As a vegetarian, I get asked a few questions all of the time. My favorite is “how do you get your protein” and the other is “what is meatless meat”. The question about meat alternatives has become a very common one. Especially now that there is an Impossible or Beyond burger in every restaurant and fast-food chain across America. Are these companies just having a few minutes of fame or are meat alternatives the future of meat?
Who are meat alternatives intended for?
Again, as someone who doesn’t consume meat ever, the idea of eating something that has “meat” on the label, tastes like meat and looks like meat does not sound appetizing. But call it a veggie burger, plant patty or even soy, potatoes and beet juice sandwich and I am all about it.
Meatless meat isn’t marketed for people vegans or vegetarians (people who don’t eat meat). Its target is the meat-eater. It’s for people who love and want the taste of meat and not some veggie burger.
They know that hard-core meat-eaters need time to slowly incorporate this option into their diet. Meatless-meat companies know they can’t just come in and tell them to stop eating meat. By making it more appealing to the average carnivore, meatless meat companies will have a better chance of them becoming repeat customers. Some meatless burgers have the appearance of blood (heme) so it looks like it’s bleeding. Heme is a protein found in red meat that Impossible Foods grows from yeast.
Not to say vegans and vegetarians can’t eat it because HECK YEAH they can!
But why meat alternatives for people who have no problem eating the real deal?
While meat alternatives are not considered health food, they don’t contain steroids or antibiotics as most animal meat does. You can also avoid any cancer risk you might get from eating red meat. But overall, meatless meat isn’t packed full of veggies and nutritional value. It’s literally just a meat alternative. On a positive note, you don’t have to worry about food poisoning or contracting mad cow disease!
Better for the environment and Sustainability
Leave it to the non-meat-eater to say meat alternatives are better for the environment but they are! For this reason alone, meat alternatives are not going anywhere. In fact, meat alternatives are simply a look into the future of meat.
75 billion animals are killed for food a year! That adds up like crazy! Americans eat far too much meat per meal. At this rate, we will run out of animals over the next 20 years. The trajectory by 2050 is 455 million tons of meat we will raise, kill and eat.
Wait… did I just say 75 billion ?!
That means, animals are crammed by the thousands into cages, some die because of diseases while the others are raised by factory farms then killed and sold for food. These factory farms have contributed to a number of problems we are dealing with from health to environmental.
Meatless meat is possibly the only chance we have to change that.
Greenhouse gas is a huge concern at this point. Cows produce a lot of methane. One cow on its own can release between up to 120 kg of Methane per year. There are about 1.5 billion cows and bulls in the world. To put those numbers into perspective, That’s a lot of methane! So the more cattle there are, the thicker the “blanket” around our planet gets.
“Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems. Urgent action is required to remedy the situation.”Henning Steinfeld Cheif pf FAO
Aside from methane, carbon is a huge concern. Cows do not let off this gas but there is a correlation between the two. We see an example of as we deal with the Amazon Rain Forest.
Not to get off topic but this comes back in a circle and is important for you to understand.
Carbon dioxide (another greenhouse gas) in our atmosphere is at its all-time high. Typically, this isn’t a huge problem because as plants and trees grow, they take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and it turned into sugars through photosynthesis. This is concerning because of recent situations we see like what happened to the Amazon Rain Forest.
As we helplessly watched from afar while the Amazon Rain Forest burned, we couldn’t help but ask “why” but on the other hand think the Amazon is so far from us and we won’t feel the effects.
The Amazon forest holds around 90 billion tons of carbon. If there is no forest, all of that carbon ends up in the atmosphere right along with the methane gas. As the levels of greenhouse gases increase in the atmosphere, it will cause our earth to trap in heat and warm-up and will put stress on our environment.
Let’s answer the “why”.
Why did the Amazon go up in flames?
I can tell you it wasn’t an accident…
The animal agricultural industry is the main culprit of the Amazon fires. This isn’t just happening there either. More and more land is needed because we are eating so much so fast and the meat industry is worth a lot of money.
There has to be another more sustainable meat alternative for future generations.
Enters meatless meat…
Over the years, consumers started becoming more concerned with health and sustainability than ever before (I thank millennials for this!)
If you don’t like the idea, you better get used to it. It’s the future and will be here in our lifetime. Well, that and soylent…
I know this doesn’t sound easy or might not even be something you want to entertain but if you do, there are a few easy ways you can help this crisis.
- Meatless Monday-Try eliminating meat from your diet on Mondays.
- Become a part-time vegetarian-Try only eating meat during the week and take a break on the weekends.
- Chose meat alternatives as much as you can-If you are at a restaurant and there is a meat alternative available, try it!
I know I got on a rant throughout this post. I really wasn’t trying to but the more research I did, the more all of this started making sense to me and I hope I did a good job relating this information to you.
Just a couple more important things to remember when ditching animal protein. There are a few important vitamins and nutrients we can only get from consuming animals. You will need to find a way to supplement them.
Here is what you will need.
Vitamin B12 a B-complex vitamin that is only found in animal products like eggs, cheese, milk, and meat. Vitamin B12 is important to assist with your metabolism and helps the body produce red blood cells. B12 deficiencies could cause major mental and physical health concerns.
Just to show how vital this is, I want to quickly show a list of benefits we get from vitamin B12:
- Could prevent birth defects
- B12 Supports bone health
- Prevents anemia
- Reduces the risk of Macular Degeneration
- Improves mood and depression symptoms
- Brain benefits
- Boost your energy level
- Improves heart health
- Supports the growth of healthy skin, nails, and hair
Needless to say, if you live a vegetarian/vegan/plant-based lifestyle, you need to find a way to supplement your vitamin B12.
Red meat and eggs are a great source of iron. We need iron to carry oxygen throughout our bloodstream to all the cells in your body. Anemia is the result of an iron deficiency. It causes you to feel fatigued because you are not getting enough oxygen in your bloodstream.
Protein is the main thing people associate with when thinking about meat. If all you are doing is substituting animal meat for a meat alternative, you should still be okay since they provide a good amount of plant-based protein. If you are making a change and cutting meat out altogether, finding an alternative protein source is very important. Most plant sources of protein are incomplete by themselves, meaning they don’t contain all of the essential amino acids. Hemp protein is a great plant-based protein source that is considered complete so you get all of the fiber, amino acids and is high in protein.
As always, at the end of the day, just look for ways to make small changed to your current lifestyle that can help you live your healthiest and best life possible.
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In general, vitamins are safe for people to use, though you should always check with your doctor before beginning a new supplement. Some vitamins can be dangerous for people with weakened immune systems, which can occur due to long-term use of corticosteroids, an HIV/AIDS infection or organ transplants.
You may also need to avoid some supplements if you have an artificial heart valve; in rare cases, these bacteria can infect your heart muscle, and patients with artificial valves have an increased risk of this complication.
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