Many people are beginning to be aware of the health and environmental impacts of eating meat. Meat uses many natural resources in its production and may contribute to global warming. Many people are also concerned with the treatment of animals in the meat industry. Others are worried about the health consequences of eating too much meat, particularly red meat.
Luckily, there are many new meat substitutes on the market today that can provide a tasty alternative for people who are concerned by the impact of meat on their diet. Karen Davison reviews the meat substitutes available at your local supermarket and makes suggestions about how they can be served.
One of the primary features of Beyond Meat is that it is meant to look and feel like animal products. The meat produces red juices that are meant to look natural, and it has a similar texture and fat content to natural beef.
Beyond Meat comes in several varieties. Ground beef and burger patties are the most popular, though Beyond Meat also makes vegetarian sausages, meatballs, and loose ground “meat.”
Beyond Meat is made with pea protein, rice protein, mung bean protein, canola and coconut oils, and fruit extracts like pomegranate and apple. Beet juice extract is also used to provide the red color.
These products are meant to cook in the same manner as their counterparts. Burgers can be pan-fried or grilled. Ground meat can be used in casseroles and tacos. Sausages can also be grilled or pan-fried. Using this type of meat means that home cooks can produce vegetarian alternatives along with the animal-based meats they normally serve.
Impossible Foods is another brand that produces vegetarian meat substitutes that are meant to look and taste like animal-based meat. Like Beyond Meat, Impossible has specially created juices that are meant to mimic the look and feel of animal meat.
Impossible “beef” is made from specially processed soy protein. Other top ingredients include coconut and sunflower oils.
The main feature that sets Impossible “meats” apart is the presence of heme, a protein-based liquid that gives animal meats their red juices. Impossible Foods uses a genetically engineered yeast to produce heme. This has caused some watchdog groups to warn against eating Impossible products, but most scientists believe that genetically modified foods are safe.
Like Beyond Meat, Impossible products are meant to look, feel, taste, and cook like their animal-based alternatives. Some restaurants like Burger King have begun serving Impossible meats alongside their regular products.
Gardein produces a wide variety of meat alternatives, including grilled “chicken,” “chicken” nuggets, “fish” sticks, crumbles meant to substitute for ground beef, and other foods. Gardein uses a special mix of soy, wheat, and pea products to provide a meat-like taste.
Gardein products are meant to be more palatable than traditional soy alternatives like tofu, tempeh, and seitan. Many people are unable to tell their products apart from their animal-based counterparts.
Quorn products, like Gardein products, are generally sold in the freezer aisle. Quorn uses a special mycoprotein, or fungus, to create its meat-like texture and flavor. Quorn products are not vegan because the mycoprotein is often mixed with egg white which acts as a binder.
Nutrition and Controversy
Some scientists have criticized meat substitutes because they are not necessarily a healthier alternative to animal-based products. They often contain coconut oil, a saturated fat that could contribute to health problems.
Some nutritionists advise against meat substitutes, believing that people should steer toward whole plant-based foods rather than processed alternatives. However, most nutritionists and chefs like Karen Davison agree that meat alternatives can take their place in a healthy diet, especially when people reduce the amount of red meat they are eating.
While Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat are mostly known for their grillable foods, all of these meat alternatives can be used in creative ways. Ground meat alternatives can be used in tacos, casseroles, and “beef” stroganoff. Sausages can be used in breakfast bakes or served in soups and stews.
Protecting the Planet
Scientists believe that meat production damages the environment. For this reason, substituting plant-based products has less impact on the environment. Cattle and other livestock use a great deal of water, take up a lot of space for pasture grazing, and can produce greenhouse gases which lead to climate change. When meat substitutes are made, they have far less environmental impact.
Turn Toward a Tasty Alternative
Even the most dedicated carnivore may admit that today’s new meat substitutes are worthy competitors. They look, feel, and taste similar to their animal-based counterparts. Karen Davison believes that people who eat a great deal of meat should consider switching to a meat alternative at least once or twice a week to protect their health and the environment.