Open Letter to Iron Chef America: “The Protein” Comes From Plants

Note to Readers – One Green Planet is giving away a copy of FoA’s first vegan cookbook – Dining With Friends! See link in letter below for details.

Viewers of Iron Chef America might easily receive the impression that animal flesh is an essential source of protein—as Chef and commentator Alton Brown puts it: “the protein.”

This is a myth. Proteins are plant-based; we need not run them though animals to acquire them. Food professionals on the Food Network should acknowledge this.

Although plants contain all amino acids our bodies require, Chef Brown twice implied on a recent Good Eats show (Season 09, Episode 05: “Power Trip”) that “complete proteins” involve one from meat and one from soy. Not so.

The American Dietetic Association (ADA) states that “vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the lifecycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”

And well-planned does not mean difficult to plan. It does not require either flesh or soybeans. (Grains and vegetables also contain significant amounts of protein.) It does not require protein combining.

We invite Chef Brown and Iron Chef America to consider One Green Planet’s new column “Home for the Free: Protein, Cuisine and a Cause” by vegan cookbook author and Friends of Animals president Priscilla Feral.

If you take me up on this suggestion, and give it your serious consideration, the health of the planet and all its residents can only benefit.

Very truly yours,

Catherine Burt
Correspondent, Friends of Animals
777 Post Road
Darien, CT 06820

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20 Responses to Open Letter to Iron Chef America: “The Protein” Comes From Plants

  1. Mark says:

    I’m not going to mix it up with all the commenters here, but I do agree, in general, with the idea that Anton does banty about the word “protein” way too much. Love his “Good Eats” work, his wit, intelligence, but, having been vegan/veg for so long, I still wince when people refer to meats as “protein” as though broccoli, kale, potatoes, grains, etc., don’t have complete protein.

    I wrote the show an e-mail a year or two ago complaining about this, too.

    IMHO, such usage of the term just perpetuates the urban myths that we veg’ns have to worry about protein or that you have to “properly combine” foods to get “complete” protein.

    After all these years, one would hope that the science clearly showing that these are myths would be understood. But, like people denying “global climate change” or “evolution,” they just don’t get it.

    AB is a great entertainer and again, I thoroughly enjoy his work. But, regarding “protein” or “oils” he is, imho, a bit behind.

  2. Sydney Wallace Crawford. says:

    You know what’s pathetic? The fact that you are so entrenched in proving your point that you don’t see that all these postings come from different IP addresses in different STATES.
    You know what else is pathetic? This is all a matter of PERCEPTION. We see this issue differently and it is apparent to me, that after two weeks of going back and forth, you are not going to convince us, and we are not going to convince you.
    In closing-I want to point out the the first time I responded here, I was criticizing your writing not you as a person. But ever since you have responded with personal attacks.
    Not cool. I would have given you a chance if not for that, and that’s sad.
    But when you say that unless and until we all agree that carnivorous activity will be the ruination of our society, how will ever find common ground.
    Have a lovely day.l

  3. Folks, when Mr. Brown, on Iron Chef America, points to a big bowl of avocados, coconut, or broccoli and calls them “the protein” then we’ll all be better off. He doesn’t.

    In the meantime, I don’t care if you call yourself Magnolia or Lisa or Sydney or Anne or whatever other persona you want to dream up – you’ve said your piece. I disagree and maintain that I’ve promoted no falsehoods about AB or anyone else.

    You know? It’s pathetic, the guy treats you like crap and you keep chasing him around crying about not getting an interview. You’re picking fights with someone you’d probably actually LIKE (given a chance), in order to defend *a TV personality* against what is reasonable and polite criticism.

    I’m not on your blog defending the animals you’re cooking, even though I’m pretty sure they’d have preferred not to be slaughtered and cooked – so why are you here defending this guy who won’t even give you the time of day?

    That’s rhetorical, please just think about it and come back if you want to discuss the merits of plant-based proteins versus “the protein” that comes from animal carcasses and secretions.

    • Lisa says:

      I only here to reply to the statements in the above post.

      First, I proudly post as myself and have no reason not to post as me. If I’m here to be a defender, then why would I want to give credit to others?

      Again, you make claims that are false. Outside of the fact that Alton will not give me an interview for the fansite I operate, he has not once treated me “like crap.” Is he blind by painting every blog in the blogosphere with the broad brush believing they are all bad, darn right he is. With the goings on here, I can’t say that I blame him one bit. However, that will not stop me from being a good blogger, championing the cause of good bloggers and asking him again for an interview. If I were paid by a media outlet, that would be called an intrepid reporter.

      I have had the pleasure of meeting AB 11 times and in each of those meeting I have interacted with one of the most sincere and genuine people I have ever known. He takes the time to talk with me about cooking (once I showed him a smoker I made like his and he was darned impressed), the fans who read my site and even to hear my latest pitch for an interview. He’s never once told me to go away, shut up, stop bringing up the site or the interview… ever. If fact most every time I met him now he has forgone a formal greeting to something more personal complete with wit and snark that is his typical mannerism.

      And if you doubt that AB is a cool guy and in fact knows and remembers me and NEVER has treated me poorly, then watch this little video. After you do, retract what you said about him treating me like crap. Again you inferred and made the wrong assumption from what I said earlier about him not granting me the interview.

      As for being a consumer of meat, yes I am. And if you care to know, pork and beef are not high on my favorite lists and I often say I’m closer to being a vegetarian than a carnivore (though I love fish and need eggs and butter for baking). However, I’m allergic to many nuts and all mushrooms, so it is more difficult for me to go completely meat free.

      Moreover if you knew more about Alton, you would know that he believes we should be thankful for the animal giving its life to nourish us. He’s talked about that in a few lectures I’ve attended and has even talked about going to a slaughter house while in culinary school, which as an eye-opening experience for him. As for me, I’m a country gal and grew up understanding the circle of life. My grandfather raised chickens, most chickens lay an egg a day whether or not it is fertilized. Anyway, I gathered eggs and saw the not so glamorous side of having a Sunday fried chicken dinner. I know, understand and value the role animals play in our food chain and also give thanks. We should all say grace for beast or veggie.

      My beef (pardon the pun) is your blatant spreading of mistruths and attempt to further your agenda. That’s was my original point and what compelled me to “defend” Alton. Making false claims on someone because how you interrupt what they say is wrong. Sending a letter to his press agent and Food Network would have suficed, what was the need to post in on a blog if not to gain attention? You did, Alton Brown fans. Sorry we weren’t the person you hope to get.

      If you ever would like to talk to AB about this, attend one of his events. I know he would listen to your concerns. You are most welcome to stop by my blog to find some of his events.

      BTW, at his next event I have been personally invited as a member of the media.

      PS As much as I love broccoli it is not a complete protein.

  4. Bill says:

    So, I suppose that all the animals that are herbivores, which some people eat, get no protein from the plants they eat?
    Humans are a capricious bunch, no?

  5. Am neither fan nor foe of Alton Brown’s, and whether ideas are expressed on a blog or other forum isn’t the point. Alton Brown routinely refers to flesh as “the protein” and in the context that no
    dish is complete until it’s added, with the exception of dessert. That’s the rub. I’m vegan, a cookbook author, comptent cook and
    president of Friends of Animals. I have an opinion about Alton Brown’s protein references, and find them antiquated. That others are defense about this is expected as the debate over eating animal products is now a moral issue with ecological and health-related consequences.

    • And one more thing. I just turned off Iron Chef since although the key ingredient was avocado, Alton Brown could not stop referring to “the protein” in waiting — at last glance taking the camera to live, glistening blue crabs who awaited the fate of being poached. “The protein,” he declared, and alas, I had
      had enough of the misery.

      • Watched the episode where the secret ingredient was coconut… within 10 minutes, he was already pointing to a fish and saying “the protein.”

        • Exactly. He’s obsessed. Dead wrong, too. There’s protein in food not derived from
          animal products. That’s what makes him so dense.

          • Magnolia says:

            You show your lack of knowledge AGAIN!
            He said, “another protein” NOT the protien as you claim.
            Get your facts right! It doesn’t help your cause to spread false information.
            Also, you are claiming Alton gives the impression that meat is the only protien. Well, unless you have discovered some way to read minds, you are imposing your outside influences and making that judgement. He has never, ever once said that meat is the ONLY protein. Everything else is what you read into it and being anti-meat you ASSUME, because he is meat eater, he is saying that when in fact ‘the” is a mere article in his sentence. If you listen to what he’s saying sans your viewpoint, it is something like this:
            The Iron Chef has broken out the protein.
            The Iron Chef has broken out the only protein in the world because it is animal flesh.
            Sheesh. I’m not much of a meat eater save fish and could very well be a vegetarian but I wouldn’t want to be associated people to rant and rave and assume incorrect things.

  6. Amy says:

    I noticed that you did not respond to my comment about complete proteins. Calling Mr. Brown a “chef” was not the only thing you got wrong. Meat and Soy are two ways to get COMPLETE PROTEINS, as in, you don’t have to eat many different things in order to get all the amino acids required by the human body. He was also using soy for the express purpose of making a healthy protein bar, so it was a convenient way to get a complete protein. He did not say they were the only two available to people. He never once stated or implied that vegans do not get all of their protein or that it is unhealthy – as you seemed to indicate in your defense with the ADA statement.
    “Some foods contain all the essential amino acids on their own in a sufficient amount to qualify as a “complete protein”. Complete protein foods that also obtain the highest possible PDCAAS score of 1.0 are certain dairy products (including whey), egg whites, and soy protein isolate. Other foods, such as amaranth, Aphanizomenon flos-aquae[citation needed], buckwheat, hempseed, meat, poultry, soybeans, quinoa, seafood, and spirulina also are complete protein foods, but may not obtain a PDCAAS score of 1.0.[1][6]”


    • There is nothing to say about “complete proteins” because unless you are living off of one single food for days or weeks at a time, you don’t need to worry about it.

      In the western world, we suffer health problems from excess protein, not any lack of it. This is partly due to exactly what this post is trying to address: please stop promoting protein myths.

      Normal adults also do not need to worry about digestibility scores. Of course dairy is highly digestible — because it is designed for a *newborn*. Weaned humans with developed digestive systems no more need cow breast milk than they need human breast milk.

      • Sydney Wallace Crawford says:

        “Stop promoting ‘myths’? Excuse me? You can promote yours, we are more than entitled to promote yours.
        And I notice you don’t address what I said about the ‘myths’ you promoted about my sister.
        Can’t admit you’re wrong….AGAIN?

        • Sydney Wallace Crawford says:

          ‘promote OURS’ I meant. Yeesh, I’m getting way too upset about this obviously, but I’m really angry at what you said about my sister. Y assume that all she did was blog?
          We don’t assume that about you, or any other blogger. It was a below the belt shot.

  7. Sydney says:

    “I’m sorry for your troubles in getting Mr. Brown to respond to your blog, but I’m inclined to agree with his opinion about spending time and energy dealing with bloggers. This blog is an unpaid extra-curricular for me, hence the delay in responding. I have a full time job and numerous projects I’m dying to start and leave half-completed while I’m testing recipes, saving stray animals, and feeding small children.”
    Condescending much? God grief you make me laugh. Your response is just another example of how you spread your misinformation. I am Ms Hechesky’s sister, I will have you know, that she not only possesses two master’s degrees, but is also an accomplished writer with several impressive interviews under her belt including one with Harold McGhee(ever hear of him?) In addition she works a grueling FULL TIME job at a major university, teaches a cooking class for her counties’ Parks and Reaction Department, and does charity work for her local animal shelter.
    She too only blogs in her spare time.
    Btw I showed your little entry to someone who works for Mr. Brown. He agreed, what you had to say was not only false, but rediculous.
    In closing, please try to remember what happens when you assume.
    Best wishes

  8. Catherine Burt says:

    Hi Alton Brown Fans-

    Just a little dumbfounded at the outrage here, but I’ll do my best to respond.

    First of all, the only untruth in this post is my referring to Brown as a chef. I rather doubt he’s curled up in fetal position fretting over this, but just in case, okay: I do hereby retract calling Mr. Brown a chef. Mea biggie size uber maxima culpa.

    This letter was sent to Alton Brown’s press email, and also to Food Network before it was published here. I don’t expect Brown or FN to come to my blog and talk about it. I’m merely a giver of information. When a person points to meat and says it’s “the protein,” they are insinuating exclusivity. Whether deliberate or not, that’s what comes across.

    As far as serving my own agenda – I don’t know how you missed this, but I’m actually promoting a cookbook giveaway, and the truth about proteins. I hope that one of my readers will win the cookbook by the way – it’s one of my favorites (no, I didn’t write it), and winning stuff is always fun. Incidentally there’s still time to enter, if anyone’s interested.

    I’m sorry for your troubles in getting Mr. Brown to respond to your blog, but I’m inclined to agree with his opinion about spending time and energy dealing with bloggers. This blog is an unpaid extra-curricular for me, hence the delay in responding. I have a full time job and numerous projects I’m dying to start and leave half-completed while I’m testing recipes, saving stray animals, and feeding small children.

    Best wishes and thanks for your comments.

  9. Sydney says:

    Apparently, this is a prime example of ‘blog untruths and run”. Sigh. Still waiting on a response from the author.

  10. Lisa says:

    Catherine, while I appreciate your passion for vegetarianism posts like this do nothing but propagate the misconception that bloggers are only out to serve their own agenda. First, not having all of your facts in order does nothing to further serve you point. You speak of Mr. Brown referring to meat as protein on Iron Chef America (oh by the way Alton is not chef and never refers to himself as such) and while he often calls it protein he is speaking in a broad, general sense in which meat is a protein, and not making any claim that meat is the ONLY protein found on Planet Earth.

    If you know anything about Good Eats, you will know that Alton has covered tofu in one entire episode, as well as using in many other applications, as well as soybeans, lentils, spilt peas and various beans. He was an upcoming episode on chickpeas, In all of those episodes he has explained the nutritional benefits of these plant-based proteins.

    To champion your cause it would behoove you to do better research before calling someone out publically. It is these very actions that have caused Alton to condemn all bloggers for lacking journalistic integrity, which he has blindly lumped my fansite site, All About Alton, in to as well. Because the actions like this, I am unable to obtain an interview with him, he feels all bloggers (including me) are unethical and lacking journalistic standards. Sadly, posts like these only cement his bias toward bloggers, even ones who help him and support him.

  11. Amy says:

    All Mr. Brown was saying was that soy just happened to be a conveniently packaged source of a complete protein. Why must you rag on him about it? He had made an episode giving knowledge to people about being able to get nutritionally adequite sources of protein and other essential things from making your own power bars, and you want to insult him on it? That’s just wrong.

  12. Sydney says:

    Oh, come on! Get your FACTS straight as I watch the show religiously and have never heard Mr. Brown utter such NONSENSE. Oh wait, that’s , you said he ‘implied’ that soy alone was not a complete protein. He may have ‘implied’ it, but it was the writer’s INFERENCE that that was what was truly said. So basically, you’re accusing someone of spreading misinformation because of what YOU gleaned from it. That’s great.
    Publishing vague accusations like this flies just an inch under the radar of tabloid journalism.
    Surely there are more responsible ways to get your blog noticed, than stirring up unfounded controversy, don’t you think? This is exactly the reason Mr. Brown has the prejudice against ALL blogs that he does, why he will not answer you, and sadder still, why he will not give responsible bloggers a nanosecond of his time.
    I await your reply, along with a retraction.
    Sydney Wallace Crawford.

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