In the last post we shared with you an innovative way of increasing food security for generations to come via an unconventional method of utilizing the upcycling benefit of insects to bridge the gap between our planets rising population and the additional mouths to feed. Although I am sure a few of you thought the idea was interesting, I am also sure that most of you just aren’t there yet. So, without further a due, today, I will be shedding some light on another alternative solution (believe me this one is more widespread and “socially acceptable”) which has been trending across the globe, meat substitutes! Meat substitutes have hit the consumer market in force with the vegans and vegetarians of our world vouching for its amazing ability to both provide their protein needs and let’s face it, a guilt free trip down memory lane. The meat substitute market is currently valued at USD4.8 Billion and conservative figures suggest that it will reach USD 8.1 Billion by 2026. This only goes to show that the market was there, and consumers were simply waiting for the right push in that direction. Today’s post will not only be about the fake meats we hear of on the news, but also on every other substitute that exists such as Tofu, Tempeh, Seitan along with all the other varieties with hard to pronounce names. Warning, no animals were harmed in the making of this opinion piece!
Substitutes or Complements?
Meat substitutes have been around long before the invention of what we call fake meat (Impossible Burgers or the Beyond Meat of our times). Prior to these two behemoths entering the market, a valid substitute was tofu. Tofu contains all nine-essential amino-acids and scores highly on Biological Value, it does however fall short of eggs when it comes to the total amount of these important amino-acids. Moving on to Tempeh, this soy-based product is made of fermented soybeans that have been compacted into firm “cakes”. As with tofu, Tempeh also contains the nine-essential amino-acids and has the highest concentration of protein when we compare it to the same weight of eggs or tofu. Seitan is made from wheat gluten and is a chewy, dense and beef-jerky like protein, it packs high protein, but is lacking one of the nine essential amino acids (lysine). Depending on how seitan is cooked, lysine can be supplemented by simply cooking with chickpeas or adding chickpea powder to the cooking method. All three seem to be great substitutes to meat whilst also having the added benefits of vitamins and minerals. Why then are we only seeing a shift in consumer behavior now? All these options have been staple items long before the fake meats came along.
The lure of fake meats
Fake meats fulfill every vegan and vegetarians dream, the opportunity to eat plant based while also getting some of the added benefits of eating meat. They can replicate, to some extent what we all love/loved about meat, the texture, aroma and ultimately the taste. This helps to explain why they have had such great success with consumers, independent of the consumers food preferences. Fakes meats are not free of controversy though, some say that this genetically engineered byproduct may not be as healthy and nutritious as tofu, tempeh, seitan or what it is trying ultimately trying to replace, meat. Recent studies have also suggested that the “growth” of these fake meats lead to concerning effects on the land that they are produced on since these are fabricated on monoculture land. Fake meats have not been around long enough for us to study the effects of consuming them on our health, it is therefore too early to say whether there are side effects in the long run. These genetically engineered byproducts of plants are not naturally occurring and are highly processed, are they really a step up from the nutrition we have had available to us? Are we really helping our planet cope with overconsumption by adopting the practice of eating these meats as opposed to wholesome and naturally occurring food items? In part 2 we will be continuing this topic…tune in for more.