Vegan meat has finally become more readily available, meeting the demand from people avoiding animal-based products. Thanks to food tech, even vegans now have various plant-based meat options at their favorite take-out or grocery store.
Whether you have switched to plant-based meat for health or environmental reasons, these products have come a long way in the last few years, offering an exciting array of options with excellent nutritional value, texture, and taste.
In this article, we focus on unraveling the mystery of vegan meat.
What is Vegan Meat Made of?
Unraveling the mystery of vegan meats may seem simple, but these meatless alternatives
are more complex than combining a few plant-based ingredients.
Advancements in food technology and creativity from chefs have significantly influenced the creation of vegan meat that matches real meat in everything, including appearance, texture, and taste.
Interestingly, vegan meat alternatives date back further than you think. The first meat substitute, tofu, was made in 206 BC. Textured soy protein like tofu and seitan (wheat gluten) remain essential ingredients in some meatless products, but several more products that mimic several aspects of foods have joined the list.
Other ingredients used in vegan meat include:
- Potato starch
- Grains like quinoa
- Pea protein
- Beans, chickpeas, and lentils
- Coconut oil (mimics beef fat)
- Seeds and nuts
- Spices and condiments
Getting the Meat Taste and Appearance
The right combination of protein, fat, minerals, and vitamins helps create meatless burgers, sausages, kebabs, etc., that look and taste like meat.
The complex combinations of ingredients depend on whether the manufacturer wants the vegan meat to taste like beef, chicken, lamb, or pork.
For example, the rich meaty flavor of Beyond Burger comes from combining pea protein with coconut oil and other ingredients. The company uses beet juice, a natural coloring, to give its burger the “bleeding” effect. They recreate the texture of “real meat” with vegetable proteins through a process known as extrusion, which entails heating, cooling, and cooking them.
On the other hand, Impossible Burger uses a soy and potato protein enhanced with a special ingredient called heme to recreate its meaty richness and “bleeding.”
Heme is the molecule that helps blood carry oxygen throughout the animal body and is released by myoglobin. In plant-based foods, it’s released by legume hemoglobin when heated to impart its flavor and red coloring found in beef.
Legume hemoglobin used to come from the roots of soy plants. However, it’s now made in a lab and derived from genetically modified yeast fed with soybean plant DNA before fermentation.
How Healthy is Vegan Meat?
Large-scale animal production is known to impact the environment because of its significant contribution to greenhouse emissions. Plant-based foods like vegan meat carry many health benefits because they are a good source of antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins. They are also low in calories and free of trans fats while containing higher fiber and amino acids.
However, vegan meat can contain higher sodium levels to create flavor and imitate the taste of meat, meaning that it may not always be healthier.
Chemical Use in Plant-Based Meat vs. Animal-based Meats
Many argue that vegan meats have many ingredients and require more processing than animal products. However, this is far from the truth.
Animal rearing and slaughtering also entail many chemical processes that some consumers are unaware of. Factory farming of animals requires selective breeding, the use of antibiotics, and the use of chemicals during slaughtering.
These measures help stock farmers and meat manufacturers ensure better growth prospects, disease prevention, and a healthy end-product for the consumer because animals face constant exposure to dirty conditions on farms, abattoirs, and meat packaging facilities.
The production of vegan meats ensures a kinder choice since no animal needs to undergo the above procedures. However, as a consumer, it’s up to you to ensure that your vegan meat of choice contains the wholesome ingredients required to maintain a healthy diet.
Plant-based meat contains no saturated fats, the leading cause of heart disease, meaning you can enjoy healthier meals with negligible environmental impact.
How Sustainable is Plant-based Meat?
Above, we looked at the health benefits of vegan meats and touched on the environmental impact of rearing meat. Let’s take a closer look at the numbers:
Animal-based foods require far more land and water resources than growing crops. Animal farming requires almost 20% of the earth’s fresh water and contributes 14.5% of the greenhouse emissions.
Conversely, plant-based foods are more sustainable. The Humane League mentions a study commissioned by Beyond Meat; the University of Michigan found that producing one of their vegetable burgers requires 90% less greenhouse gas emissions. It also has 99% less impact on water shortages, uses 93% less land, and has 46% less electricity than ¼ pound of beef.
Plant-Based meat Options
Consumer demand for vegan meat is worth close to $2 billion in a plant-based food market worth over $7 billion – and growth will continue as consumer demand increases.
Consuming vegan meat can help protect animals like chickens and pigs that suffer terrible abuses on animal farms. Most cows are confined to barns, never grazing outside.
Resources from the sea are endangered because of overfishing, destroyed ecosystems, and pollution, while farmed fish mimics the same cruel conditions seen in animal agriculture. Finally, egg-laying chickens also live in confined spaces, while male chicks are killed at birth because they are useless to farmers.
Estimates say that at least 130 billion animals are slaughtered annually to feed the world’s population. If you don’t want any part of this, you can enjoy any vegan meat without causing any animal to suffer.
Vegan meats provide an array of tasty alternatives to ensure you play no part in the suffering of any living creature.
The evolution of meat alternatives started long ago, as we read in this interesting article by Nea Pantry. However, following a plant-based lifestyle has never been easier than it is now, thanks to the diverse availability of vegan meat products. Whether you want to be kinder to animals and the environment or to protect your health, several products mimic meat and taste just as good.
Plant-based foods like vegan meat carry many health benefits because they are a good source of antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins. They are also low in calories and free of trans fats while containing higher fiber and amino acids. However, vegan meat can contain higher sodium levels to create flavor and imitate the taste of meat, meaning that it may not always be healthier.
Animal-based foods require far more land and water resources than growing crops. Animal farming requires almost 20% of the earth’s fresh water and contributes 14.5% of the greenhouse emissions. Conversely, plant-based foods are more sustainable. The Humane League mentions a study commissioned by Beyond Meat; the University of Michigan found that producing one of their vegetable burgers requires 90% less greenhouse gas emissions. It also has 99% less impact on water shortages, uses 93% less land, and has 46% less electricity than ¼ pound of beef.
There is an array of plant-based options for vegan meat, such as soy- or pea-protein products like veggie burgers, sausages, deli slices, meatballs, mincemeat, and Tofurky varieties made from tofu or seitan. Beyond Meat’s Impossible Burger and Beyond Sausage have been tein enhanced to look, cook and taste like real meat. Many plant-based alternatives are available, such as jackfruit, tempeh, lentils, mushrooms, seitan, squash, and beans. Additionally, various vegan cheese options can be used for pizzas or sandwiches.
Plant-based meats provide high protein levels without saturated fats or additional processing chemicals commonly found in animal products. They contain no cholesterol and are low in calories, making them healthier than traditional beef burgers. Additionally, they are far more sustainable than animal products since they require substantially less land and water resources while producing fewer emissions than animal farming. Finally, consuming plant-based meats can help reduce animal suffering on farms.
Plant-based meat options have come a long way in terms of taste and texture, with most of them approximating the real thing when cooked properly. If you’re unsure about flavor, try some recipes before committing to a specific product. Additionally, many vegan cheese alternatives are available to give your meal an extra kick. At the same time, some plant-based meat products even mimic the “bleeding” effect for a more realistic feel. Vegan meats offer great flavors and textures without contributing to animal suffering or environmental degradation.