Until recent years, plant-based meat would have only been talked about in small circles of health, environment, and welfare-conscious people, looking to reduce their impact on animals and the planet. Now, millions of consumers across the world are choosing to make more conscious dietary decisions, and as a result, plant-based meats are one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. The biggest grocery chains in the US, including Target, Walmart, and Wholefoods are selling plant-based meat, and more amazing brands appear every year.
Every kind of meat is available plant-based: sausages, burgers, deli meats, nuggets, steaks, bacon, chicken, and more—so there really is something for everyone!
What Is Plant-based Meat?
Meat products taste good, just not good enough to justify all the suffering, environmental damage, and health risks they come with. Plant-based meats have the same textures and tastes to animal-based meat products, but are made from plant-derived ingredients, and come with a fraction of the negative outcomes for humans, animals and the planet.
These days, plant-based meat products have become so good that it’s often impossible to tell the difference compared to meat!
Does Plant-based Mean No Meat?
Yes, plant-based means no meat from animals. It’s still worth checking the ingredients lists if you are worried that it might not be fully vegan, as there is still very little legislation in place regarding plant-based food labeling. If you are not sure, look for a vegan-friendly label to be certain.
What Is Plant-based Meat Made Of?
All kinds of natural ingredients are used to create plant-based meats. Common ones include:
- Seitan (wheat gluten)
- Pea protein
- Mycoprotein (Quorn)
The Beyond burger, for example, is made of a mix of pea protein, brown rice protein, and mung beans—and the result is incredible. Trust us, if you haven’t tried one, you really should. You won’t regret it.
Is Plant-based Meat Healthy?
Just because something is plant-based, it does not automatically mean it’s healthy! Plant-based meats can be processed products, but of course, they can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet. Besides, processed plant-based meat stacks up much better than processed meat when it comes to health…
All processed meats have been classified as class 1 carcinogenic by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which means they definitely cause cancer. All red meats have been classified as class 2, meaning they are likely to cause cancer. Most meat products, particularly red meat, have also been shown to increase the risk of many life-threatening chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and Alzhiemer’s.
Plant-based meats however have no correlation to chronic diseases, have not been shown to cause cancer, and are both cruelty-free and better for the environment.
Plant-based Meat Vs. Meat
When it comes to health, we’ve already seen how well plant-based meat stacks up to animal products, even when they are compared directly in a controlled study! This study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has shown that replacing beef products with a plant-based meat products, resulted in fewer cardiovascular risk factors in healthy adults. Heart disease is America’s biggest killer, so this is a big win for plant-based meat!
When it comes to the planet, plant-based ingredients are also the clear winner. A study published in the prestigious science journal Nature, has shown that when it comes to the financial impacts of climate change, even the worst-performing plant-based ingredients are far better than the greenest meat products. Not eating meat is also proven to be much more effective at fighting climate change, when compared to eating so-called ‘more sustainable’ meat. Choosing one of the many delicious plant-based meat alternatives is always best for our planet.
And of course, more people choosing not to contribute to the awful suffering of millions of sentient animals every day cannot be a bad thing. We are all better off when we eat ‘meat’ from plants instead of meat from animals.
What Chemicals Are in Plant-based Meat?
This completely depends on the product in question and what we regard as chemicals, as well as what we as individuals are okay with eating. Some of us may want to avoid additives and preservatives for personal reasons, but there is little evidence to show that these ingredients are harmful when consumed in moderation. Many plant-based meats do contain additives and preservatives, but this doesn’t mean they are full of harmful chemicals. All processed products, animal-based or not, are likely to contain these kinds of ingredients.
As always, watch out for levels of sodium, saturated fat, and sugar in all the products you choose! Prioritizing whole food, plant-based choices is by far the best way to keep your diet as natural as possible.
Nutritional Pros And Cons
· Less Saturated Fat
In all categories, plant-based meats have less saturated fat than meat products. Saturated fat is a health issue as it has been linked to higher rates of cardiovascular disease.
· Whole Food Content
Many plant-based meats contain a high percentage of whole foods like pulses, mushrooms, tofu, or soy. These foods can provide a dense nutrient profile.
· Lower Risk of Heart Disease
Studies show that swapping meat for plant-based meat can lower cardiovascular risk factors.
· Don’t Cause Cancer
Processed meat and all other red meat products either directly cause cancer or come with a much higher risk. There is no evidence to suggest plant-based meat causes any cancer risk.
· High Sodium Content
In a review of plant-based meat products and how they compare to animal based meat, only four percent of the plant-based products were lower in sodium. However, the average amount of sodium in these products was still low and nothing to be concerned about, particularly when these products are consumed as part of a balanced diet.
What Are Some Good Plant-based Meat Brands?
Alpha have created well-designed, tasty plant-based products that include nuggets, burritos, chicken strips, ground beef, and more. They offer fantastic ‘grab and go’ options that can be purchased from stores like Whole Foods, which sets them apart from many other brands.
Beyond Meat Company
We’ve mentioned them already and for good reason. Beyond Meat is one of the bigger players in the plant-based meat game. Their research and innovation in creating meat-like flavors and textures has led the way for others in the industry. Their products are made from pea, brown rice, and mung bean protein, and they utilize heme iron and beet juice to create an incredibly accurate imitation of beef. Fans of fast food can now find the Beyond burger in Mcdonalds—a huge step in the right direction in our opinion!
Even the biggest meat-eaters will be converted by Boca. They are burger specialists and their products are simple, delicious, and easy to cook. What’s not to like?
Daring are known for all their delicious plant-based meat products but the stand-out is their grilled chicken. They have successfully recreated an unprocessed, grilled-style chicken product that is healthier than other breaded or fried options, without any sacrifice to taste and texture.
Field Roast do it all. Roasts, sausages, hot dogs, deli slices, and pepperoni all feature on their list of products—there truly is something for everyone and it’s all delicious.
Gardein have been around for a good few years now and have secured their place as a staple of the plant-based section in grocery stores. Their huge range of fantastic products can be found in all major stores, including Walmart and Target.
Healthy AND delicious are the key words for Hungry Planet. They offer tasty and high-quality products with lower fat content, higher protein, higher fiber, and lower calories overall than the majority of their competitors. With their ‘Hungry at Home’ service you can have prepared meals delivered straight to your door!
You might have seen the Impossible burger pop up at your local fast food chain. They were one of the first plant-based meat companies to be offered in major fast food outlets like Burger King and their products can now be found all over the world. Impossible are a clear indicator of the growing global popularity of plant-based meats.
Lightlife does it all—sausages, deli slices, burgers, chicken, ground beef, and even amazing tofu and tempeh products. For anyone looking to keep it completely clean, all their products are free of any synthetic or artificial ingredients.
Bringing their success in Britain across the Atlantic, Meatless Farm products can be found in many major retailers, as well as in their online store. They pride themselves on excellent meat imitations that are gluten-free, high in protein, high in fiber, and low in saturated fat.
Moku have gone after a smaller section of the market in jerky products, but they have really nailed it. Their mushroom-based jerky has been perfected with help from chefs and culinary experts, a process which took over a year. On top of this, it is gluten-free, low carbon, non-gmo, soy free, and best of all, one percent of every purchase goes to a charity of your choosing.
Morningstar Farms can be found in all major grocery stores and are known for their simple, old-school approach to a new market. They provide meaty American classics, just their more sustainable, ethical, and healthier counterparts!
No Evil Foods
We love the approach that No Evil Foods has taken. They believe that too many plant-based meat products are still identified by their association to their meat counterparts, so they have given each of their products their own individual identities. If you want to learn more about The Stallion, El Capitan and Comrade Cluck, head over to their website!
British brand Quorn are the pioneers of a fermented product called Mycoprotein, which is natural, high in protein, and has a meaty texture, making it an excellent meat-free option. Their sausages, slices, burgers, and more are all available in major retailers. Vegans should always check the labels, as some of Quorns products still contain egg white.
Sweet Earth’s plant-based bacon should earn them a place on every list of the best plant-based meat brands out there. It’s flavored with garlic, sage, and hickory giving it a delicious smoky sweetness and should be on everyone’s plant-based wish list.
Most people will have seen Tofurky on the supermarket shelves, but many will have passed it by because they believe tofu can’t taste like meat. We beg to differ however and anyone who has tried one of Tofurky’s many delicious products will agree. They can be found all over Canada and the US, so next time you almost pass them by, grab one of their products and don’t look back!
New kids on the block, this British brand creates vegan fried chick*n that is more than good enough to rival the Colonel’s. Their Bites, Fillets, and Popcorn Chick*n are available in supermarkets across the UK, and online in the US from GTFO It’s Vegan and Vejii.
Where To Buy Plant-based Meat?
These days, anywhere you would go to get your groceries! All major supermarkets now stock a wide range of plant-based meats and the selection grows every year. The Good Food Institute (GFI) have kindly listed the 15 best grocery stores for vegans:
- Whole Foods Market
- King Soopers
- Giant Food
- Fred Meyer
- Stop & Shop
Plant-based meat is here to stay, and will be a huge part of a more sustainable, healthier, and more ethical future for humans, animals, and the planet. The industry has grown rapidly in recent years and shows no sign of slowing down, as more and more people make more conscious diet choices. If you haven’t tried any of the plant-based meat brands above, we urge you to give one a try—you won’t be disappointed.