Get the skinny on meat substitutes
There seems to be a lot of clamoring to replace real meat in the marketplace. Here are some things to consider:
We need protein. In fact, experts predict that within the next 30 years, the world will need to produce 50% more protein to adequately feed everyone on this planet. Some people feel that needs to be done without the help of animals, who provide high quality protein from poultry, fish, eggs, meat, milk and cheese. And they also aren’t too fond of the potential to harness insects as a food source for our expanding world population.
Plant foods supply protein as well. And meat substitutes made with soy, quinoa, peas and other vegetable proteins have been around for decades. Here are the ingredients (from most to least) in Morningstar Farms Grillers Original Veggie Burger, for example: water, wheat gluten, soy flour, vegetable oils, egg whites, calcium caseinate, corn starch, onion and soy powders, methylcellulose, onion and carrot concentrates, salt, natural flavor, soy protein isolate, garlic powder, spices, sugar, gum acacia, whey, yeast extract, xanthan gum, tomato starch, tomato paste and onion juice concentrate. Protein? 16 grams in a 2-ounce patty, about what you’d get in two eggs.
Now we have the Impossible burger that pops up on every other commercial. This product claims to be everything we love about beef except it’s not beef. Protein in a 4-ounce serving: 19 grams.
And now … ready for this? … there is a meatless “air-based meat” made with elements found in the air — carbon dioxide, oxygen and nitrogen. These are blended with water and minerals and fermented to produce protein. Yum.
Real beef is produced the old-fashioned way by cows who eat plant food. It has one ingredient: beef, which is naturally rich in protein (23 grams in 4 ounces), iron, zinc, selenium and B-vitamins.
How do these products rate nutritionally? Ounce for ounce, a Morningstar veggie burger contains less saturated fat than lean beef. Yet — because it contains more processed ingredients — it has 5 five times more sodium than fresh beef. The Impossible burger has no cholesterol (no plant food does), but it has more calories, fat and saturated fat (the type of fat we are called to reduce in our diet) than a burger made with lean ground beef.
Some would tell us these meat-type substitutes are better for the environment. I’ll comment on that in a future column. For now, remember that we have choices. Let’s try our best to base them on sound information.