10 Things To Know About Eating Plant-based Meat Alternatives

By Carly Dodd on June 19 2020 in Environment

Plant based meat alternative as a vegan burger. Image credit: Lightspring/Shutterstock.com
Plant based meat alternative as a vegan burger. Image credit: Lightspring/Shutterstock.com
  • The artificial meat industry in one of the largest growing industries across North America.
  • Eliminating meat from you diet can reduce your environmental footprint by nearly 73%.
  • There are many new and innovative meat alternatives for those looking to switch to a plant based diet.

Artificial meat is a plant-based alternative to traditional meat products. Able to be enjoyed by both vegetarians and vegans alike, these fake meats aim to replicate the taste and texture of meat products such as burgers, sausages, chicken products etc. Ground beef style products tend to be the most popular, with most companies focusing on perfecting their burger products, but chicken tenders, pulled pork, meatballs and bacon are all foods that have been reimagined in plant form. While each brand or company will have its own signature recipe, they are all based on plant proteins to provide a meat-like texture, taste and even color. There are also a number of natural, less processed foods that can double as a meat-like substitute for those aiming to have a plant based diet. From the natural to the processed, here are 10 things to know about the world of artificial meat.

10. It is becoming more and more popular.

Friends meeting at a vegan dinner. Image credit: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock.com
Friends meeting at a vegan dinner. Image credit: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock.com

Within the United States of America, plant based eating is growing in popularity. As of 2020, more than 9.7 million Americans identified themselves as having a plant based diet. This number has increased dramatically over the last decade, and is expected to continue to climb as the artificial meat market grows. Oregon State, the District of Columbia, and California are the three states claiming the most plant based diets, and having the most number of vegan restaurants or plant based menu items across the United States. Along with being home to plant eaters, California is also the leading producer of artificial meat, as both Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat inc. were founded there. It is not just these states, however, that are seeing an increase in plant based eating. The United States in general is seeing a huge spike in consumers of artificial meat nationwide. 

9. It is great for the economy

As veganism and plant based eating becomes increasingly popular, all signs point to  it being a great source of investment and economic growth. The meat alternative and dairy alternative industry is already worth billions of dollars, and the plant based wave does not seem to be slowing down. As younger generations begin to question ethical, environmental and health concerns surrounding the meat and dairy industry, the world is seeing a shift toward traditional food products and an increasing acceptance of fake meat alternatives. Whether individuals are going full vegan, or are embracing a new flexitarian lifestyle that incorporates more alternative options, the artificial meat market is continuing to grow, and is projected to be a huge money making industry in the near future.

8. Impossible Foods was one of the leading companies in its field

Leading meat-alternative brand Impossible Foods was one of the spear-headers of the artificial meat movement. The company was founded in 2011 and spent several years attempting to recreate the taste and texture of meat in a plant based form. In 2014, they had their soy based plant protein, leghemoglobin, officially approved by the FDA, thereby allowing them to move forward with developing that protein into various food products. Two years later, the Impossible Burger was born, paving the way for so many other brands to follow.

7. Beyond Meat has become a multi million dollar company

Beyond Meat Patty - a vegan, gluten free alternative of burger meat on black plate with its package in the background. Image credit: Marco Verch/Flickr.com
Beyond Meat Patty - a vegan, gluten free alternative of burger meat on black plate with its package in the background. Image credit: Marco Verch/Flickr.com

Beyond Meat has become a multi-million dollar company. Beyond Meat is one of the largest makers of plant-based meat with a net worth of over $87 million USD as of 2018. It was founded in 2009 and, like Impossible Burger, developed its signature burger alternative in 2014. This Los Angeles based company distributes products across a number of international markets, from various grocery stores including its debut Whole Foods and UK supermarket giant Tesco, to fast food pillars Tim Hortons and A&W in Canada.

6. Artificial meats are gentler on the environment

Cows raised for meat production are grazing on vast stretches of land. Image credit: Dudarev Mikhail/Shutterstock.com
Cows raised for meat production are grazing on vast stretches of land. Image credit: Dudarev Mikhail/Shutterstock.com

One of the driving factors for switching away from the traditional meat industry, is the massive impact it has on the environment. Greenhouse gases, large footprints, and non-sustainable models have caused a massive impact on the environment. Artificial meat alternatives are helping to shift away from this model, and in so doing, are offering a more environmentally friendly alternative to the booming meat industry. Going vegan, and thereby eliminating meat and dairy, can reduce an individual’s environmental footprint as much as 73%. Both the dairy and meat industry tend to produce a lot of greenhouse gasses, and have a very large footprint in large part due to the amount of land needed to raise and feed cattle. Similarly, it is estimated that eliminating these products all together could cut down global farmland use by up to 75%. Of course producing and farming plant-based foods still has an impact on the environment and global farming, but comparatively, the negative environmental impact is much lower. This is one of the reasons a lot of people are switching to plant based or flexitarian style diets.

5. It supports good dietary health

Artificial meat is a great alternative for those looking to make the change to plant-based eating. Eating a plant based diet, including fake meat alternatives, can offer a number of health benefits when paired with a healthy balanced diet. Plants, and many plant based meat alternatives (such as tempeh) are very high in fibre. Fibre is extremely useful for maintaining a healthy digestive system and reduces risks of colon related problems, including cancer. Artificial meat alternatives also tend to be lower in fat than most of their meat counterparts. This will help you maintain a healthy weight more easily than when eating a meat heavy diet. Eating a lot of red meat has also been linked to high cholesterol and increased chances of heart conditions or stroke. By replacing these meats with plant based products and naturally grown foods, it is possible to lower cholesterol and decrease the chance of heart related complications.

4. There are so many great options, like tofu

A fried tofu burger. Image credit:  p.studio66/Shutterstock.com
A fried tofu burger. Image credit: p.studio66/Shutterstock.com

Artificial meats are produced by simulating meat like taste and texture using plant based proteins, but not all products are made equal. Meat replacements can be made from a variety of synthesized plant byproducts. Tofu has long been a go-to staple for vegans and vegetarians, and remains a key meat alternative today. Tofu can be purchased in block form, and is made from soy curd, but has also been used to make a variety of fake meat alternatives such as chicken-less chicken nuggets, tofu hot dogs, or tofurkey and other poultry alternatives. Tofu is high in protein and therefore an excellent option for non-meat and dairy eaters looking to fill the protein hole in their diet. In its ‘original’ form tofu is easy to cook or add to just about any dish. It is regularly found in a variety of Asian cuisine, and has long been a staple of a plant based diet. Like chicken, it can be marinated, and its spongey texture and mild flavor make it a prefect vehicle for sauces and other flavors. It is also usually a cheap option, if purchased in its raw form, and can be found in most grocery stores, making it a simple and cost effective option.

3. Tempeh

A dish of Tempeh. Image credit: Amallia Eka/Shutterstock.com
A dish of Tempeh. Image credit: Amallia Eka/Shutterstock.com

Like Tofu, tempeh is also a high protein, soy based plant product. It is an excellent ready to cook option for non meat eaters looking to up their protein intake. Tempeh also has a much denser, meatier texture than tofu, making it great for pan frying and searing. While tofu is made from bean curd, tempeh retains much more of the soy bean’s integrity. Not only does this provide that meatier texture, but also means that tempeh is higher in natural nutrients and fibre. It is an excellent healthy option for those looking to avoid meat. 

2. Jackfruit

As the name would suggest, Jackfruit is a fruit which has grown in popularity do to its use as a meat alternative. Ripe jackfruit fits into a more traditional fruit profile, being sweet and mango like, but it is the fruits that are not yet ripened that have become popular in vegan and vegetarian cuisine. You can usually purchase jackfruit in a can, and this unripe (but perfectly safe to eat) fruit holds a stringy, flesh-like texture. It is most commonly used as a pulled pork replacement, as the fruit naturally pulls apart in a similar way to tender cooked meats. 

1. Seitan

Piece of appetizing Seitan with spices, tomato ketchup and greens. Image credit: Julia Wave/Shutterstock.com
Piece of appetizing Seitan with spices, tomato ketchup and greens. Image credit: Julia Wave/Shutterstock.com

Seitan is another artificial meat alternative that is becoming increasingly popular in today’s market. Unlike other products made from legumes, seitan is actually primarily wheat gluten. While Seitan is an excellent plant based choice for non meat eaters, its wheat based compound makes it unsuitable for anyone who is gluten free. The gluten gives it a texture and substance often missing from other artificial meat products and is most closely associated with a beef like density, but with a much lower fat content. Seitan is somewhat less common than other vegan or veggie based fake meats within North America, and may not be found at your local store, but should be available at a specialty or health food grocer.

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