Impossible Burgers and Beyond: How meat substitutes stack up against the real deal
Regardless of race, creed, or cultural background, the vast majority of us were raised as meat eaters. Like many of yours, my parents followed the traditional Western diet: One portion of meat, one portion of veggies, and some kind of grain. “Now, go do your homework!”
Speaking of homework, raise your hand if you remember the food pyramid. If you’d like a good laugh, take a look at how much bread, cereal, rice, and pasta they thought we should eat every day (Hint: it’s the base of the pyramid). Until First Lady Michelle Obama replaced the food pyramid with My Plate in 2011, the US government and our schools were teaching us to load up on carbs and eat more animal products than fruits and veggies. There’s no wonder why so many of us struggle with our eating habits.
The point is that the diets of our ancestors are ingrained in our psyche. The difference between our generation and that of our parents and grandparents is the staggering amount of meat being produced, consumed, ingested, and wasted every single day. Until the introduction of factory farming in the 1960’s, the meat market was based off of locally sourced farmers and fisherman. Now, 99% of animals used for food spend their entire lives on factory farms, crammed into filthy cages, being pumped full of antibiotics and growth hormones.
It is entirely normal, even for the most hardened vegan veteran to crave a juicy cheeseburger or their mother’s spaghetti and meatballs. Now, with the advent of meat substitutes such as Impossible Burger and Beyond Beef, there are delicious, healthy, sustainably sourced alternatives that resemble those foods we used to know and love.
An Appealing Alternative
Developing substitute chopped meat, burger patties, sausages and more, companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have truly transformed the plant-based space. Many of us have tried the black bean burgers, mushroom steaks, cauliflower chicken wings, and tofu balls. Some of these products are delicious and some are dreadful (I’m talking to you, mushroom steaks), but none of them truly mimic meat.
Unlike meat substitutes of the past, these products look, feel, smell, and taste exactly like the real thing with none of the negative effects. Not only are they free of antibiotics, GMO’s, and cholesterol, they are packed with all the minerals and nutrients we expect to get from animal meat.
Years ago, my wife and I decided to make a concerted effort to eat less meat. Living in central Florida, the only meat substitutes available to us at this time were in the frozen food section. While these products tasted great, the differences between a frozen black bean burger and a real hamburger were night and day. In addition, like most frozen foods, these products are often packed full of sodium as well as chemicals that provide these goods with a longer shelf life.
Upon the introduction of meat substitutes such as Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, I, like many of you, was sceptical. What is it, exactly? Why does it look like meat? Is this too real? The second I tried one of Beyond’s brats, all of those questions went away. It was delicious.
Oh, and you know that post-barbeque gut-bomb that leaves you bloated, groggy, and regretting that second sausage? Non existent! Incorporating these products into my diet has helped me eat less meat, which has done wonders for my health as well as my conscience.
Why Eat Less Meat
The factory farmed and processed meats that fill most of our grocery stores can lead to a variety of chronic health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. These farms are often poorly maintained, serving as breeding grounds for Salmonella, E. coli, and other dangerous pathogens. From their filthy living conditions to the chemicals they are injected with, we ingest all the abuse inflicted upon these animals.
Even with the knowledge of how most of our meat is produced, it can still be difficult to cut it out of our diets. According to the Mayo Clinic, consuming just two meatless meals a week could drastically reduce your risk of chronic illness. Substituting these two meals with plant-based proteins such as an Impossible or Beyond burger will be more affordable than meat and contain more health benefits. In addition to having positive impacts on your personal health, eating less meat is also good for the environment.
Meating the demand
Meeting the demand for meat around the world requires a tremendous amount of energy and natural resources. This has led to massive deforestation to make room for more factory farms, destroying even more wildlife in the process. Nearly 60% of the world’s arable land is dedicated to livestock production, half of which is used to grow food for farm animals.
Between the fuel used throughout the factory farming process and the natural gasses emitted by the animals themselves, the production of meat is one of the top offenders affecting the planet. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, livestock such as cattle, pigs, and chickens, represent 14.5 percent of the entire planet’s greenhouse gas emissions.
How you can help
With more delicious, realistic meat substitutes hitting the shelves, there is a real opportunity for the world to scale back on the production of meat products and shrink this sector’s carbon footprint. Meat production and consumption will never be eradicated from the earth, but it can and must be moderated for the wellbeing of ourselves and our planet.
If you are a meat eater, buy from local, independent farmers and hunters. Avoid purchasing factory farmed goods, and try a meat substitute a few nights a week. They are as good for you as they are delicious. I swear!
If you are a vegan or vegetarian, try tricking (or talking to) your carnivorous friends into trying an Impossible Burger or some Beyond Sausages at your next cookout. Also, make sure the food you’re eating is safely produced and sustainably sourced. Just because it’s not meat, doesn’t mean it’s good for you.