Meat Substitutes as Good as Real Meat but Safer

Apr 08, 2016 04:28 AM EDT | By Chandan Das

A Chinese farmer (R) buys tofu, a healthy meat substitute, from a family factory for the upcoming Chinese Lunar New Year Feb. 6, 2005 in the countryside of Jinzhai County, Anhui Province, China.
A Chinese farmer (R) buys tofu, a healthy meat substitute, from a family factory for the upcoming Chinese Lunar New Year Feb. 6, 2005 in the countryside of Jinzhai County, Anhui Province, China.
(Photo : Cancan Chu/Getty Images)

Recently, the Native Food Café in Bridgeport Village, Portland, OR, was bustling with customers who crowded around the counter to order for nachos, burger, chicken wings and other dishes. One customer was happily digging in the "Soul Bowl," a combination of rice, beans and veggies, but it appeared similar to and tasted like chicken strips on top!

Nevertheless, the chef informed that it was not actual chicken. Neither did the food or the menu of the eatery contain any animal product. In fact, what seemed to be "chicken" was actually pea protein, soy and wheat - a product of Garden Protein International in Vancouver, B.C. This company has an assortment of meatless products, sold under the trademark Gardein, which includes frozen faux entrées including meatballs, chicken patties, pulled pork, sliders and even roasts and cutlets, Food Safety News reported.

In fact, confident of the increasing popularity of such foods in the future, New Jersey-based Pinnacle Foods Inc., whose brands include Birds Eye, Duncan Hines and Log Cabin, acquired Garden Protein for $154.6 million in 2014. According to Pinnacle CEO Bob Gamgort, he believes plant-based protein is at the verge of becoming mainstream food.

In fact, promoters of plant-based protein sources claim the risks of pathogens as well as other health risks are much lower when one consumes meat substitutes compared to actual meat. On the other hand, meatless products may possibly contain liquid smoke flavoring, which may prove to be carcinogenic. In addition, there are persistent questions regarding additives used in a number of meat substitutes.

According to Dr. Joseph Puglisi, a professor of structural biology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, who also chairs a scientific advisory board for Beyond Meat, the impact of meat-based diets on human health, such as metabolic disorder, cardiovascular disease, obesity and even cancer, are clear and highly public. He added that these days Americans are eating less meat and as far as plant-based meat substitutes are concerned, we are passing through a transition period.

In fact in a report released during the past fall, the World Health Organization (WHO) also asserted that hot dogs, ham, corned beef, sausages, bacon and other processed meats can cause cancer. Nevertheless, the findings of the panel were not unanimous. One meat industry group strongly disputed the WHO report, stating that it ignored many other studies that showed there was no correlation between meat and cancer.

Meanwhile, a 2009 World Watch report stated that livestock and their byproducts account for no less than 32,564 million tons of CO2e per year, which is roughly 51 percent of annual global (greenhouse gases). Lowering this level has been one of the major goals of meat substitute pioneers.

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