Plant-based beef and mince are popular ingredients in vegan cooking now, but what is it made of?
Despite common perception, there is no real beef between companies like Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, Meatless Farm, Quorn, and the like. When everything is stripped back, they all want the same thing: a global food chain kinder to animals and the planet.
So how do they do it? How do you substitute meat products like beef — the least environmentally-friendly ingredient in the food industry — with plant-based alternatives that aren’t detrimental to the climate? Products like plant-based hot dogs, veggie burgers and vegan sausages are all the rage in restaurants and grocery stores alike now, but what do they comprise?
Here are the ingredients some of the most famous plant-based meat brands use in their beef alternatives.
Beyond Meat famously avoids the use of soy in its ground beef and signature burger, instead opting for pea protein as its main plant-based protein source.
In addition to that, its main ingredients include water, expeller-pressed canola oil, refined coconut oil, rice protein, natural flavours, dried yeast, cocoa butter and methylcellulose. What is the rest of the plant-based beef made up of? 1% or less of potato starch, salt, potassium chloride, beet powder colour, apple extract, pomegranate concentrate, sunflower lecithin, vinegar, and lemon juice concentrate.
And on top of all this, it is fortified with vitamins and minerals including zinc sulfate, niacinamide (vitamin B3), pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), cyanocobalamin (vitamin B12), and calcium pantothenate.
Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat’s great rival, banks on soy rather than pea protein, with its iconic use of heme aiding the flavour and look of the celebrated Impossible Burger.
The ingredients are water, soy protein concentrate, coconut oil, sunflower oil and natural flavours, with 2% or less of potato protein, methylcellulose, yeast extract, cultured dextrose, modified food starch, soy leghemoglobin, salt, mixed tocopherols (which is an antioxidant) and soy protein isolate.
This is also fortified with vitamins and minerals like zinc gluconate, thiamine hydrochloride (vitamin B1), niacin, pyridoxine hydrochloride (vitamin B6), riboflavin (Vitamin B2) and vitamin B12.
Meatless Farm has made major strides in the plant-based food industry over the last year, with a range of meat alternatives covering all bases. Its beef products are the standard burger and ground beef.
With pea protein as the main ingredient, making up for 19%, among the other components are water rapeseed oil, shea oil, methylcellulose, coconut oil, rice protein, pea fibre and yeast extracts.
To add to these textural ingredients are the flavour enhancers in caramelised carrot concentrate, fruit and vegetable extracts (beetroot, radish, tomato), natural flavourings, potato fibre, potato starch, salt, ground black pepper, carrot concentrate, smoked water, and ascorbic acid as an acidity regulator.
One of the oldest meatless brands out there, Quorn boasts the widest range of products in the industry. While it has a meatless mince, it isn’t plant-based, as it contains eggs. But Quorn does have an Ultimate Burger that is made to a vegan recipe and serves as an alternative to beef.
What is in Quorn’s plant-based beef burger? Water, textured proteins comprising wheat gluten, pea protein, wheat starch, wheat flour, and pea protein isolate, sunflower, palm and coconut oils, 10% mycoprotein, natural flavourings, 4% red beet juice (made from red beetroot and lemon juice concentrate), methylcellulose, potato protein and barley malt extract.
A relatively new kid on the block, Future Farm has also made waves in the vegan meat industry in the last few years. Its signature product is the Future Burger, but it also makes meatballs and a ground Future Beef.
The focus is on clean-label ingredients, with a trio of plant-based protein sources making up the base. The ingredient list starts with water and vegetable protein, which is made from 17% concentrated soy protein, 2% isolated soy protein, 1% concentrated pea protein and 1% chickpea flour.
To this, the brand adds coconut oil, canola oil, natural flavourings, methylcellulose, salt and colour from beetroot powder and charcoal.