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#EcoTuesday: What is Plant-Based Meat?

hamburger

The burger above looks tasty, doesn’t it? That is actually an Impossible Burger, and it is made of plant-based protein. The Impossible Burger and it’s main competitor, Beyond Burger are the recent heavy hitters in the veggie-meat industry. Their beef and pork substitutes are being served in both traditional and fast-food restaurants and sports venues across the country.

Empanada containing Beyond Beef
Beyond Meat

Both the beef and pork substitutes are surprising people with their texture and taste. They are being used in burgers, tacos, breakfast burritos, empanadas, sausage links, and many other dishes where beef and pork are the main protein. After trying both burgers, with proper preparation and seasoning, I can say they taste like the real thing.

So what’s inside these things? They are made of proteins derived from plants like soy (Impossible) and peas (Beyond). Other ingredients like coconut oil and nutrient additives are turned into a food that cooks, looks, and tastes similar to beef or pork. This is the big difference between these and the vegetable alternatives that we are used to seeing. These have the texture and taste of the meats they are replacing. The names are trademarked, so anytime you see “Impossible” or “Beyond” next to the name of the meat on a menu, it comes directly from the manufacturer.

Breakfast burrito with Beyond Pork sausage
Beyond Meat

These alternatives have have encouraged people to trim beef and pork out of their routine diet for health and/or ethical reasons. As we mentioned in our profile of plant-based dairy, cattle farms are some of the biggest polluters and water consumption sites in the country. Producing these substitutes has a smaller impact on the environment. Now you can start to see why these are popular among the eco-conscious crowd.

Impossible Foods recently won a United Nations Global Climate Action Award in the “Planetary Health” category. This award recognizes solutions that help balance human health and a healthy planet. If the UN is praising these companies as good for the environment, then they are probably on the right track.

Patties at the Impossible Foods facotry
Impossible Foods

The recent wave of swine flu in Asia could also contribute to a shift from pork to plant-based meats in that part of the world. China’s pig population has dropped from 400 million to around 200 million. With the arrival of a substitute, there could be a huge shift in diet there. With more experimentation and flavor working, we could see chicken and fish substitutes in the next 10 years.

Chicken farms also produce a lot of waste that negatively effect nearby communities. The chicken waste runoff can get into rivers, lakes, and even drinking water sources. Overfishing has also become a huge threat to the ocean habitats. Aquatic life needs to repopulate, so a fish substitute could help that along. If you are looking for ways to help the environment through your food choices, but love the taste of meat, give these new options a try.

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