While the reductionist movement provides a truce for meat eaters who cannot give up meat entirely, just like this vegan film shows you, vegan meat is creating some buzz out there.
In fact, the term ‘vegan meat’ is an oxymoron- how can it be vegan if it is meat? Why don’t we just meat halfway and do not mix the categories of plant-based edibles and animal products?
The internet is curious to know about this new culinary innovation, just like gluten-free pasta made from brown rice or chickpea. For meat eaters who found it hard to stick to Veganuary and relapsed into eating meat by early February, vegetarian meat sounds like a new terrain, and people are just as apprehensive about it.
The most common queries around vegan substitutes for meat are if they taste like the ‘real’ ones do. However, things do not stop here. There are other queries about their nutritional profile or if they are qualitatively better than regular meat.
And since there are concerns about how viable is it to pit plant-based meat alternatives against real meat, given the concerns around how soy farming is harming the environment more than protecting it from the effects of animal-based food industries and fossil fuel products. Moreover, if someone would really like to try plant-based meats, which brands offer consumers the option to choose from meat analogues made from things other than soy protein?
We will tell you all about this new trend that has revolutionized the way vegans eat and the best 6 brands which offer the best meat alternatives for vegans so that you and your plate can make a greener transition for good without compromising your taste and need for some protein.
What is Vegan Meat?
Also known as faux meat, meat analogue or vegetarian meat, this innovation has been around for some time. Vegan meat is made from plant cultures and tries to eliminate animal farming and butchering to a large extent. Despite being a modern invention, vegan substitutes for meat have a rich history beginning from the discovery of Tofu in 206 BC China. However, companies have moved ahead from tofu and have developed new products that rise up to challenge of making their case meatier.
Vegan meat is a premier step towards cruelty-free eating. Several consumers have been turning to vegan meat alternatives as it replicates the taste and the nutritional profile of actual meat that is obtained through animal based food industries like poultry, pig farming, raising cattle for beef, etc. Several meat-eating families and food critics were confounded by the similarity in texture and taste.
However, the process is
It is catching up in popularity as several fast-food chains like Burger King and KFC (which ironically, is known for its crispy chicken) partnering with vegan substitute brands like Beyond Meat, which also features in our list of the best meat analogue brands for vegans. Scroll below to read about these brands which are creating ripples in the meat market and are replacing real meat off the shelves.
While the change might be negligible as several meat eaters refuse to give up their food habits, vegan substitutes for meat deserve a shot for being an alternative to a problem that is contributing to GHG emissions, soil erosion and water pollution. There are more reasons why you should consider trying these products, all of which we will lay down for you. Keep reading below!
Why Choose Vegetarian Meat?
The raging consciousness about vegetarian meat is due to the awareness about the adverse effects of livestock farming on the climate change situation, besides an ethical commitment to not let animals go under the knife to satiate one’s cravings.
However, the main motivating factor behind meat analogues is to reduce the carbon footprint generated by livestock farming and animal-based industries. Processes like growing fodder, clearing vast tracts of land to raise animals and the release of Methane from enteric fermentation which is a digestive process that occurs in cattle, sheep and goats contribute to the rising burden of global GHG emissions.
Therefore, to understand why you should go for vegetarian substitutes for meat, it is important to know about the harms of the often inhumane animal-farming industry and its impact on our climate.
The Adverse Effects of Livestock Farming
The 2013 report by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) established that the livestock sector yields almost 7.1 gigatons of CO2, which is roughly equivalent to the emissions from the world’s transportation. Nine years hence, the bitter reality of animal farming still persists, despite people growing increasingly aware of plant-based diet alternatives like vegan meat.
Apart from a huge carbon footprint, animal farming is also guilty of soil erosion and deforestation as several pastures and forested areas are cleared for rearing animals. Moreover, the animal livestock industry causes a significant amount of water pollution as well as water scarcity. With 92 percent of freshwater being used for agriculture, about one third of it is taken up by the livestock sector in feeding animals and producing meat, eggs and dairy.
There are more documented effects about the several harms of livestock industry-
- Almost 75% of all agricultural emissions emanate from it
- Animal agriculture results in immense biodiversity loss- currently the estimated tally is at a third of all the world’s biodiversity.
- Livestock farming has resulted in 55% of soil erosion and contributed to a whopping 70% of the planet’s global dietary phosphorous emission
- The increased use of antibiotics usually found in animal meat has contributed to antibiotic resistance in humans
But the question still remains- how effectively can vegetarian meat counter this crisis. Is it worth it? How about the expenses? Will switching to meat analogues cost you less while giving you the same taste and nutrition? And is it that good for sustainability just like its proponents claim?
How Does Meat Analogue Address This Crisis?
By replacing animal meats, vegan proteins replace the need for vast animal farms and a gruesome culture of butchering. We call it gruesome because animals are pretty receptive to everything that is happening around them The sheer panic and stress they go through before being killed is not a great feeling exactly.
Are Vegan Substitutes for Meat Healthier Than My Quarter Pounder Patty?
These imitation meats are claimed to be healthier than their real counterparts, however there are several concerns that might make people doubt their efficacy. Moreover, being simply healthy might not build a strong case for vegetarian meat.
When we speak about health, we need to expand our horizons to environmental health, a step ahead from human health. In accordance with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, we need to stand with alternatives that move to a more sustainable modes of nutrition, safeguarding animal welfare and public health.
However, for this section, we will keep our concerns limited to the pros of vegetarian meat alternatives for your body as we have already discussed the cost effectiveness of plant-based meats in the previous section.
A Comparison Between Animal and Plant Proteins
Animal proteins like red meat are associated with a rise in diabetes, strokes and obesity. Several studies have shown that the effects of meat consumption are pretty harmful. Also, the addition of antibiotics to meat and animal feed poses as a significant risk to human health.
Although a side of meat can supply you with your daily dietary need of Vitamin D and B12, DHA and EPA Omega-3 fatty acids, Zinc and Heme-iron- it also presents you with a significant risk of cardiovascular ailments due to the abundance of saturated fats and cholesterol.
Plant proteins on the other hand are considered to be particularly rich in fibre and are relatively safe for consumption as they have a reduced content of harmful bacteria and are rich in nine essential amino acids, if the products you are opting for are made from whole soybean, wheat and cereals. However, ‘incomplete’ plant proteins can also be detrimental if consumed in excess and are deficient in iron, tryptophan and Vitamin B12.
Moreover, plant meat might not be as effective as it claims to be as its efficacy still lacks the basis of comprehensive medical studies. Since most studies about vegan diets directly employ whole pulses and lentils instead of synthesized plant culture used to make imitation meat, it is still a question if the latter is an effective nutritious edible.
A lot of vegan meat are processed item and cannot be totally ‘plant-based’ as they might have a huge amount of additives, preservatives and fillers. This raises questions on how vegan is vegan meat indeed. While vegan meats are considered to be less costly than regular meat, arethey even worth it given the similar dangers they propose for our health? Moreover, the indiscriminate culture of soy-farming and the growing size of so-called vegan corporations might add more to the climate change problematique rather than reduce it.
But does that mean we should not prefer transitioning to more sustainable food habits at all? How can we provide a solution that accommodates all the rights and wrongs of our dietary habits and provide for a more ethical solution?
One can do this by a flexitarian approach and reducing the amount of dairy, meat and eggs in their diet, while replacing them with alternatives slowly. If you are concerned that it may impact your muscle development, several celebrities like Jessica Alba, Miranda Kerr, Benedict Cumberbatch and Leonardo di Caprio might prove otherwise. It is possible to be vegan without compromising your health, just beware of misleading trends, do proper research and reading and refer to your physician. You can try incorporating some of these plant-proteins with a reduced dose of animal meat to begin with and subscribe to reductionism- which works as well.
Popular Meat Alternatives for Vegans
Now that you know about the nutritional viability of meat alternatives and the reasons you should go for them, you must have been a little curious about sampling them. But where should you begin? Granted that plant-based meat is a forerunner when it comes to making pathbreaking vegan commitments, how do we choose?
Since most of meat analogues are made from soy protein which gives plant meats their chewy texture, it is easy to find them on the shelfs, no biggie. But what if you desire more than the chicken-y texture it offers? What to refer to when you simply desire something like pulled pork or duck? Does plant-based meat only equate to meat made from soy protein?
One can refer to the success of a meat analogue in India which is winning people’s hearts as a snack alternative or a feature in succulent, buttery curries. It is known as ‘Soya Chaap’ (Soy rolls) which are made from the residual product after soybean oil has been extracted. Soya chunks and granules are other products that have been replacing meat in delicacies like biriyanis, kebabs and other meat based delicacies.
However, as mentioned before, vegetarian meat products are not limited to soy. They can be made from other plant cultures, thus giving it a more diverse dimensions. Although not all vegetarian meat proteins are comprehensive enough to become a one-stop, all-assuming vegan product, several of them replicate the texture of different meats like beef, pulled pork, duck and chicken. Here is a small list of some of the most popular vegan substitutes for meat you can incorporate in your dishes-
First of all, we will sound a gluten-allergy advisory for this. Seitan is a vital wheat gluten-based meat substitute which is made out of hydrated and cooked gluten. And trust us, it is not as devilish as it sounds but quite the opposite (it is pronounced as say-tawn).
One can make seitan easily at home by mixing water and wheat flour into a sticky mass. After draining the liquid full of starch, the wheat gluten can be cooked, chopped and flavored as you please.
Ranking low on calories and high on protein, you can try including this meat analogue in your snacks and curries.
Jackfruit is being pitted as the next big meat substitute after soy and for obvious reasons. The shredded texture of jackfruit is quite similar to pulled pork or fish.
Throwback to the time my classmates at an Indian school were scandalized because my mom packed some delicious jackfruit stew in my bento and they had mistaken it for fish. I got told off by the teacher too. *Sigh*, the world wasn’t really kind to vegans in early 2000s as well, why blame only the internet?
Anyways, in a vegan world infested by tofu and tempeh, this spiky fruit has emerged as a neutral substitute for meat products. Braise it into some hoisin sauce and you won’t know that it isn’t pork. Mexican restaurants like Mas Veggies Taqueria use jackfruit liberally in their vegan fish bowls and tacos.
And why will we forget this darling, which is slowly stealing tofu’s thunder? This tradiitional Indonesian meat substitute is also made from soy, but it is fermented and cut up into a cake form.
Tempeh manufacture uses the Rhizopus oligosporus fungus to aid the fermentation process. It is particularly popular with vegans because of the abundance of Vitamin B12, calcium, fiber, iron and nine amino acids. Tempeh is known to promote bone health and lower inflammation along with a lower risk of breast cancer.
Five Vegetarian Meat Brands That Are Acquiring a Steak in the System
Now that we have spoken enough of generic substitutes that can be used instead of meat, it is time to look at a few brands who are creating the right stir about vegetarian meat with their products and in such a way that you will not miss eating meat anymore. These 5 brands are some of the best meat analogue producers right now and you should know why, before sampling their products! Tune into these BeZen curated recommendations and let us know if you liked them!
Bringing plant-based meat substitutes at your convenience, Boca doesn’t discriminate between non-vegans and vegans as their premium products are for everyone to enjoy!
The brand’s ensemble of vegan Chick’in, Turk’y burgers, falafel bites and nuggests will never fail to impress those who wish to take a plunge into vegan diets with a dose of fun and 14 grams of protein. Who said burgers cannot be tasty without meat? With Boca, they become meatier and definitely unique! You can buy their products from their website and Amazon, right here!
Trader Joe’s are also making some noise with their vegan lineup which is also gluten-free, like their Soy chorizo, or Sorizo over here! These snacky delights are also low on calories, so you can munch on them guilt-free!
Made by a small company that specialises in making chorizo, this product is laden with the right flavours and the right intent. You can also savour Trader Joe’s Turkeyless patties, here!
One of the premier brands which is a leading producer of vegan meat, Beyond Meat is making an impact by delivering veggie delights at a budget that will help you get over your cravings for meat quite easily.
Featuring a diverse lineup of products, Beyond Burger uses less water, land and energy than what goes in producing a regular burger. With no antibiotics, cholesterol and hormones, these bites are safe to eat and will keep you fulfilled and happy! Check out all their products here on their website.
How can we forget the good ol’ Tofu when we are talking about plant-based meat? With Tofurky, you can try a range of vegan meat delicacies which are made from Tempeh and Tofu while supporting the cause of animal welfare.
All their products are made from organic soy and are loaded with flavour and goodness. This family-owned brand places people before profit and operates on the motto of Yum for All, so make sure you check them out here!
Morningstar Farms’ Incogmeato Range
Adhering to ground rules and quite literally, Morningstar’s Incogmeato range uses premium ingredients like canola oil, soy protein, potato starch, sunflower lecithin and added vitamin B1 and B12.
The brand is committed to delivering vegan meatless alternatives which come with a certified Plant Based Food Association (PBFA) logo and are Kosher. Check out their full range of veggitizers, nuggets and plant-based-grounds, here!
Our Verdict on Vegan Meat Alternatives: Yeah or Nah
For us, it is a total YEAH! Vegan meat alternatives that are ethically produced without compromising natural resources too much are a great alternative which should e tried out. While they have their own set of challenges, vegetarian meats are proving to be a hot favorite of vegans who wish to adapt to a new taste whilst holding fast to cruelty-free eating. Even non-vegans can give these delights a shot, however, adapting these products in the long term should be backed by adequate research and more confirmation about their nutritional value.