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Is the Future of Food Meatless?

18 December 2023

Chat GPT recently predicted that the flexitarian (or semi-vegetarian) diet will be much more mainstream by 2027, and the world will be almost entirely vegan by 2073. We better get busy learning how to cook delicious plant-based meals!

With beef as the largest food source of global greenhouse gas emissions, water use and land use/deforestation, and accepting the popularity of hamburgers is not disappearing, I thought I'd delve into the current and future beef alternatives out there.

Commercially Produced Plant Based Meat Alternatives

Beyond (mainly pea protein) and Impossible (soy-based) were the breakout products, but many other alternatives have arrived on the scene.  NotBurger is delicious, but IMHO less healthy than a beef burger (although better for the cow!).  Two meat alternative products I'd like to try are Meati and Noble Plate. Have you tried them?  I'd love to hear what you think of these or any others you have tasted.

Tofu, Tempeh and Seitan

I put these in the category of “meat alternatives that may not win over the meat lovers”.  These are more likely the alternatives for vegans and vegetarians, although I could be wrong.  Personally I love tofu, and I have a wonderful and easy seitan steak recipe, which I will be happy to send to you upon request. Any of these products could make a suitable beef alternative with the right seasoning.  I frequently use Better Than Bouillon No-Beef Base (I'll admit the ingredients aren't perfect, but then you don't use very much anyway). One other food, I'd stick in this category is soy curls; I've never seen them in stores but you can buy them online.

Cultured Meat

Also known as cultivated or clean meat, cultured meat is REAL meat, just not based on animal slaughter.  It's a way to produce meat without killing an animal (although live cells from one are required), and it uses less land and water than traditional cattle farming.  A study last year found that a large proportion of both meat-eaters and vegetarians were too disgusted to try it, however there are reasons to think the opposite. Meat grown in a lab is “clean”, meaning free from contamination (in contrast, regular meat must be cooked thoroughly to kill pathogens from unavoidable fecal contamination).  Another advantage is the avoidance of antibiotics, which are widely used in animal farming. Cultivated meat is still a long way out from practicality or affordability, but may be worth considering in the future.

Meat alternatives seem to elicit strong emotions in people, but I think it's important we take a breath.  Food choice is definitely personal, AND we need to consider the future of everyone.  Any one of these substitutions could become a tool in our toolkit to address climate change, personal health and animal welfare through the food choices we make every day.

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