Reading time: 6 minutes
Even just 20 years ago, the idea of vegan meat was a fairly alien one, even to the most experienced vegan. Now, vegan alternatives to meat are a rapidly growing industry and can be found in all major grocery stores, as more and more people realize they want to move away from eating animals. The list of delicious, readily available and high quality products gets longer every year.
What Is Vegan Meat?
It’s as simple as it sounds. Vegan meat is a replacement for meat that is made of plant-based ingredients, yet mimics the taste and texture of meat. And the products available do an excellent job of this, so much so that often it is impossible to tell the difference.
What Is Vegan Meat Made Out Of?
This depends on the product. Vegan meats can be made out of anything from mushrooms to pea protein, to wheat gluten (seitan). All natural, all plant-based ingredients, that taste and act just like meat. And as the industry grows, and research is completed more and more products are created.
Is Vegan Meat Healthier Than Real Meat?
The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified all processed meat as class 1 carcinogenic, meaning it definitely causes cancer, and all red meat as class 2, meaning it is likely to do so also. So, this would suggest any alternative that doesn’t contain meat from animals is going to be a healthier option long term. Still, we are the first to say that just because something is vegan, it doesn’t mean it’s automatically healthy. Vegan junk food is still junk food and processed food is still processed. But, when you look at the long list of life threatening diseases, chronic conditions and health risks associated with meat consumption, it is hard to see how any alternative could be less healthy!
If we take a look at the Beyond Burger, one of the most popular vegan meat products, it stacks up well compared to beef. The Beyond Burger has less saturated fat, zero cholesterol, fewer calories overall, the same amount of complete protein, contains fiber and a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals. So, whilst this is considered a processed product that shouldn’t be eaten every day, as part of a balanced diet, it is most definitely the healthier option.
If that’s not enough to convince you, a study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that swapping Beyond Meat products for beef, and keeping all other nutritional habits the same, resulted in improved cardiovascular risk factors among healthy adults. So, the risk posed by the biggest killer in the US, heart disease, can be reduced by replacing beef with vegan meat!
Vegan Meat Substitutes
Here’s a list of 12 meat substitutes (both brands and ingredients) you can rely on:
Beyond meat is arguably the benchmark when it comes to vegan meat. They have a wide range of products from burgers to sausages and ground beef, and are so far the only vegan meat company to grow large enough to go public on the stock market (one of the most successful IPOs since the year 2000, by the way).
Another big hitter and one of the first companies to break into mainstream fast food outlets. Impossible burgers can be found in Burger King, as well as many other fast food outlets. Whatever you may think of large fast food companies, that has to be a step in the right direction for veganism.
Sweet Earth does a full range of vegan meats, but the honorable mention is their plant-based bacon, flavored with hickory, sage and garlic. It’s amazing!
Gardein has a wide range of delicious meatless products and one of their biggest appeals is they can be found on the shelf in major stores like Walmart.
Many companies have already mastered replicating the taste and texture of beef. Chicken has proved slightly more challenging, but the last few years have seen incredible results. Daring is one company who have nailed the taste and texture, and their product is not breaded or fried, making it a healthier option, too.
Found in grocery stores all over North America, Tofurky is a long-standing brand with over 35 different products, from simple sausages to deli slices.
South African vegetarian company Fry’s has offered meat-free products for over 30 years and now offers a wide range of delicious, high quality products in US stores.
Moving away from brands to products, seitan is one of the most popular chicken substitutes due to its excellent texture, ability to absorb flavor and high protein content. It is made of vital wheat gluten (made from wheat flour), so it is cheap and readily available!
An old-school-vegan favorite – tofu has come a long way from the perception many people once had of a rubbery bland product. Cook it on a hot skillet with some sweet chilli sauce and soy, throw it into some noodles and you won’t be disappointed. For fans of Chinese food, find your local restaurant and see for yourself some of the amazing things that can be done with tofu.
The ever versatile soybean comes under a lot of scrutiny as an ingredient in vegan products, largely from the meat industry, due to its contribution to deforestation. This is odd however, considering the majority of all soy grown on the planet is used as animal feed in factory farming. The small amount that is used for vegan products can be used to create delicious, high-protein products. If we only produced soy for vegan meats, the impact on the planet would be minimal and manageable.
One of the key ingredients of the Beyond Burger, pea protein is popular in vegan meats due to its high-protein content and versatility. It is naturally flavorless, so is a fantastic building block for vegan meat products.
Mushrooms are wonderfully versatile and naturally provide that ‘umami’ flavour that so many of us crave, making them excellent building blocks for vegan meats. Mushroom burgers, sausages and steaks are common, but for some, just a whole portobello on the BBQ is plenty to replace the meat in a burger.
Where To Find Vegan Meat?
Honest answer, pretty much everywhere you would usually shop (except maybe the butchers)!
Here is a list of suggestions for your next grocery trip:
- Ralphs Fresh Fare
- Sprouts Farmers Market
Don’t forget about your local health foods or grocery stores also! As the vegan meat industry grows, products are becoming much more widely available, so get out there and support your local store.
The vegan meat market has grown rapidly in recent years, to meet the growing demand from people making the switch to a vegan lifestyle as well as people reducing their intake. This growth is only projected to increase and this is a hugely positive step. The less people supporting the unethical, environmentally damaging and socially irresponsible factory farming of animals the better. So, we can all support this growth by heading out and buying vegan meat products, instead of animal flesh. These products are delicious, widely available and healthier than meat – so what’s to lose?