A huge rise in the availability of plant-based meat substitutes, more popularly known as ‘fake meat’, gives a less than subtle hint that there is a growing market for such products. Some bad press is giving rise to meat eaters reducing their intake, instead partially switching to fake meat for some of their weekly meals. And of course for vegans and vegetarians, it provides a quick alternative to the dishes normally associated with their lifestyle. We ourselves have posted a number of recipes that include such products as part of the ingredients.
But this begs the question for some omnivores – why do some vegans choose to eat fake meat? Is this strange behaviour for a vegan at best, or hypocritical at worst? According to their logic, if vegans have given up consuming animal products, then why are they eating food that resembles the fair you would find in a butcher’s shop?
The answer is simple. Firstly, as vegan website chooseveg.com points out, most vegans grew up in households where meat was part of the staple diet. Fake meat allows them to continue eating meals with a familiar taste. Again, most vegans do not give up meat because they do not like the taste, it is more likely to be ethical reasons to do with the maltreatment of animals. And, of course, there are those who choose a vegan diet for health reasons.
But many vegans have severe reservations about eating these fake meat products. One is centred on price – they certainly don’t always come cheap, especially the better quality ones, and in more rural areas where there are not the same shopping opportunities. Another is the old chestnut of processed foods. By their very definition, fake meat products are processed, with the resultant concerns about just how healthy they really are. To others, the rise of fake meat is simply perpetuating the myth that animals’ bodies are food.
But as ‘meat alternatives’ are increasingly hitting the shelves, should we really be calling them ‘fake meat’? As the quality of these products massively improves, and as they become more fashionable in trendy eateries, they are fast becoming recognised as gourmet dishes in their own right. So are these products simply a more eco-friendly and ethical alternatives?
And, of course, these products provide vegans with a quick meal alternative. Many vegans, like most others in society, lead a busy and hectic lifestyle, and it is simply easier to slam a vegan burger under the grill than create tasty dishes from scratch. Meat alternative products also help prospective vegans make that transition into fully-fledged veganism, and their value should therefore not be underestimated.
It is up to the individual to choose their own opinions on fake meat. But one thing is for certain, as the welfare of animals is perhaps the most salient factor in choosing a vegan lifestyle, any move away from a meat-free diet, even if it includes these meat alternatives, means that fewer animals are being exploited.