Fake Meat: GF Goes Off On A Rant.

(Impossible Burger) The company uses this as a marketing photo, but I’ll be honest, if a restaurant served me something that looked like this I would walk out. That is one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever seen.

Someone asked me what I think of fake meat, specifically the “Impossible Burger” ™ and “Beyond Burger” ™ and let’s say I’m underwhelmed and a bit confused. Now I have nothing against vegetarianism. I approve of it, in fact. People eat too much meat and animal fat. There really is no doubt about that. So for health reasons alone eating more plants and less meat is definitely good. And when you add in ethical considerations about the treatment of animals, well, there are valid reasons for trying to nudge people to eat more plants.

But is trying to develop a fake meat the way to do it? No. There are a lot of problems with these fake meats. The claims that it is healthier are, frankly, doubtful and not based on any real data. The claim it is more environmentally friendly than raising animals is doubtful as well because making this stuff is incredibly complicated and energy intensive. Everything in it, and I mean everything, is highly processed, and chemically and/or mechanically modified. These products are also more expensive than real meat. And they’re fairly high in sodium, with about 400 milligrams per serving.

As for the health claims, we are discovering that eating highly processed foods of any kind, even stuff that supposedly is good for us, is detrimental to our health. We’re finding that if a food product is modified in ways you can’t do yourself in your kitchen with ordinary cooking techniques, and requires a factory or laboratory to make the stuff, it probably isn’t all that good for you. There are now studies that indicate that people who eat diets high in processed foods don’t live as long and suffer increased health problems.

And have you seen what’s actually in these “healthy” and “natural” meat substitutes? Let’s take a peek, shall we? Here’s what’s in the “Impossible Burger” (The other product has an ingredients list that is virtually identical, but substitutes pea protein for the soy):

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.

Now I don’t know about you, but with the possible exception of the two oils, there is nothing on that list that I actually want to put in my mouth. While everything in that list up there is technically a “food product”, all of it has been mechanically and chemically processed so heavily that it isn’t even recognizable any more. (And I will refrain from bringing up the professor from U.C. Davis who pointed out that the list of ingredients in these things is identical to the ingredients in some brands of, well, dog food. Nope, won’t bring that up. That would be a cheap shot and I wouldn’t stoop to that. Oh, wait, I just did, didn’t I. Oh, dear, I am disappointed in myself.) Yes, it’s safe to eat. Maybe. But there is more to a healthy food than just not killing you when you eat it. This stuff would have almost no nutritional value at all if they weren’t adding back in all of the vitamins that were destroyed during the processing.

So do I have a point here or am I just venting (I was beginning to wonder that myself, to be honest)? Yes, I do. This whole fake meat thing is just silly. It isn’t going to convert anyone to vegetarianism. At best it might get someone to substitute this stuff for real hamburger once in a great while, but certainly not on a regular basis. Normally this would be nothing but a novelty product that a small number of people might be interested in. But because of a savvy marketing campaign that’s bombarded the media with claims about it’s alleged health and environmental benefits, none of which have actually been proved, it’s managed to sweep through the media and appear everywhere.

What about the alleged environmental benefits? I grant you that the cattle industry has a huge, adverse environmental impact. But would switching to this stuff change that? Fertilizer, fuel for tractors, increased pesticide and herbicide use, fuel for trucking the various ingredients around, sometimes for huge distances. I should point out that there are really only two sources for industrial quantities of vitamins these days, India and China, so some of these ingredients are being shipped literally all the way around the world. The energy used to run the factories… Frankly, I think that when everything is added up without cherry picking the data the way the promoters of this stuff have been doing, the actual environmental impact of this product isn’t going to be much less than actual cattle.

There is really only one clear advantage to this and that is an ethical one. A switch to these products would mean it would no longer be necessary to raise millions of cows for no other reason than to kill them for food. But then getting people to eat more plants and less meat in any case would do that. And the question is, how many people are actually going to switch to this stuff? Almost certainly not enough to make any kind of real difference

And then there is the fact that despite all of the hype you’ve been hearing, it still doesn’t taste like or have the texture of meat. In blind taste testings, 100% of the people who compared these two products to actual meat, could immediately tell the difference between this stuff and real hamburger.

So let’s sum this up.

1. It doesn’t taste like meat. Sorry, but it doesn’t. Yes I know all the media outlets are raving about this stuff claiming it “tastes just like hamburger!”. But no, not if 100% of the people who did the blind taste testings could tell the difference. Have I ever tried to eat one of these things? No. And I won’t, either, not after seeing that list of ingredients.

2. It isn’t “natural” by any stretch of the imagination. It’s made from materials so highly processed that it isn’t even recognizable as being “food” once the factories and labs that make it are done with it.

3. It’s expensive. I haven’t seen the stuff for sale in grocery stores, but I’ve seen it at restaurants, and hamburgers made with the stuff are costing anywhere from $3 to $7 more than burgers made with regular hamburger.

4. It’s fairly high in sodium. It has 400 milligrams of sodium per serving, and that’s before people add more salt and condiments to it to make it taste better. That’s about as much as a McDonald’s hamburger.

5. It’s —

Oh, hell, let’s just stop this. I’ve already spent way more time on this than I really wanted to, so let me wrap this up.

If you want to eat more plants and less meat, good for you. You’ll feel better, you’ll look better, and there’s a good chance you’ll live longer. But this stuff? It is “vegetarian” only by a technicality. It is one of the most highly processed and artificial so-called “food products” I’ve ever seen. From a nutritional point of view you’d be just as well off eating a handful of sawdust and a vitamin pill.

This is, frankly, a product that has no rational reason for existing. Well, except one, to try to separate you from your money.

Author: grouchyfarmer

Yes, I'm a former farmer. Sort of. I'm also an amateur radio operator, amateur astronomer, gardener, maker of furniture, photographer.

8 thoughts on “Fake Meat: GF Goes Off On A Rant.”

  1. Is it biodegradable? The burger. Will it die? Lol. Pretty bad. I think meatless diet would be more appealing than fake meat. Are we that addicted? Not me. I’ve been meat free since last October.

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    1. Ha! Love the “will it die” comment!

      I agree, a normal vegetarian diet would be far, far more appealing than this fake meat nonsense. Vegetables and fruits all by themselves are delicious. There’s no need to try to turn them into something they aren’t, especially not into fake meat. Just eat the plants, for heaven’s sake!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You know I like the old fashioned veggie burgers – where the veggie parts are visible and it just tastes good as a thing on it’s own. I wish we would stop trying to make vegetables into meat and just celebrate the nice things you can do with plant foods.

    I notice they don’t seem to have dyes listed on that ingredient list – I’m wondering how they managed that redness…
    My nephew became vegan for moral reasons, but adores meat. He might actually be a buyer of the impossible burger. I shall have to ask.

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    1. If this stuff works for your nephew, good for him 🙂 I don’t want to discourage anyone who wants to reduce meat consumption for any reason.

      The red stuff is something they’re calling “Soy Leghemoglobin”. As you can tell from the etymology of the term ‘leghemoglobin’, leg is for legume, paired with hemoglobin. Literally the blood of a legume, in this case the soybean, which they claim is a real thing. It isn’t. Soybeans do not bleed nor do they have blood. The plants do have a sort of circulatory system, but come on, really? They’re just making stuff up, basically

      I think I know what the veggie burger is you’re talking about. I got them once in a while when I was vegetarian just to see what they were like and they weren’t bad. You could actually see real veggies in ’em and they were actually pretty good.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. As a vegetarian for my entire adult life, I look at the fake meat fad with some amusement. And yes, it’s a fad.

    For starters, one thing I want to make clear: These products are not marketed to vegetarians. They are intended for meat eaters who want to cut back and at least bullshit themselves into thinking they’re doing something good for the world. Fake meat also appeals to people who are transitioning to vegetarianism.

    Real vegetarians do not take fake meat seriously. I’ve tried the Impossible Burger. It was good. Not great, but good. My recollections of what meat is like has grown a bit fuzzy in the three-plus decades since I’ve had the real thing, but the Impossible Burger was very convincing, to me anyway. I might eat one every now and then in a moment of whimsy, but I can’t see myself on a steady diet of these things.

    Usually when I eat fake meat it’s because, A) I’m invited to someone’s house and they don’t know what else to give me, or B) I’m eating out and it’s the only reasonable option on the menu, or C) I’m lazy and don’t want to do any cooking that requires thought.

    Fake meat is a huge topic of conversation on the vegetarian Internet forums and social media. I say it’s a fad because the real vegetarians won’t eat it in large enough quantities to sustain the market, and meat eaters will eventually get over the trend and go back to eating actual meat.

    Things sure have changed since I went Veg back in the 80’s. Now you can get vegetarian fare almost anywhere. Back then, you either cooked for yourself at home or settled for a lot of pasta and rice when dining out. Fake meat barely existed. It was expensive and available only from specialty health food stores. Oh, and it wasn’t that good.

    I’m glad to see more people at least cutting down on meat even if they do not drop it altogether. If fake meat gets them there, then it’s worthwhile.

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    1. I share most of your opinions. The fake meat thing is almost certainly going to be more of a fad than anything else. I know they’re pushing it as a “green” alternative to meat, but come on, really? Considering all of the intensive processing they have to do in order to make the stuff I doubt if it is less carbon/pollution/energy intensive than actual meat.

      I suppose you could call me a lapsed vegetarian. When I was fairly strict about it, finding alternative to meat on menus was difficult. It was especially hard at home when everyone else wanted their burgers or chicken and I come out of the kitchen with an eggplant casserole or something. Now just about every place has at least one non-meat option, and a lot of places have more than one. Some of them are actually edible . The thing I always wondered, though, is, well, plants are delicious, so why do we need try to turn plants into fake meat anyway? Just eat the plants. Well, as you say, if it helps some people get into a more healthy diet, great.

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