Resilience to Climate Change: Unlike regenerative agriculture, which builds resilience through soil health and biodiversity, the monoculture-based system of industrial agriculture is more vulnerable to the effects of climate change, leading to potential food security risks6.


Regenerative agriculture, integrating mixed livestock and crops, offers a sustainable and resilient approach to food production. It effectively uses land unsuitable for row crops, enhances soil health, promotes biodiversity, and sequesters carbon, addressing climate change. In contrast, the production of processed fake meat, largely dependent on industrial agriculture, is less sustainable because of its reliance on chemical inputs, monoculture practices, and its significant environmental impact. This comparison underscores the importance of adopting and supporting regenerative agricultural practices for a sustainable future in food production.


1. Anderson, M. D., & Rivera-Ferre, M. (2021). Food system narratives to end hunger: extractive versus regenerative. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 49, 18-25.
2. Giller, K. E., Hijbeek, R., Andersson, J. A., & Sumberg, J. (2021). Regenerative agriculture: an agronomic perspective. Outlook on agriculture, 50(1), 13-25.
3. Bisht, I. S., Rana, J. C., & Pal Ahlawat, S. (2020). The future of smallholder farming in India: Some sustainability considerations. Sustainability, 12(9), 3751.
4. Newton, P., & Blaustein-Rejto, D. (2021). Social and economic opportunities and challenges of plant-based and cultured meat for rural producers in the US. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, 5, 624270.
5. Koman, E., Laurilliard, E., Moore, A., & Ruiz-Uribe, N. (2021). Restoration Through Regeneration: A Scientific and Political Lens into Regenerative Agriculture in the United States. J. Sci. Policy Gov, 19, 1-28.
6. Landers, J. N., de Freitas, P. L., de Oliveira, M. C., da Silva Neto, S. P., Ralisch, R., & Kueneman, E. A. (2021). Next steps for conservation agriculture. Agronomy, 11(12), 2496.

February 9, 2024

Categories: Ethics

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