Is Vegan Protein That Looks, Smells and Tastes Like Meat Unethical?

The other day, I watched a video from Wired about the Impossible Burger, the plantbased protein patty that looks, smells, cooks and “bleeds” like a beef burger. The science behind the creation of the Impossible Burger is fascinating by itself (you should read the article and watch the video), and we should know as much as possible about the provenance of our food. What got me thinking and raised an eyebrow for me was the intentionality of marketing the Impossible Burger as the “burger that bleeds” even though it’s not made with animal flesh.

To establish some background about my life’s journey to plantbased eating, I grew up eating most meats -beef, chicken, turkey, etc. – and to this day, I will freely admit that bacon is delicious and Popeye’s spicy two-piece would be my last meal if I was on death row. However, one of the reasons I no longer am able to eat meat (with some exceptions) is that I don’t like the look and mouthfeel of meat. I tend to find it greasy/oily and the texture of flesh bothers me. While not all people who eschew meat do so because of animal welfare concerns, I have mixed feelings about such true-to-life formulations of plantbased proteins. Sure, I’ll eat a “nugget” or a black bean patty, but I’ve yet to find a strip, steak or crumble made from plants that authentically presents itself like animal meat. And I prefer that!

Ethics in Vegetarianism

As the Impossible Burger has earned success, raising more than $250 million from investors, and distribution throughout the country at restaurants and grocery stores, questions have been raised both about the ingredients and the ethicality of life-like meat substitutes. Impossible Foods, the maker of the Impossible Burger, bases the meat-like nature of the Burger on heme, which gives ground beef its color and metallic iron taste. The ingredient soy leghemglobin, derived from the root of soybeans, does this for the Impossible Burger. However, the FDA has not approved the compounds as safe or unsafe for consumption, which concerns some food safety advocates.

In addition to the ingredient safety concern, some strict vegans question the need for plantbased protein that recreates the smell, taste and texture of the very animals they’re trying to save from slaughter. For advocates of the Impossible Burger, this is a ploy to get more carnivores to consider the products as an alternative to their usual beef or turkey burger. Others cite a need for a diversity of protein sources, which, with the advent of technology and genetic modification of plants, is becoming much easier than in years past.

My Experience with “Bleeding” Burgers

Over the Labor Day weekend, I got the chance to try another “bleeding” plantbased burger: The Beyond Burger from Beyond Meat. I missed the chance to have it straight off the grill at the cookout so I had to pan-sear it a skillet at home. To my surprise, the Beyond Burger was the single best veggie burger I’ve had, and I’ve tried a lot of cardboard, bean-filled veggie patties. Seriously, I am bringing these to every cookout I’m invited to from here on out.

Make room on the grill!

While the faux bleeding of the burger didn’t initially register with me – Beyond Burgers use beet juice to replicate the effect – it wasn’t until I listened to the description of the complex science behind the Impossible Burger that I began to question my desire to eat burgers that look like meat.

Verdict: Live and Let Live

I say if approximating meat brings more people into the concept of going from #MeatlessMonday to meat-free every day, I’m here for it. As long as we can keep the needle moving downward for the number of animals killed annually for our consumption, I’m here for it. You may never see me in a PETA advertisement, slathered in fake blood, but I will support “radical” methods if that’s how someone wants to characterize The Beyond Burger and Impossible Burger.

Next up for me: trying the Impossible Burger at Hopdoddy Burger Bar!

Share with Me!

What do you think? Are you comfortable with such lifelike veggie burgers, or do you think that plantbased diets should not include meat-like substitutes? Also, have you tried the Impossible Burger or the Beyond Burger? If so, tell me about your experience.

Advice for the Initiated: Don’t Be THAT Vegan

Confessional time (cut to the closet that “Real World” cast members sat in back in the day): I’m not a good vegan.

via GIPHY

In fact, I don’t even like calling myself vegan.

((double gasp))

It’s such a loaded word, and tends to push people away from the goal, which is eliminating animal products from your diet.

I would call my eating about 98 percent plant-based, 1 percent vegan and 1 percent “It’s summer in Texas and I’m going to eat BBQ.” I previously opened up about struggling with veganism, and I still go through that from time to time.

Recently, I’ve noticed an uptick in the number of people who are interested in transitioning from eating meat and dairy to embracing a diet that consists mainly of fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes…basically all foods except for ones that used to breathe or came from a creature that breathes. It’s exciting to see people take a front seat in managing their health and moving beyond the “This is the way I was raised” trope that has so many people dying from preventable illness like heart disease and failure, diabetes and other ailments.

Even more thrilling is that I’ve had friends call on me to help them navigate being plant-based or to counsel a friend who is interested. To be considered as someone with any kind of knowledge in this arena is an honor, and I’m happy to share what I’ve found along my way.

However…and you knew there was a rebuttal coming…I have to call out my fellow vegan/vegetarian/plant-based eaters who think that bullying people who choose to eat meat is a path to getting more people to go meat-free.

You know who they’ve are. Maybe you’ve seen their posts online or, god help you, been stuck sitting next to them at a group dinner. Their level of snotiness and self-righteousness seems to rise in relation to the number of carnivores in the room. Quick to tell you how animal fat is rendering you into a gelatinous, unhealthy blob, the uber-vegan judges your well-being solely based on your inability to stop eating meat. They know all the stats, and will recite lines from Forks Over Knives and What the Health (vegans’ newest documentary obsession) whether you want to hear them or not.

Basically, they’re DRAINING.

via GIPHY

My call to arms today is to not be that vegan. Whether your dietary beliefs are due to wanting to improve your health, cure a gut illness, animal welfare concerns or just trying something different because your sister-in-law’s baby cousin Tracy did it (props if you recognize where that line came from), the last thing someone wants when breaking bread with you is to hear a lecture.

Not only is this a kindness that can save you being on the receiving end of some words you may not have expected, it’s considerate for those who are trying to (respectfully) navigate your needs. I recently accepted an invitation to a friend’s private lunch, and boy did she and her team pull out the stops.

Multiple courses, wine pairings and great company; I couldn’t ask for more, especially considering the meal was prepared at no fee to the guests. As we departed, I had a moment to give my heartfelt thanks to the hostess, and she said “I was concerned when I saw you accepted because I saw that you don’t eat meat.” As I told her, I accepted knowing that I was going to be offered food that I don’t usually eat but I would never consider dictating the menu to the host or hostess and that I was grateful for the meal.

This may not be the experience some plantbased and vegan people would want to have, but I valued the experience over the cuisine. I wouldn’t go as far The Atlantic did recently when a writer recommended that vegetarians should bend their own rules as a way to persuade more people to eliminate meat. If a friend invites me to their house and serves me meat, I’d politely decline the plate rather than eat the meal as a way of pacifying the carnivores in my midst.

Bottom Line:

Find a balance between leading by example and being open to conversation when the right opportunity to share your philosophy with the curious opens.

What’s been your worst experience with someone who is WAY into their way of eating, from vegans to gluten-free to dairy-free to GMO haters?

 

When Going Vegan, Slow and Steady Wins the Race

I’ve written before about my struggle in going from vegetarian to vegan, and I recently got a reality check in the form of Brown Vegan, aka Monique. In an episode on going from vegetarian to vegan, Monique spoke with her fellow blogger, Naturalee Happee, about the transition. Naturalee shared that her journey from omnivore to vegetarian took three years, as she slowly eliminated meat from her diet (first red meat, then pork and finally chicken). Because she’d set herself up with a “slow and steady” mindset, the elimination of eggs, milk, honey and leather wasn’t a shock to her system. I really needed to hear that go slow mindset.

After struggling the last two weeks to avoid dairy, I realized I was putting far too much emphasis on immediately eliminating dairy and not enough time into preparing my meals to avoid that late-afternoon Starbucks run. Yesterday, when I had my food laid out, packed and planned, I managed to get through the day with a steady blood sugar level, avoiding the afternoon energy dip, and I was able to teach an hour-long Sculpt class without faltering.

Now, don’t go full hog on veganism, just because it’s what Beyonce woke y’all up at 8 a.m. to talk about. Instead, adopt the “slow and steady” approach to achieve long-term success.

  • Start by cutting out specific foods. I started off by doing away with chicken, since red meat and pork were never high on my list of must-eat foods. If you’re already vegetarian and moving toward vegan, that may mean cutting back on your favorite bakeries to avoid the eggs, milk and buttercream that give your beloved baked goods their textures and taste.
  • Proper planning prevents poor performance. I know the band geeks in life know that phrase well, and it’s because it’s true! Meal prep and planning means you are less likely find yourself alone and hungry next to the closest Popeye’s or [insert the name of your favorite fast-food place]. That means making time to find recipes, cook, organize and store staples like rice, quinoa and chopped veggies, and recognizing your eating schedule so you’re prepared with snacks and meals to keep your hunger beast at bay.
via Tracy Benjamin on Flickr
via Tracy Benjamin on Flickr
  • Explore the range of foods, but try to avoid becoming carb-itarian. If you’re like me, some foods you never knew you liked simply because you never tried them. Or you had them boiled to death as a kid, scarring you from trying the same food as an adult. Consider revisiting the least scary of the foods you may have written off as a youth, like Brussel sprouts or eggplant. Avoid loading up on carbs like pastas as a filler for more healthful foods. Pasta has its place in a balanced diet. It just isn’t an every day item.
  • Be forgiving of yourself. Maybe it was a stressful day, and you found comfort in a Snicker’s bar. Or you attended a family cookout and the smell of your aunt’s potato salad took hold of your senses. Resolve at the beginning of your vegetarian or vegan journey that you will not be perfect, and that’s okay. When you do go off track, don’t throw the towel in and return to your old ways. Start the next day like it’s the first and be even better at improving your diet.

Are you in the middle of a transition? If so, what’s helped you? Do you have a specific cookbook, author, recipe or resource that you want to share? Leave a comment!

*featured image via thegrocer*

My Vegan Struggle

So…this vegan thing, let’s talk about it.

I’m struggling, y’all. So many delicious foods are made with dairy – ice cream, cookies, ice cream, pizza. My significant other is doing a much better job than me, I must say, which only makes me feel (slightly) worse. With age, I’ve become more aware of the importance of my diet and how it affects my physical health. Since I transitioned to (99.999) vegetarianism, I can say there is a difference in how quickly I can gain muscle tone, even after a junk food/no workout binge, and my skin has significantly fewer hormonal break outs. Thanks to the power of the Internet, I learned about how dairy affects your cholesterol, adding fats to your blood. But I keep coming back to the deliciousness of ice cream, and my soul hurts. Just like I don’t believe in diet cookies or ice cream, these goodies without the dairy just seems blasphemous.

Since it’s all a journey, I’m still working on it. Bryant Terry, who I consider one of the best vegan author/cook in the game, released his new book today. If you’re in the market for a new resource, whether you’re vegan, vegetarian, transitioning or a full-fledged non-apologizing meat-eater, pick up a copy of “Afro-Vegan: Farm-Fresh African, Caribbean, and Southern Flavors Remixed.” I’m going to get a copy for me and my mom (who is kicking butt at veganism and putting us all to shame over here).

Other resources that I love:

Vegan Soul Food: Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African-American Cuisine” – took this one from my mom, best thing I’ve taken from her aside from this one super-comfy sweater.

Happy Herbivore – great community of vegans, includes an informative website and some fun cook books.

Dallas Vegan – good online resource for local vegans. Check out their Instagram as well for some yummy food shots to get you hungry.

Local restaurants: Cosmic Cafe, Kalachandji’s, Spiral Diner (Two words: tofu scramble. It’ll change your life.)

Do you have any vegan cook book or Dallas-area restaurants recommendations? Leave them in the comments, and I’ll be sure to check them out.