In a previous post, I examined a United Nations report urging reductions in the consumption of animal-based foods in order to mitigate climate change and avoid world hunger (here). The report states, “Unlike fossil fuels, it is difficult to look for alternatives: people have to eat. A substantial reduction of impacts [from agriculture] would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products.” Luckily, the concern with finding “alternatives” to eating animals now is no longer a major issue, thanks to a new, plant-based meat alternative developed here in the United States.
Beyond Meat is a Maryland based company that invented a plant-based chicken alternative called Veggie Chicken Strips. In taste tests, “people either don’t notice the difference [from animal-based chicken], or love it and request it again (source).” The Strips are relatively healthy with 19 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, 25% of recommended daily iron, and only 1.5 grams of non-saturated fat per 100 calorie serving (about 3 ounces). The secret for this close-to-perfect substitute is a patented processing technique that combines soy and pea protein into the plant-based chicken. Plans are in the works for beef and pork alternatives too.
The plant-based meat revolution has already begun in Europe. The extraordinary growth of a Dutch company called The Vegetarian Butcher lead The Independent to ask “Is this the end of meat?” Opened in 2010, The Vegetarian Butcher’s products now sell in 180 Netherlands outlets, with 500 more outlets coming this Summer and plans for international distribution soon. Again, their vast array of plant-based meat fools the traditional animal eater. In a taste test outside one of the Butcher’s shops, not one person guessed the smoke “mackerel” was not fish.
So the “alternative” to eating animals does exist. The taste and texture of these plant-based meats are the same as the animal-based meats, but without the animal cruelty or environmental degradation.
Putting aside animal rights and the environment, the development of plant-based meat substitutes can help the average household as well. Prices in the United States for animal-based meat will likely keep increasing as world-wide demand continues to rise (source), and Americans are already feeling the pinch as per capita animal consumption has fallen for 4 consecutive years, a trend expected to continue in 2012 (source). Meanwhile prices for these new, plant-based meats will fall as production increases and techniques are mastered. These economic trends will lead to increases in plant-based meat consumption by non-vegetarians, but don’t worry, it’s a perfect substitute!