It is time for me to look deeper into how all this “meatless” meat is made. Does it fit into my anti-artificial world? Should I avoid it? What I found was part controversial and part “I should always trust my gut!”
My husband’s triple bypass surgery had turned our world as we knew it completely upside down. Especially when it came to what we ate. Some sort of animal product was in almost every meal. When we decided to dramatically cut back our meat consumption, “meatless” meat took center stage. However, it has left a weird taste in my mouth, and I mean this not only theoretically but literally.
Why People Chose “Meatless” Meat
- Animal Welfare – Being kind to the animals is a noble reason. Knowing the truth about poor farming conditions and mistreatment of animals is enough to never eat meat again. This was nicely documented in Michael Pollens’s Omnivore’s Dilemma.
- Better For The Environment – Unless done sustainably the environmental effects that have been associated with meat production are pollution through fossil fuel usage, animal methane, effluent waste, and water and land consumption.
- Healthier Lifestyle – Plant-based diets are becoming increasingly popular for optimal health. Let’s just accept the fact that eating more fruits and vegetables creates a healthier person. The Mediterranean, Flexitarian and the Nordic Diet are top ranking with “mostly plants” being their theme. (2)
- Trendy – This sort of goes a long with the need to loose weight. Last week I read that Beyonce and Jay Z are endorsing a plant based diet. More than $3.1 billion worth of vegetarian and vegan items were sold in 2017. (3) Veggie burgers and meatless burgers are popping up in all kinds of restaurants.
What’s Actually In Popular “Meatless” Meat Options?
Unfortunately, most meatless meats are highly processed foods and are loaded with sodium. To make my life just a tiny bit easier, I often want to purchase the plant based meatballs at Trader Joes, but then I flip the package around and read the ingredients.(4) Oops…never mind! It always goes back in the freezer.
Some products have minimal ingredients, which is great! Look for those but most have a zillion and have gone too far to be labeled natural. Or even plant based in my mind.
Here are a few popular meat substitutes that are minimally processed…
- Tofu – The most common meat alternative, derived from soybeans. It is a great source of protein, calcium and iron. It is so bland to me that I usually skip it but
- Tempeh – A fermented soybean cake made from cooked soybeans and grains such as rice and millet, combined with the Rhizopus oligoporus culture. Because it is denser and nuttier then tofu it has a more meatier texture. My husband happens to prefer tempeh. He likes it on his pizza.
- Seitan – Made from wheat flour and is produced by washing wheat flour dough until the starch dissolves, resulting in a chewy mass of proteinaceous gluten. Yep. Super weird. Even weirder is eating a corned beef sandwich made with seitan. I’m sorry, even adding an entire container of 1000 island dressing doesn’t change the way this feels in my mouth. Just can’t.
Then there are the fillers, stabilizers and all the laboratory-created, technological interventions that create that meat resemblance. For example, “natural flavorings.” Learn more about “natural flavors” in our recent post, “Is Natural Flavoring Healthier Then Artificial Flavoring”
Or the Frankenstein-like “heme,” a genetically modified product used in the meatless burger by “Impossible Meat,” that resembles the taste and texture of actual meat. Gross, gross, gross. Avoid the controversial “meatless” meat. You are better off making a BLT without the B.
The “Meatless” Controversy
Now, using the word “meat” in a plant based item can be confusing. It’s not actually meat it’s made with plants! So what’s the big deal then?
Well, the U.S. Cattleman’s Association think it’s a big deal. They feel it is misleading and if you plan on using the word “beef” or “meat” it should be from actual animal flesh. Not a plant. Companies like, Impossible Burger, Tofurkey and Beyond Meat, are fighting back.
The Sate of Missouri has even created a law, prohibiting companies from misrepresenting products as meat if they are not from “harvested livestock or poultry.”
So has France. Check out this BBC report to learn more.
Rethinking “Meatless” Meats
In conclusion, we as Anti-Artificialists preach…Eat Real Food! If you crave a burger and want to stick with your vegan/vegetarian diet, make a veggie burger with real ingredients. Slice a big tomato or a grilled portobello mushroom in between a fluffy sweet bun. And enjoy it! Your body will thank you!!!
My favorite inspiration for a meatless burger comes from Chef Edward Lee owner of Louisville’s Whiskey Dry. Check out his version from Food & Wine. An awesome alternative to meat and “meatless.”
And leave the science experiment at the grocery store.