Are fake meat options really a healthy alternative?

There’s a bridge between what consumers know and what they’re told by misleading marketing and media narratives pushing fake meats as healthier alternatives to real meat.

The growth in fake meat has many primed to write about the success story. But will they also be writing its obituary? Fake meat’s formula for success — mimicking the taste and mouthfeel of real meat — is based on chemical formulas that many health-conscious consumers may find hard to stomach.
Menu labels tell customers how many calories food has, but they don’t tell you what’s in it. In the case of a burger from a cow, the ingredient is pretty obvious: beef. But in the case of the Impossible Burger, offered at major restaurants including Burger King and White Castle, the ingredient list is 21 items long.

The Impossible Burger contains:

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.

Other than water, the main ingredient is soy protein concentrate. In and of themselves, soybeans are perfectly healthy, but soy protein concentrate is heavily processed, which means many of the benefits of the raw food are lost.

The problem with meat alternatives is that we’re less aware of the risks, and we often assume “veggie” means healthy even when it doesn’t. Consider: The Beyond Burger has 380mg of sodium, far higher than its ground beef counterpart. Excess sodium can negatively impact the heart. In other words, those who make the switch to fake meat out of concern for their heart are jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire.

According to Beyond Meat, the company’s manufacturers “just take the amino acids and the fats from another source and recreate those” with plants to mimic meat.

That sounds all natural. But the company’s fake chicken strips have 21 ingredients, including titanium dioxide. A frozen chicken imitation from a competitor has a whopping 56 ingredients.

Remember how Subway was caught a few years ago for having a chemical in its bread, azodicarbonamide, that was also found in yoga mats? Consider that various fake meat products also contain propylene glycol (the primary ingredient in antifreeze), magnesium carbonate (used in flooring), and ferric orthophosphate(used as a pesticide for slugs).

For shoppers who believe “you are what you eat,” that’s not welcoming news. While consumers are interested in trying out meat mimics, they also want to eat less processed foods.

According to market research firm Mintel, about 60 percent of consumers believe the fewer ingredients a food product has, the healthier it is. And another recent survey found that “no artificial ingredients” and “no preservatives” were two of the top three claims driving food sales.

Contrast that with this: 39 percent of faux meat consumers say they eat the stuff to avoid processed foods.

Clearly, there’s a bridge between what consumers know and what they’re told by misleading marketing and media narratives pushing fake meats as healthier alternatives to real meat.

Fake meat companies are stuck — there’s no way currently to make veggie mash-up taste like beef without added chemicals.

Some newer start-ups are trying to grow meat from animal cells, but their efforts are also likely to run into consumers balking at the idea of “lab-grown Franken-meat.”

If “natural” ingredients drive your product choices, you can’t go wrong with all natural steak, pork chops, or chicken. You can still satisfy your vegetarian friends with grilled corn and asparagus or a nice veggie kebab. Cookouts are for celebrating — not fretting over the contents of mystery (fake) meat.

Five Star Home Foods provides all natural poultry, seafood and Certified Angus Beef products to ensure your food is without harmful chemicals or preservatives. Make sure you and your family are eating the highest quality, healthiest food.
The easiest way to get started is to try a Free Chef Sampler.

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