Faux Meat: The Modern Day Margarine?

With every announcement from the manufactures of faux meat I sigh a bit more (sometimes inwardly, often – too often – ranting on Facebook), mostly perplexed that faux meat is somehow a good thing to consume. With KFC announcing yesterday a new vegan fried chicken being tested, coming from Beyond Meat, I just cringed even more. You are eating faux meat, breaded and then deep fried in cheap soybean oil. That isn’t good for anyone! Yet, so many are excited to potentially try it out.

Today a friend commented on Facebook that ‘will fake meat become what margarine has become, in the years to come’. And yes, I do think it will.

So…you might ask: What is my issue with highly processed plant protein and faux meats?

I would tell you this: It isn’t real food. It is highly processed big ag food. It is based off commodity crops such as wheat, soy, corn and peas. These crops are potentially GMO, and use large amounts of water, fertilizers and pesticides (not to mention herbicides). Even certified organic lines are at risk of these – organic doesn’t mean it is free of these things (outside of GMO). Then the ingredients are transported, with a heavy carbon footprint, to be processed into a product to sell. Then packaged into plastic bags and trays, and then shipped around the country.

Some brands are better than others, but none are perfect, due to the use of protein powders in nearly all of them. It is a processed mix that is full of major allergens and reliant on Big Ag to produce it.

Choose your hipster or stalwart brand and look at the ingredients that show up:

Pea Protein
Soy and/or soy protein/isolate
Wheat
Potato
Coconut and Palm Oils
Thickeners and stabilizers (gums)

If you don’t know how pea protein is made, you need to learn the process. Companies promote it being green garden peas in photos, but it isn’t. It is made from field peas (yellow), and nearly all companies that make it grind up the entire plant, not just the peas. At least Field Roast lists it accurately as yellow peas. But you are not eating peas as you think. You are eating a dense protein made from them. In your normal day you don’t willing sit down to a meal made of dried pods, and for some companies, even vines. (And yes, there are plenty of videos and blogs about making pea protein at home, but no, that is not how large companies make it.) When you eat pea protein you are consuming the shells that harbor residual pesticides and chemical fertilizers. It is no shock that pea allergy is rising fast, particularly if a person is already peanut allergic.

A few things I have gleaned off of the faux meat companies public pages –

From Beyond Meat‘s website:
“IS THE BEYOND BURGERâ„¢ SAFE TO CONSUME IF I HAVE A NUT ALLERGY?
Peas are legumes. People with severe allergies to legumes like peanuts should be cautious when introducing pea protein into their diet because of the possibility of a pea allergy. Our products do not contain peanuts or tree nuts.”

Beyond Meat burger:
Water, Pea Protein Isolate, Expeller-Pressed Canola Oil, Refined Coconut Oil, Contains 2% or less of the following: Cellulose from Bamboo, Methylcellulose, Potato Starch, Natural Flavor, Maltodextrin, Yeast Extract, Salt, Sunflower Oil, Vegetable Glycerin, Dried Yeast, Gum Arabic, Citrus Extract (to protect quality), Ascorbic Acid (to maintain color), Beet Juice Extract (for color), Acetic Acid, Succinic Acid, Modified Food Starch, Annatto (for color).

Impossible Burger:
Water, Soy Protein Concentrate, Coconut Oil, Sunflower Oil, Natural Flavors, 2% or less of: Potato Protein, Methylcellulose, Yeast Extract, Cultured Dextrose, Food Starch Modified, Soy Leghemoglobin, Salt, Soy Protein Isolate, Mixed Tocopherols (Vitamin E), Zinc Gluconate, Thiamine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1), Sodium Ascorbate (Vitamin C), Niacin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Vitamin B12.

Field Roast burgers: (I will say that they are the cleanest of all the choices, and actually come close to being a more whole food – note no protein powders, they use pea flour)
Vital wheat gluten, filtered water, organic expeller pressed palm fruit oil, barley, garlic, expeller pressed safflower oil, onions, tomato paste, celery, carrots, naturally flavored yeast extract, onion powder, mushrooms, barley malt, sea salt, spices, carrageenan (Irish moss sea vegetable extract), celery seed, balsamic vinegar, black pepper, shiitake mushrooms, porcini mushroom powder and yellow pea flour.

Gardein:

They make both regular and gluten free products. They to rely heavily on soy protein to make their line. The Beefless Ground has one of the shortest ingredient lists of faux meats:

Water, Soy Protein Concentrate, Organic Caramel Color, Canola Oil, Organic Cane Sugar, Yeast Extract, Onion Powder, Salt, Garlic Powder, Natural Flavors, Sea Salt, Sugar, Spices.

Then ask who is making your food.

For example, lets say you love the old school Boca line – it is owned by Kraft. Field Roast sold to Maple Leaf, the largest meat packer in Canada. Lightlife brand is also owned by Maple Leaf. Pinnacle Foods, which owns the Armour canned meats brand, owns Gardein. And it goes on – the majority of vegan/plant based companies are now owned by the big players in the food industry. These companies don’t care about YOU. They care about making money. They buy up the small, innovative companies because developing a line under their real name doesn’t work so well. Leave up a quaint and fuzzy feeling website for people to visit, and hide who actually owns it. They are going to survive no matter which way customers shop. They will tell you it is green and good for the environment, but it isn’t. Not at the level of how processed it is. And worse, the products are often high in sodium and sugar, to make them taste good. Calorie counts are often higher than the meat it is replacing. These mass produced burgers/ground beef/fake chicken/fake fish are not the answer – and leave just as much plastic garbage as beef does. They are not “green” at all. Always question why you are being sold goods and look into the companies.

The Final Thoughts:

I’d rather eat my vegetables as they come out of the ground. Just eat the produce. If you don’t want to eat meat, make your own veggie burgers, it is easy and very tasty (and yes, I do make them). You can make burgers and ground ‘beef’ from whole foods in your kitchen. Just yesterday I saw an amazing recipe posted by one of my favorite recipe developers for Vegan Oat and Mushroom Ground Beef. GO TRY IT! Oats and mushrooms can all be grown locally (neither are hard to grow).

~Sarah