Understanding the Fake Meat Hype: Are the meat-alternatives really healthy?
You’ve likely heard a lot of buzz around the rise of “meatless meat.” 2019 has been a huge year for the growth of this industry. The advancements in taste, ingredients and texture are causing their popularity to skyrocket. These meatless meat companies have begun to partner with giants in the fast-food industry like Tim Hortons, A&W and Burger King, as well as grocery chains across the country: making these foods available at almost every major intersection.
Plant-based burgers are definitely not a novel product. What’s new is that these meat alternatives are not only being marketed to vegetarians and vegans, but to meat-eaters, too! These meatless burgers even “bleed” just like real beef.
To me, the rise of fake meat doesn’t come as much of a surprise. We have been incorporating vegetarian and vegan meals into our Kidco Kitchen menus since our inception and always have daily vegetarian options available for our children. We continue to incorporate more vegetarian options as a result of the updates to the Canadian Food Guide.
While I am all for encouraging the consumption of meat alternatives, overall, the new “meats” are highly processed foods that are high in saturated fats. While they may not be the most health-conscious food, they are high in protein. Another highly talked about benefit of meatless meat is the positive impact on the environment.
One question a lot of people have is whether or not the rise of meat alternatives can help us combat global warming. It’s well-known that animal farming has a huge environmental footprint. To be more exact, livestock farming contributes 18% of human-produced greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. That’s even more than the combined emissions from planes, trucks and cars. Not to mention livestock (especially cows) consume more resources such as water and wheat to sustain them daily.
So where do I stand? If you are looking for healthy meat alternatives, meatless meat may not be your end-all solution. Like any processed foods, I wouldn’t suggest eating these meat alternatives daily. There are many other earth- and health-conscious options for those who are vegetarian or looking to add more vegetarian meals into their diet. You can make your own Black Bean Burgers, Portabello Burgers or even Beet Burgers! And of course, the meatless meat burgers are great for an occasional treat!
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Chef Lisa Ruscica
Chief Food Ambassador