Would You Eat Fake Meat? (It Tastes Like Chicken)

It’s amazing to me what the food industry comes up with. For example, fake meat. I realize there have been tofurkys for Thanksgiving and veggie “burgers” to accommodate the American need for putting something on a bun, and other substitutes for meat along the way for decades.

But this one takes the cake. Are you ready to try the first soy product that “not only can be flavored to taste like chicken but also breaks apart in your mouth the way chicken does: not too soft, not too hard, but with that ineffable chew of real flesh”? Watch the video, “Turning Powder into Poultry“, which tells how food scientists replicated those “delicate strands of meat” that are found in chicken. It’s from this week’s Time magazine–an article about a soy product that tastes–and feels–like chicken.

I’ve always been a texture girl. For example, I don’t eat shellfish because I can’t stand the texture of it. I love fish, however. Irrational? Perhaps. But that’s just me. I can’t explain it and I’ve always been this way.  Texture is definitely an important part of the human taste experience.

So I guess I’d be intrigued by a product that is similar in texture and taste to chicken except for one thing: It’s not chicken. And, it’s still processed food.

I’m baffled why there’s a need for this wanna-be meat product to exist on the vegetarian or vegan menu. I mean, if you don’t want to eat meat, then eat legumes. Why would you want to eat something that feigns to be meat if you’re against eating meat in the first place?

Vegans and vegetarians: Please comment! I’m interested in your perspective here!


10 responses to “Would You Eat Fake Meat? (It Tastes Like Chicken)

  1. I’m with you for the most part–why pretend to eat meat if you’re not eating meat? On the other hand, during my longest stretch of vegetarianism, once or twice a year I got a craving for bacon, and it was nice to have something that approximated the flavor. Although, of course, you’re right–not the texture!

    • Good answer, Lois. Still….I’m wondering why–if you’re craving bacon, why not eat bacon? I think, as a carnivore, (or perhaps, flexitarian now) it’s okay to eat meat. In fact, I think our bodies are designed to eat meat. We just don’t have to eat a lot of it. Or eat unhappy, feedlot meat. I realize vegetarians choose their approach toward food for a number of reasons–from health principles to ethics. But if your stomach is craving bacon, isn’t it okay to just have a slice? (As long as it’s happy bacon?)

  2. I have had many confused discussions with vegetarians in the last few years about this topic, and as a vegetarian myself, I completely agree with your position. I don’t understand the urge (or craving?) to eat an imitation product; it seems that the only justification is based on peer behavior—the desire to fit-in at summer barbecues. I sense that there is a growing appreciation for meal-planning that doesn’t revolve around a central meat product (like roast beef or ham)—especially for americans who are interested in ethnic foods (like Indian cuisine). Maybe soon vegetarians won’t have to apologize for not eating meat by bringing fake substitutes?

    • Thanks for your insight! This topic is generating lots of discussion and I appreciate having your perspective! I think it behooves us all when cooks are sensitive to the ethical and dietary needs or preferences of our family members and guests.

  3. Back in the days when I was a strict vegetarian, I still had those occasional meat cravings and I would never dream of eating meat. Once you forget the taste of meat and can only remember the cruel conditions in which it was produced, the occasional slice of bacon is just not feasible. (Watch PETA’s “Chew On This” DVD and you’ll understand, but then you’ll never want to eat meat again.) Plus, meat substitutes are an easy way for vegetarians to act like normal people. Going to barbecues with friends is a lot easier when all they have to do to accommodate you is pick up a box of Boca. Nowadays, I see that eating meat every so often is not such a bad thing, especially when it’s happy meat. Following research as of late about consuming a lot of soy products as well as the fact that most of the soy substitutes are produced by huge corporations capitalizing on peoples’ morals, soy substitutes are not very palatable to me anymore.

    • I like how your response mirrors BE’s response in relation to the ease of going to social events. And, good point regarding the soy products! Thanks for joining the conversation!

  4. Oh, several answers!

    1) Convenience. This is the reason behind burgers–they fit into buns. Ditto soy hot dogs. Snack- and meal-sized hunks of protein. I mean, fish sticks aren’t shaped like fish, are they? And real hamburgers aren’t shaped like cows. We vegans want the convenient shapes too sometimes.

    2) They don’t freak out meat-eating friends. You can put your veggie burger on the grill next to the other burgers and you don’t have to answer (too many) questions.

    3) They can fool visiting kids. Fake chicken nuggets–a lunch standby for carnivorous kids who would turn up their noses if they knew what it was (or, rather, what it wasn’t).

    4) Texture and memories. Many of us ate meat as children, and the familiarity is nice. I took my son (about 12 at the time, and vegan since birth) to one of those Chinese restaurants where everything is made from soy but to taste and feel exactly like beef, pork, chicken, etc. I thought, here’s his chance to see what he’s been missing. He HATED it; whereas I loved it all. But I had to order a new tofu dish for him. He had no associations of those tastes as being delicious, whereas I still did, even though I hadn’t tasted real meat in about 15 years.

    For me, craving the taste of bacon is not at all the same thing as craving bacon. I don’t eat the real thing because it seems cruel to me to kill an animal; that is at the heart of it. I wouldn’t eat children even if they tasted like ice cream. I also don’t think meat is as healthy; to me, it seems that our bodies are not designed to eat meat–thus we have the flat grinding teeth and longer intestines of plant eaters. Probably, biologically, we’re designed to be omnivores who eat mostly grasses and fruits and the occasional insects or small mammals. But that’s not my primary reason for not eating meat.

    • This is eye-opening for me, Sharazade. Similar to what BE and aelspeth say, there is definitely a social issue here: the need to fit in when eating at social events and/or in public. I had no idea it was so difficult to be a vegan in this culture, I guess because I haven’t experienced it myself, and because I’ve been so focused on the food allergy issue, due to my husband’s situation. I have to say, though, I don’t think the soy “chicken” could fool me. I am SO sensitive to texture. And, once I took the Pepsi Challenge and chose Coke, which was right in line with my taste buds! (Now Coke is like poison to me!)

  5. Most vegetarians didn’t give up meat because they don’t like the taste. To me there is no such thing as “happy meat”. All animals in food production are still murdered in a cold, scary factory (If you really want to understand this position then watch earthlings). It took about 8 months after I went vegetarian to try faux meat. I do sometimes miss the taste and convenience of meat but the idea of consuming rotting flesh isn’t appetizing to me and causing the death of something makes me feel cruel and depressed. Even some of the fake meats are too much like real meat for me to palate. I do like the fake mince, it’s so versatile and it comes in handy when you’ve got omnis coming over for dinner, non-threatening “meat-style” lasange tends to go over better than my amazing veggie version (I much prefer the veggie one). I think they’re helpful transition foods but I certainly wouldn’t want to eat them all the time. The longer I’m vegetarian the less appetizing these things are anyway. I don’t hold it against vegetarians for eating faux meats though, I understand that many of them gave up meat because they didn’t want to be a part of the cruelty that’s unavoidable with eating meat, but it doesn’t mean they want to give up the taste completely straight away. I find these a much better alternative to eating meat.

    • Catyren, thank you for your thoughtful insight and comment. I appreciate you visiting my blog.

      One note on the happy meat issue: I actually buy meat from a local farmer who raises small numbers of cows, pigs and sheep. I asked her how the slaughter of cows occurs and she said they’re taken a few at a time right in the pasture. The person who does it will only do it that way so as not to stress the animals. I’m sure this is an anomaly but it’s the one way I feel comforted as a carnivore. I refuse to eat meat that comes from factory farms and only support farmers who treat animals humanely.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s