Meat Free “Meats” – What Are They Made From?
At home, in restaurants and within the catering industry, the use of meat free products is becoming more and more popular. Gone are the days when the choice of a meat substitute product was limited to one or two items that were hard to access. There is now a range of meat free alternatives, making it easy to shop and cater for the vegetarian and vegan consumer. Steaks, burgers, chicken, sausages and a whole range of high protein/low fat meatless foods are now readily available, but what are the sources of these meat free “meats”?
Quorn remains a controversial product, not least because its source is actually a fungus known as Fusarium Venenatum. Quorn is the most popular protein substitute in the UK. Its popularity extends to the European continent. Whilst an increasing number of people have used this immensely popular and profit producing product safely for over half a century, at least one study, by the USA’s Center for Science in the Public Interest, has suggested that it can be hazardous to people who suffer allergic reactions to moulds and fungi. This may explain its relative lack of popularity in North America. Anyone who does have such an allergy might wish to consider one of the alternatives to Quorn.
The soybean has provided the source of a multitude of meat substitute products for many years now. Products such as tofu, from soya milk and tempeh, from fermented soya are derived from the soya bean. Soya is a member of the legume plant family, which also includes peas, beans, lentils and peanuts. Like Quorn, it is high in protein, considered by many to be a source of what is known as “Complete Protein” – protein that delivers substantial amounts of all of the amino acids that are required by the human body. Soya protein is popular in the USA and worldwide and is produced in many countries. Whilst some people are allergic to soy, the number is thought to be around only half a per cent of the population.
Originating from China, gluten is derived from wheat and is another major source of meat substitute products. Gluten is produced by the removal of starch from wheat flour dough. The most popular retail form of gluten is seitan. Gluten is nowhere near as popular as Quorn and soya but is nevertheless considered by many to represent the tastiest, healthiest and most versatile of the three. Its relative unpopularity may have much to do with the fact that far more people are likely to possess an intolerance to gluten and wheat products in general than to the fungus based Quorn or the legume based soya protein.
For housewives, restaurant and diner owners and caterers alike, the need to find alternatives to meat continues to grow. Those who eat meat don’t stick to one meat source and there is no reason why those who choose not to eat meat should do so. All of the three products described above provide a great source of meat free protein. If you have no allergy issues, there is no reason not to try all three before deciding which one off them suits you the best.