For thousands of years, meat has been inseparable from many diets worldwide due to its rich content of proteins and other nutrients. Also, meat has a mouth-watering flavor which gives it a massive adoration.
However, excessive meat consumption is highly discouraged due to associated health risks such as cardiovascular diseases. Also, meat production is associated with greenhouse gas emissions which are toxic to the environment.
Consequently, more and more people each day are opting for meat alternatives for healthy lives and a safe environment.
Table of Contents
History of Meat Alternatives
As we have said above, the meat alternative concept has been around for many years. Some of the traditional meat replacements that have existed for decades include seitan, tempeh, and tofu.
The diagram below shows how meat alternatives (also known as meat analogs) have majestically walked through time to the present.
Diagram 1: History of meat analogs
Image source: Google Scholar
Ingredients of Meat Analogs
The meat analogs' main ingredients include vegetables, cereal proteins, mycoproteins (from fungi), and pulses.
Source: Google Scholar
Below are the main non-meat protein sources that make meat analogs and the type of proteins they produce.
Source: Google Scholar
Let's now see each meat analog ingredient in detail.
Soy is well known for its rich nutritional content. Also, this ingredient replaces red meat, especially for people ailing from cardiovascular diseases.
Soy protein is often included in foods like meat-free sausages, chicken-style nuggets & breasts, and products resembling cooked sliced meats.
In addition, manufacturers use soy flour to produce products with a texture like that of meat. So, you will hardly tell the difference between the soy product and the real meat!
Other meat-free convenience products that use this textured vegetable protein include patties and bean hamburgers. These products are less costly than their meat cousins and have a great nutritional value.
Legumes are termed as a poor man's diet, especially in some developed countries. But, this is far from the truth!
That said, there are uncountable types of legumes in the market today. However, not all of these legumes can be used as meat replacements. In particular, peas are perfect for meat analogs.
One of the main sources of cereal protein for meat substitutes is wheat grains. After the processing, these grains produce a textured protein usable in meat analogs.
A mycoprotein is a protein type obtained from certain living things known as fungus (such as mushrooms).
Here are several benefits of mycoprotein:
● They are cholesterol-free
● Low saturated fats content
● Contain good fatty acids
● They have a fibrous construction which enables them to reduce blood cholesterol significantly
Colouring is essential in meat alternatives. You would want a bacon substitute colored the same way as the real bacon!
On the same note, turmin and carotene coloring agents are heat-stable, making them preferred by most consumers.
Everyone loves flavored food. So, meat analogs are flavored too! They contain spices and are rich in aroma.
Some flavoring substances that help enhance the flavor in meat protein substitutes include amino acid, sugar, Sulphur, and mushroom concentrate.
Common Meat Substitutes
So far, we have seen the history and ingredients of meat substitutes.
Now, we will look at the different meat analogs sold globally.
The table below shows the various brands of meat analogs, their manufacturers, and home countries.
Source: Google Scholar
Image Source: Google Scholar
Soy meat/texture vegetable protein
Soy meat, also known as texture protein, is made from soya beans(Fig. 2A above). Additionally, this product is most popular in Asian countries.
The production process of soy meat is not easy, but the end product is fibrous and has a meaty appearance.
Moreover, soy meat is rich in proteins. However, these proteins may reduce if the meat is dehydrated.
Like soy meat, tofu(Fig. 2B) has Asian roots. However, over the years, tofu has greatly spread its wings to many countries, including America, China, Australia, Europe, Korea, India, Cambodia, Japan, Indonesia, New Zealand, Myanmar, and Malaysia.
Other countries where tofu is popular include Singapore, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand.
Tofu has a neutral flavor, and you can pair it with your other favorite dishes, such as veggies, sauces, and grains.
Moreover, you can prepare tofu using different cooking techniques, such as grilling, baking, and frying.
Also, it will be good to note that tofu is rich in water content. So, remember to press it a bit to remove the excess water and give your tofu and crispy taste.
Here are the benefits you will enjoy when you consume tofu:
● Fully packed with proteins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, and amino acids
● It has dietic fibers and is low in cholesterol
● Rich in vitamin A, B, C, D, E and K
Tempeh(Fig. 2C) is another meat alternative whose origin is in Indonesia. Unlike tofu, tempeh comprises fermented mashed soybeans.
In addition, tempeh has a meat consistency and is sold as a cake or a strip. Also, tempeh is rich in proteins, vitamins, and fiber, among other nutrients.
You can prepare tempeh in various ways, such as grilling it the same way you grill your poultry or other meats. Other cooking methods you can use on tempeh include baking, frying, and sauteing.
Seitan (Fig. 2D) is commonly known as wheat gluten. This vegetarian meat analog is a product of wheat gluten.
Additionally, you can buy seitan either in ground form or in strips.
Some of the best ways to prepare this wheat gluten are by including it in your stir-fries, curries, and salads. Also, you can prepare seitan on a grill: place it on the kebab skewer, and it will be ready in no time.
Seitan has an earthy flavor, resembling that of a mushroom, and if seasoned well, it can be a perfect chicken substitute.
However, if you are allergic to gluten, seitan will not be a perfect meat substitute.
Lupins(Fig. 2E) are types of Legumes, and like soya beans, lupins are rich in proteins.
Currently, lupins are mainly grown in Europe since there is a conducive climate there.
Some products containing lupins include sausages, doner kebabs, and cutlets.
In addition, you will find lupins in most online stores, vegan supermarkets, and organic food shops.
Sufu, as seen in Fig. 2F above, has its origins in China.
In addition, this food is fermented soybean curd, heavily flavored, and can be used as cheese.
Sufu manufacturing uses the following steps:
1. Washing and soaking soybeans overnight
2. Grounding the soybeans in water
3. Boil the groundmass for about two minutes
4. Strain the hot mass using a cloth bag
Some rice-based vegan meat substitutes today include Risofu burgers and vegetables manufactured by an American company known as Bahama Rice Burger.
Risofu (figure 2G) contains brown, white, and wild rice for higher nutritional value.
Algae (Fig. 2H) is a new source of protein that functions as a meat alternative. This food is made of seaweed and microalgae.
Microalgae meat analogs are grown in many countries and have a lower negative impact on the environment than pork, chicken, and beef.
As the name implies, jack fruit is closely related to figs. However, unlike the latter, jackfruit has a meaty consistency.
In addition, you can either buy jackfruit frozen or canned.
The rich flavor of this fruit makes it perfect for pairing with many dishes, including pulled-pork sandwiches, chilis, and a hearty platter of nachos.
Benefits of Meat Substitutes
The impact of meat substitutes is visible in three main areas: animal welfare, nutritional health, and environmental safety. Let's now go through each of these benefit areas in detail.
Not everyone is comfortable with animal slaughtering; the processes involved can be traumatizing for many people.
But what do we do, considering that proteins derived from meat are vital for human health? Meat substitutes are the solution! This way, there will be no need to raise enormous herds of animals for slaughter.
Nutrition and health
Here are the major health benefits you get whenever you consume meat analogs
● Meat analogs are rich in nutrients such as proteins, vitamins, and minerals essential for your body's functions
● A meat substitute has no fats, unlike the meat that has saturated fats which are known to increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases and obesity
Additionally, meat analogs protect you against inflammations, cancer, and diabetes. Also, these analogs improve your immunity system and gut health.
Greenhouse gas is toxic to the environment. In particular, animal production contributes significantly to green gas emissions.
Some greenhouse gases emitted by livestock rearing include methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide.
In addition, large chunks of land are set aside for animal production, often related to deforestation. Also, raising many animals means more competition for scarce water resources.
Therefore, meat analogs help provide meat proteins and other nutrients through processes that are not harsh to the environment.
Meat alternatives are available worldwide and offer an excellent alternative for meat proteins and other nutrients. Also, they are easy to prepare and have a rich texture and aroma to make your meal times lively.
Moreover, you can use these meat substitutes whether you are a vegetarian, vegan, or just seeking better health and a safer environment.
So, the next time you visit the food store or supermarket, remember to order some meat replacements and get creative with them in the kitchen!