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Bloody Plant Burger Smells, Tastes and Sizzles Like Meat (npr.org)
667 points by nradov on June 21, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 452 comments

I've been a vegetarian for the last decade and change, and I simultaneously think that finding a cheaper, appealing alternative to meat is both a fantastic opportunity for the world and a really difficult thing.

I used to love meat when I was a meat-eater, and I'm a fairly picky eater that dislikes many vegetable options. (Green peppers are nasty and food-destroying in my opinion, which immediately removes over half the vegetarian options out there, just as an example), so I consider myself a decent bellweather for people who like the tastes of meat but want to actually eat less of it for various reasons.

The options that already exist today are quite varied. Boca, Morningstar, Beyond Meat, and Quorn are all big names that offer meat alternatives that taste VERY different from each other. Most of my meat eating friends won't even try any of these, sight unseen. (When they see them, they tend to have even more reluctance). So, while I think it's absolutely worthwhile to make alternatives that seem more "real", there is still a stigma to overcome just by virtue of being fake. And in america, at least, where meat-eating is tied to masculinity and bacon is worshipped, that's a tough stigma to shake.

Decent imitations of highly processed meat exist already - I've had chicken nuggets that meat eaters had no idea were fake, and I fed my in-laws a "turkey loaf" dinner for Thanksgiving for years without them realizing - but matching the taste of "quality" meats hasn't yet happened.

I'm in the same camp as you. Vegetarian since 1989, vegan since 1999. I can certainly say that the quality of fake meats has drastically improved in the past 10 years (see https://gardein.com/, http://fieldroast.com/, and http://beyondmeat.com/ as examples), but the stigma surrounding them persists.

Short anecdote: There's a donut shop in my town that sold vegan and regular donuts in adjacent but separate displays. In some instances, the donuts on the regular side were also vegan, identical in every way save for the label. They found that they sold far better without the word "vegan" attached to them, and eventually stopped labelling them altogether, providing a side-menu to help vegans identify which are which.

Point being, perception is surprisingly important when it comes to taste.

> And in america, at least, where meat-eating is tied to masculinity and bacon is worshipped, that's a tough stigma to shake.

I'd argue that it really doesn't matter how similar to meat these products get, if they're still seen as "fake". Even if delicious, people tend to gravitate towards "real". But hey, maybe they've found a market that wants this that I'm just not seeing.

I think the problem here is that "vegan" is used to describe two different things:

1. A product that has been changed to not use any animal products.

2. A product that already fits within those constraints.

Products in the former group have a history of being noticeably worse than their non-vegan counterpart, so "vegan" carries the stigma of "tastes worse than it looks". That stigma then wafts over to products in the second category.

Other categories of products are more careful to use distinct terms. That's why you see things labelled "naturally fat-free" instead of just "fat-free", for example.

I think there's room for a third category, "things that need to be changed inconsequentially". Many recipes have egg or gelatine in them for functional purposes; usually as "glue" to hold things together, like in pancakes, where you aren't including the eggs for their flavour. You can easily replace them with vegan alternatives like ground flax. As a bonus it is usually cheaper and as dry ingredients they keep forever.

Btw the liquid in a can of garbanzo beans works great as a plant derived eeg replacement.


That's a great point. I wonder if there's an elegant/clean way to denote that something is vegan but not changed to be vegan. "Naturally fat-free" is good, and the sort of plant logo that some restaurants use at least avoid the word "vegan" which may help.

Sometimes plant-based is used as a more socially acceptable word for "vegan". I think there's also a difference between titling a product "vegan" and specifying that it is vegan. "Vegan donuts" isn't as appealing to non-vegans as "Donuts (vegan)". Likewise I'd be discouraged to get something labeled "Gluten free cookies", but if I saw "Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (gluten-free)" I wouldn't hold it against them.

On a related note: When I was vegan, I said I exclusively ate things made from plants. It was better received and understood. Also I would antagonize friends by giving them vegan pb&js, vegan pickles, vegan French fries, vegan Coke, etc.

No mushrooms or fermented products for you?

(I know you were just trying to give people a simplified model.)

Are you just giving random examples or is regular Coke not vegan?

Regular coke is about as vegan as regular pickles.

Interestingly, if it's 'throwback' coke with white/processed sugar in it, it's NOT vegan, as animal products (mostly bone/etc.) are used in the production of that sugar. HFCS modern coke is generally considered vegan.

Pretty terrible analogy. I have no idea if pickles are vegan or not. I would assume they are but I'm not steeped in the vegan ethos and many things have surprised me in the past as being non-vegan.

Animal products are constantly snuck into processed, preserved and packaged foods. I'd find it funny, but wouldn't be surprised, to find that something derived from an animal found its way into a jar of pickles 'for flavor'.

Vegan french fries is the stand out here. Many commercially available ones are flavored and/or cooked with non-vegan ingredients.

> I wonder if there's an elegant/clean way to denote that something is vegan but not changed to be vegan.

Naturally free of animal products?

"naturally vegan" seems most appropriate, no?

"Low carbon"?

Labeling products with "natural" has resulted in 40 billion in food sales for times with that have the label. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2014/06/24/the-w...

It is purely marketing.

>Other categories of products are more careful to use distinct terms. That's why you see things labelled "naturally fat-free" instead of just "fat-free", for example.

Are you sure marketing didn't just want to include another buzz word to attract sales? 90% of the food that got labeled fat-free 10 years ago (Before fat was good again...) was always fat free.

You've also got the issues with processed food: Butchering a critter and cooking it up is a lot more natural than a highly engineered mixture from a group of chemical engineers.

It may be that all the processing involved in making the plant compounds look/smell/taste/feel like meat are harmless, even beneficial, but it's perfectly reasonable to withhold trust for some time - especially to those of us who grew up with "Margarine is so much healthier than butter!"

The chemicals they use to keep the animals foodstuffs free of pests and weeds, along with the antibiotics pumped into them to keep them healthy while in packed conditions?

Its all chemical engineered now, unless you can afford to buy a piece of land and DIY.

-Avid Meat Eater.

The sheer scale of industrialisation of livestock is an American thing, especially with beef.

Most Beef in the world is grass fed, and not pumped full of antibiotics. Generally animals are more or less left in a field until they're old enough, then taken in a slaughtered.

Yeah right, "in the field". Nowadays you can do old-style animal farming if you have three cows and want to sustain you own family. Otherwise, if you want to sell it, it's just not cost effective.

- http://www.rollingstone.com/feature/belly-beast-meat-factory...

- https://www.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/9031-Ch...

Counter argument for that with regard to the UK:


Most quality beef sold in UK is governed by the Red Tractor food standards and welfare scheme.

Its similar in Ireland. The cows here are all grass fed (I grew up in the country, lots of farming friends) and the health standards don't allow the "pumping full of antibiotics" that we keep hearing about.

Don't worry, TTIP will bring all of that to us in Europe, too.

Depends on country, I guess? Argentina and Australia might have enough land to pull it off.

Yeah, I've worked next to a lunch place that describes itself as "plant inspired" rather than "vegan." It turns out that everything they serve is vegan, and they'll confirm it if you ask, but by taking the word "vegan" out of anything public-facing, it's a lot easier to get people to be interested in eating there.

I personally eat a low-meat diet (no more than 3 servings of meat a week), but don't generally feel the need to eat any kind of meat-substitutes; there are plenty of delicious, already vegetarian or already vegan foods. It does help eating only vegetarian and not fully vegan; cheese and eggs are good sources of both flavor and protein, and make a good "center" of a dish or "main course" of a meal that is sometimes hard to do with purely vegan food without substitutes, but I've also had plenty of delicious fully vegan meals without meat substitutes.

And even when getting closer to meat base dishes, I'm personally more likely to order a "black bean burger" or "chickpea burger" than a generic "veggie burger"; it helps to know what I'm getting, while a lot of the meat substitutes are complicated and processed. And for those processed items that do more often act as a stand in for meat, I generally prefer the more minimally processed ones like seitan, tempeh, or tofu, rather than a "tofu burger" that has a whole bunch of other things in it to make it more similar to a hamburger.

I am similar. I eat a 60-70% plant-based diet, but am also a fan of burgers and the occasional steak. I am really not that interested in an artificially created burger or steak. It is just not appetizing. If I am having something vegetarian, I prefer any of the excellent options you can prepare in your kitchen.

Yes, but there are many reasons to be vegetarian. I can easily imagine a lot of people that would like to skip meat for ethical reasons (including me, to a certain extent), but do not want to give up the flavor palette that meat offers.

It's not just taste. These alternatives are loaded with carbs and just aren't practical for a low carb diet. This is coming from someone who eats a ton of fiber loaded vegetables. It's really hard to find a reasonable substitute for meat proteins that is as efficient and delicious as meat. Protein is not a huge portion of my diet, but it is very important.

Seitan does a really good job of heavier texture, low carb, high protein (so long as you're not celiac).

That's not true anymore. Beyond Meat has a Beast Burger with 7g carbs and 23g protein (vegan, no soy, gluten-free, no gmo).

7g is much more than 0g, especially for a keto diet (as an extreme example)

The number of people who need to be on a keto diet is incredibly tiny though. Most people who are on them do not need to be, all evidence shows low carb diets are equally effective regardless of ketosis or not.

Hi. I have Type 2 diabetes and PCOS. 3 months of a ketogenic diet lowered my A1c from 6.8 ("you have diabetes") to 5.6 ("normal range"). I've also lost 25 lbs in that 3 months without feeling hungry or deprived.

I use to crave carbs, and would wind up binging on them. Now most of them do not even register as 'food' to my brain. However, on days when I eat maybe a few too many berries instead of sticking to green veggies, I can feel those cravings trying to come back. We're talking an amount that maybe pushes my daily net carb intake to the 50-60g range instead of the 20-30g range, not something that would push me over 100g. A ketogenic diet is definitely best for my health. I would rather eat a ketogenic diet than suffer the eventual consequences of diabetes - blindness, amputation, dialysis, and death.

>3 months of a ketogenic diet lowered my A1c from 6.8 ("you have diabetes") to 5.6 ("normal range"). I've also lost 25 lbs in that 3 months without feeling hungry or deprived.

All of which would be true on a low carb diet without ketosis. Which you may very well have been doing since you don't know if you were in ketosis or not.

> A ketogenic diet is definitely best for my health

Your completely unsupported anecdote of a single person claiming so does not counter the overwhelming scientific evidence consisting of actual studies, with multiple participants, proper measures, and control groups.

Okay let me just put it this way. When I consistently eat under ~30g net carbs a day, not only does my blood glucose remain at non-organ-damaging levels, but I can effortlessly resist the temptation to eat things like bread, pizza, and pasta.

When I start eating more than 50g net carbs a day, suddenly I want to shove all the pizza in the world in my mouth. Given that pizza will absolutely kill me, a diabetic, via kidney damage, a "very low carb, high fat" diet (which is much easier to explain/abbreviate as "ketogenic") diet is best for me, personally.

I know it's an anecdote, and it certainly doesn't mean a VLCHF diet is right for anyone else, but it's working for me.

Now go back and read the post you replied to in the first place. The entire point was low carb diets work regardless of ketosis.

>all evidence shows low carb diets are equally effective regardless of ketosis or not.

Well I will take my anecdotic evidence (and my girlfriend's, and two friends') over your scientific studies. Fat and protein make me feel full well below my caloric needs for maintaining the same weight; I am hardly ever full with carbs, and even when my stomach feel fulls, my brain keeps wanting me to eat.

How does this contradict GP? All you've said is "carbs don't help me feel full", which is a far cry from "I must have a ketogenic diet".

As it turns out, if a person doesn't feel full, it usually tends to compensate the feeling by eating.

More than one should.

Which again, does not in any way contradict anything I said.

I don't understand low-carb/keto diets, outside of treating an actual disease. A person can eat 5-10 lbs. of "wet" (i.e. not grains and starches) fruits and vegetables a day and stay well below 2,000 calories, rounding it off with some fish, nuts, etc. for protein and oils. It's physically difficult to eat 1,000 calories of salad at 100-200 calories/pound. The problem is it also costs about 5 times as much as a classic junk food diet (but not much if any more than a beef and bacon and cheese diet).

> A person can eat 5-10 lbs. of "wet" (i.e. not grains and starches) fruits and vegetables a day and stay well below 2,000 calories

Sure, I can too. And I will stay hungry or get into depression again because I wouldn't be getting enough fat.

Depends on what you see as a disease.

For some people, it's the only thing that loses some them weight. (Obesity is a disease?)

I am currently giving it a try to see whether it has any benefits for my concentration. (Inattentiveness is a disease?)

Plants are fun. I still eat lots of non-starchy ones.

Bag of chips, $2. Head of romaine 99¢. I can eat a bag of chips. I doubt I can eat that whole head of lettuce. By the time I add sunflower seeds, tomato, bit of goat or parmesan cheese, chopped olives I still think it's less or about the same price as chips.

Exactly, and the bag of chips is at least 1,000 calories. Up to 2,500 calories if we're talking about those generic ripple chips. The lettuce is 50-100 calories. If you're getting most of your daily calories from the likes of lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, zucchini, broccoli, etc., you can eat steadily all day and still have a hard time hitting 2,000 due to the sheer bulk. But it's gonna cost.

I think the person you're replying to is talking about the difference between maintaining a low-carb diet, and ketosis, which requires you to maintain a low-carb diet but specifically IIRC forces your body to break down fats instead of sugars in your body for energy.

What you quoted from MustardTiger doesn't contradict what you said..

I'm implying that non-low carb diets aren't as effective in my experience as they make me feel hungrier, thus making me want to always eat more than I should to lose weight.

Sure. But what you quoted was a statement that the effect of low-carb didn't depend on ketosis. Which is a very different statement---though I don't know if it's true.

(I am very sympathetic to low-carb eating, and am trying a ketogenic diet right now.)

Just to be clear 4g of that are fiber making it 3g net carbs (in keto terms).

Also, sugar is listed in the ingredients list, while the nutrition facts list it at 0 (might be rounding?)

GMO or not, even the wikipage of carrageenan (e407) says:

"Some animal studies indicate tumor promotion or initiation by carrageenan.[22][23][24][25] In an industry-funded study, Cohen & Ito discuss methodological problems with four such studies, along with several evaluations of genotoxic activity, and state that there is no credible evidence that carrageenan contributes to tumor promotion or colon cancer."

Which might be FUD but better safe than sorry.

Carrageenan by itself isn't dangerous. It becomes dangerous if you heat it.

It's usually possible to maintain ketosis with about 50g of carbohydrates per day, so 7g shouldn't be a huge deal.

But if you're spending nearly half of your carb allowance on the "protein" parts of your meals (1 serving/3 meals a day = 21g), how many fresh vegetables are you now not eating to stay under your 50g allowance?

Huge problem with the vegan meat replacements is that they're a lot more expensive than beef, around $7/lb vs ground beef at $3/lb. Like with coal vs solar, for imitation meat to win the market it needs to get less expensive than real meat (and taste as good).

Or the subsidies that hide the facts. Beef is very expensive in the sense of TCO, but not that expensive at the grocery store. See: http://michaelpollan.com/profiles/the-high-price-of-cheap-fo... for a good read on the matter.

a snip:

"The industrial food chain does produce food more cheaply, in terms of the price you pay at McDonald’s or the supermarket,” replies Pollan, “but the real cost of cheap food is not reflected in those prices. You’re paying for it in your tax dollars because you’re giving farmers $20 billion a year in subsidies. You’re paying for it in public health costs. These subsidies make unhealthy food cheaper than healthy food, and so our country is facing an obesity epidemic."

$20 billion comes up under $100 per person per year in the US. Even giving it a generous x4 multiplier to account for the people subsidizing the industry without being consumers, at $400 per year, given the $3 and $7 prices by parent, you would need to eat under 100 pounds of meat for meat replacements to be viable. The average American allegedly consumes close to 200 pounds of meat[0] per year, so it ends up still being quote economical.

[0] http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-availability-(per...

You're making the incorrect assumption that vegetarians are replacing whatever meat they were eating with the more-expensive meat substitutes. As I noted in my comment above, there are plenty of meat substitutes and alternatives that are much cheaper than $7/lb.

Sure if you're willing to exclude the externalities. What's the societal cost of antibiotic resistant escherichia coli?

The US is fixing that problem. Starting December 2016, a vet must examine and prescribe antibiotics for each animal; it will no longer be allowable to preemptively dose an entire herd just to enhance production.


Obviously it doesn't fix it for China though, which is where a lot of the drug-resistant bugs are coming from...

That's encouraging. I hope that regulation will have teeth.

Which is also the case for coal, which makes the original comparison very apt, though I'm not sure if that was intended.

You can't just compare to ground beef though. Plenty of meat and cheese products are the same price or more than equivalent meat alternatives.

[Aside: Actually, it's kind of interesting to consider that meat alternatives top out at a relatively low price point, whereas meat, fish, etc can get really expensive.]

Just like in the meat market, there are cheaper and more expensive meat alternatives. Compare tofu at ~$2/lb vs Field Roast at ~$6/lb, where Field Roast is more toward the gourmet end of the non-meat spectrum.

I would think that if you're not a meat eater, tofu is your ground beef equivalent. Or maybe beans, lentils, quinoa, etc, which are also pretty cheap.

Also, home made seitan is super cheap and much easier to produce than home made meat.

Cheese also has no upper price limit.

You can pay a lot for plant-based food, but that's much more of a niche interest.

Pork is even cheaper, for some reason. I've been buying boneless pork chops for something like $1 - $1.50 /pound for years from Market Basket stores.

Pigs are very cheap to raise, they'll happily get to slaughter weight quickly on "waste" foods. They don't need lots of land and they provide lots of meat for their relative size.

With the surge of popularity of bacon, there are a lot of pigs being brought to market. Any part of the pig that isn't bacon ends up being cheap because supply/demand.

History lesson: lard pigs used to be much more popular to raise than meat pigs. I wonder whether they'll see a comeback.

(After only half a minute of Googling: http://sugarmtnfarm.com/2015/06/11/lard-vs-bacon-pigs/ )

I wonder if Asia might be a good target market. Beef (particularly imported beef) costs a lot more in Asia.

Yes, but AFAIK being able to afford meat products (or whole animals for food) is more prestigious esp. in China than in the Western world.

agree with what your saying and these burgers would probably sell fine if they didn't get labeled as vegan. but yeah there must be a specific market that does want this, because we've been seeing fake meats for years.

personally I'm in a different camp. I've been vegan for a while now. I pretty much never buy fake meat or fake cheese. I don't really understand it. I just eat food I make from the bulk section of the grocery store. I don't see a need to have a "boody plant burger that smells like meat" or a boca burger, that just tastes like a...boca burger. honestly I rather just have a patty made out of blackbeans and lentils that doesn't taste anything like meat. seems way simpler to me.

Carnivore here.

I like vegetarianism in concept, and would like to eat less meat, but I like meat, A LOT. If alternatives were more meatlike (fingers crossed for indistinguishable) I'd gladly eat that regardless of label. Some reservations about macro contents.

I understand where you're coming from, but some people don't want to change a habit, but are fine with substitutes.

From a marketing perspective, I'd suggest the way to shift perceptions would be to run taste test challenges similar to the ones Pepsi ran back in the day. If the burgers are as close to meat versions as they say then it could be good to have people who are reluctant to try it to at least give it a go. Even if they can still tell the difference, the difficulty in telling them apart may be enough to change the perception of the product.

ones Pepsi ran back in the day

Werent those shown to be flawed? My source is Gladwells books, but the pepsi vs coke taste test favoured pepsi because it was sweeter. But in drinking the full can people found pepsi overwhelmingly sweet and coke was more popular. My guess would be a similar thing would happen. You could optimise to appeal to low-quantity taste tests. but as a full proper meal a lot needs to be done (imo)

What's funny about those is I always chose the coke, and the employees would always be awkward about it.

I think they're flawed in the sense that they were put on by the company itself.

When I visit India and eat vegetarian food properly prepared by a culture that has refined vegetarian cuisine beyond "fake meat", I don't miss meat at all.

Much of Western food is only expected to be an accompaniment to a meat dish, which is why you can't just cut meat out and eat the vegetable dishes you're used to when you're eating meat as well, imnsho.

Not a vegetarian but I do go out with many Indian colleagues who are vegetarian and have family members or friends who dont eat meat.

I do agree with the assumption that western vegetarians tend to want meat replacements. The biggest difference for me was seeing how a lot of Indian cuisine is actually unhealthy. Most everything is fried in oil or has so much clarified butter its unhealthy. The Indian diet (at least the people in my office) seems more unhealthy vs the western vegetarian diet and several people in my office have had heart attacks.

It is true for most of the restaurants serving different cuisines. Home-prepared Thai food is healthier than the food at Thai restaurants. Replace Thai with Chinese, Burmese, Vietnamese, Indian, and it would still hold true.

Having eaten a lot of home-prepared South Indian food, I'm not sure I really agree. Home cooked food has the ability to be healthier than restaurant prepared, but I don't know if there's enough data to really claim one way or the other - homecooked is not healthier just by virtue of being homecooked.

For south Indian food the problem is excess rice and starch.

I'd say most vegetarian Indian food has the problem of excess starch and carbs. One potential reason for the wide prevalence of diabetes in India.

As an Indian and a vegetarian, I agree with both those assertions. Indian cuisine(s.. there are many regional cuisines) is full of naturally delicious vegetarian (and even vegan) dishes. But that also includes a lot of starchy and fried foods. But there's such an abundant diversity available that you can prepare lots of healthy, delicious menus with different set of constraints (high protein, low carb, low fat, high fat/protein etc.)

Many Indian restaurants try to focus more on taste of the dish and hence the dishes tend to be not-so-healthy. But, traditional Indian cooking doesn't have the same levels of oils or clarified butter. The dishes are pretty healthy and filling too. Things have gotten bad only since the past 2-3 decades with the adoption of hydrogenated oils, refined grains.

My experience runs slightly against yours. Yes the restaurant food is more on the tasty but unhealthy. But even in general I've found the vegetarian indian diet to still be high in fats and sugar. Empirically (I havent checked the data on this) theres a lot of diabetes (related to carbohydrates) and cholesterol problems in india (related to fats, kind of). my call is despite being vegetarian, the typical indian isn't any more healthier than say the typical american if we're just looking at diet alone.

>> the typical indian isn't any more healthier than say the typical american if we're just looking at diet alone.

but is eating tasty non-meat food that is lot less destructive to the environment.

that cuts to the meat of the argument against non meat( which in the West means fake meat or vegan foods) being non tasty..

Why is oil and butter unhealthy?

(Indians seem to have a crazy sweet tooth, as far as I can tell. I like desserts, but Indian ones are usually way too much for me.)

it is not. Atleast as per this UK study[1]

Which suggest lots of Indian vegetarian food is indeed healthy

[1] http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/...

You are probably right on that though Indian restaurant food seems to be that way to cater to customer demand. At home the food tends to be more healthy but there is a tendency toward excess carbs.

Traditional Indian food is perfectly healthy. Fresh vegetables, grains, etc. Even clarified butter used to be prepared differently.

People still think that oil and butter are bad for you, despite the mountains of research that saturated fat is not unhealthy, and the new research regarding weight loss that the high fat Mediterranean diet is better than low fat diets.

The only reasonable complaints re Indian food are high carbs and low amounts of high quality protein

I'm a huge fan of Indian food. (Because it's tasty, AND because they are one of the few foreign countries that uses the same definition of "vegetarian" that I do).

That said, I actually have a fairly limited range there too: if you don't like yogurt, dill, bell peppers, cucumbers, or okra, a lot gets cut out. That's on me an my tastes, not the Indian food, but it's still a reality I have to deal with.

> the same definition of "vegetarian" that I do

Can you elaborate?

Well, in Africa chicken isn't regarded as meat, to give one example from my own experience.

In western countries, there's some ambiguity around eggs, fish, and possibly lard but only as far as vegetarians can't all agree on those either.

Even as a meat eater I don't eat fish unless I caught it myself. Commercial fishing has gotten out of control and I refuse to contribute to the practice, as well as the shocking frequency that fish are mislabeled.

This is such a huge gripe for me. I love fish but hate the industry. In fact I wish we could have a 5 year moratorium on any fishing. Fishing is the best example for the tragedy of the commons.

There was an episode of Archer recently that was a crossover with the old Sealab cartoon (2021, the "spoof" version to be specific) and Captain Murphy was holding the world hostage with "nukes" (he didn't have any nukes) in demand for a moratorium on fishing. It wasn't the first time I had heard demands for such a pause, but it was definitely a position I wasn't expecting to see echoed in Archer.

In some other cartoon as a wink and a nod to the parents, sure. But definitely not Archer.

There's plenty of disparity on what vegetarian means in India too. It varies by region and caste and plenty of other things. Some find eggs, fish, and other things acceptable, some don't, and only ~30% of observant Hindus would fit a strict definition of vegetarian. Brahmins are often more strict, etc etc.

Good to know. Reminds me of my favorite expression. "Inside the U.S., a hundred years is a long time. Outside the U.S., a hundred miles is a long distance".

Australia is inside the US by that definition. And Russians will just love at you about both.

(Your expression works better with "England" in place of "Outside the US".)

Also, gelatin is considered vegetarian by some, or at least there are some vegetarians that don't realize that gelatin is an animal product (just some sort of "mystery" ingredient, I guess).

For those who are wondering if there are alternative to animal gelatin, Japanese have been using agar [1] (they call it kanten) for centuries to prepare sweets. It's similar to gelatin, but made from algae, so it is absolutely vegetarian. As far as I know all Japanese traditional sweets that require something gelatinous are made with it, so they are safe to it if you are vegetarian/vegan.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agar

Wow, I didn't realise that agar the same products used in science experiments/testing was also the food thing (wiki lists uses as microbiology and culinary) . I recall the smell of the agar used in the lab to be very strong and quite off putting if thought of as a food. Has your experience of the aroma of culinary agar been positive?

The agar used in labs generally has a lot of other (potentially smelly) stuff put in it, depending on what kind of microorganisms you're trying to grow.

Pure agar is odorless and tasteless.

This can become an issue for religious vegetarians, too. In India when you say that something is vegetarian it contains no gelatin or animal fat or anything like that. Vegetarian food is prepared separately.

Orthodox Hindus who move to the West often struggle with this. Even ice cream (marked as vegetarian) sometimes has gelatin. You can ask for vegan food, which is an approximation, but "no milk" is the antithesis of many Indian diets :)

I know such families who basically never eat out ever, and prepare things from scratch at home. Though they usually are more lax on allowing the kids to eat pseudo-vegetarian food.

Where is ice cream marked as vegetarian? I have never seen a label. I also never saw gelatin as a listed ingredient in ice cream

Not all ice creams, some of them. When I say marked I mean in general if you ask the store; doesn't need to be actually marked (though some foods are marked this way, even if they contain gelatin)

I've had ice cream where they specifically included gelatine as one of the ingredients. Also, some gelatos contain gelatine as well.

Going by wiki, I believe there are non-animal sources or substitutes to gelatin "Partial, nonanimal alternatives to gelatin include the seaweed extracts agar and carrageenan, as well as pectin and konjac.".

There are substitutes. I'm not arguing that. I'm saying that many people will see gelatin itself as vegetarian or as some sort of "mystery" ingredient that they don't really know the source of. I didn't know the source of gelatin until I was iat university, for example.

In Spain chicken is also not considered meat (at least it wasn't 15 years ago).

Sure. Usually it boils down to whether fish/seafood is considered vegetarian, but sometimes it also includes broth or animal byproducts.

For the purposes of definition, I use the below, which appears to be the general consensus definitions in America, though I'm sure some will dispute this.

Vegetarian: (also called ovo-lacto vegetarian) No meat (including fish/seafood). Eggs, dairy, and honey are okay. Byproducts that involved killing animals are not. Those vegetarians that are so for health reasons often skip that last part, and many vegetarians only go "so deep" when looking, so they don't worry if bleached (with animal bone) flour was used, or if the cheese was made with animal-based rennet. Lastly, insects and some low-nervous system mussels occupy a questionable space that isn't often discussed at large, but like the "so deep" issue should likely be considered "not strictly vegetarian but some vegetarians have exceptions".

Vegan: Vegetarian, plus no eggs, dairy, or honey. They tend to look deeper and more strictly than vegetarians, though the general belief that you shouldn't be killing things is shared between those vegetarians and vegans that are so for ethical reasons. (other vegan restrictions aren't food based)

Pescatarian: Vegetarian, but fish and seafood are permitted.

Some examples:

In the American southeast (not a foreign country, but might as well be) pork is as much a "spice" as a food. Many vegetable offerings at restaurants are seasoned with pork. At one cafe in Atlanta I asked if a soup was vegetarian and they said yes...then after a moment said "but it does have chicken stock", because in their mind anything that wasn't "chunks of meat" was vegetarian. (also, since I have the pulpit, as a once lover of ham, what the south does to ham is a crime. It has two varieties: salty, and really salty. I forget which is "country ham" and which is "virginia ham", but both made it easier for me to drop pork from my diet.)

In Chinese food, fish is generally considered vegetarian, and oyster sauce is particularly prevalent. If I request something "vegetarian", they'll avoid using pork-based seasonings, but will include oyster sauce unless I'm very explicit and make a pain of myself.

My Japanese friends tell me there's no point in me trying to eat there. The only option that doesn't involve seafood is "monk training food", which is...not intended to be tasty.

Thai food and Vietnamese food have, I think, some of the same issues. I know curry paste is often made with shrimp, and where an Indian restaurant will pay attention, Thai places often won't. (That said, I love Thai, so when I find a place where I trust the staff "gets it", they get a lot of business)

I wasn't vegetarian when I was in Europe, so I don't know how easy it is to be vegetarian there, but I know a lot of places that had a strong Catholic influence consider fish to be "non-meat".

In many of these places I could try to be explicit, but that's often painful because there are sometimes language issues, because I don't want to make a pain of myself, and because some places leave me not trusting that the result is actually vegetarian despite my explicitness.

In contrast, Indian restaurants tend to:

1) Share the same definition, so we have no language issues

2) Take the vegetarian/non-vegetarian divide seriously (Many Indians are vegetarian or part-time vegetarian for religious reasons), so my requests are neither a pain nor is there often a worry that I'll get something animal-based anyway.

A friend of mine from India once told me "if a mob would burn down your restaurant if you got caught mixing meat and vegetarian, you'd take it seriously too". I still don't if she was joking with me, and if so to what degree.

>>A friend of mine from India once told me "if a mob would burn down your restaurant if you got caught mixing meat and vegetarian, you'd take it seriously too". I still don't if she was joking with me, and if so to what degree.

Yes, that is (unfortunately) a possible outcome, if not outright murder by an angry mob of people who take their religious and societal taboos too seriously[1].

[1] http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/10/ind...

> My Japanese friends tell me there's no point in me trying to eat there. The only option that doesn't involve seafood is "monk training food", which is...not intended to be tasty.

I'm vegan an eat Japanese food all of the time. It really just depends on the restaurant. Examples:

- Tempura batter can be vegan if they don't add eggs to it. Some restaurants do, and some don't.

- Sushi rice is basically sugar, salt and rice vinegar seasoning.

- Miso soup is fine as long as you confirm they don't add "bonito" (aka fish flakes).

- Many of the vegetarian rolls are fine.

The only thing that you might worry about is if you are super-strict about cross-contamination. But if that's the case you really can't eat out at most restaurants.

Eating vegetarian in Japan is hard. I gave up eating vegetarian in restaurants pretty soon after I arrived here (and gave up eating vegetarian at all after I got married ;-) ). A couple of comments:

- In Japan, I have never heard of anyone one using eggs in tempura batter. You can be almost 100% sure that it's OK. So vegetable tempura is a good bet. Probably the most safe is cold soba noodles with tempura.

- Vegetable sushi is only really available at those cheap revolving sushi restaurants. However, when dining with vegetarians this is my go to spot. You are unlikely to find vegetarian options at good sushi restaurants.

- You will never find miso soup or any soup (ramen, etc, etc) in Japan without animal products (apart from the rare exception that I will explain below). Ordering off the menu is likely to cause serious heart attacks in the staff. If you are a regular customer, you can get away with it, but you seriously can't expect to walk off the street and ask that the change the food for you. Which is odd because Japanese customer service (with this one exception) is usually insanely accommodating.

- Although it is remarkably better than when I arrived, Japanese people really do not understand vegetarian cooking. If you ask for vegetarian tempura they are likely to give you extra shrimp to make up for the other fish that you didn't get. If you protest that it isn't a vegetable they will look blankly at you and say, "But it's delicious". Having a moral stance on what you eat and don't eat without it being a religious thing just does not compute. They totally get the non-pork issue for those whose religions don't allow it, for example. When I was teaching English, I tried to educate the students about the word "vegetarian" and in the exam I had the question, "John does not eat meat, fish or eggs. He only eats vegetables. What is John?" One of my students answered, "John is a cow" (to which I had to give him full marks, of course ;-) ).

However, this brings me to the only strategy that worked for me consistently in restaurants. It turns out that Japan has it's own traditional vegan cuisine. It is called "shoujin ryouri". It is a Buddhist way of eating (the "monk training food" noted by the GP). It is composed of very traditional Japanese dishes and is wonderful. Although there is much more to shoujin ryouri than just eating vegetables (and they also avoid alliums like garlic and onions for some reason), it is a word that every Japanese restaurant worker will understand completely. The GP's characterisation of shoujin ryouri as "not intended to be tasty" made me laugh because it is true that it is not intended. However, it is invariably mind-bogglingly delicious. I highly recommend going to a temple that serves it and trying it.

Anyway, usually I would say, "I'm very sorry, but I only eat shoujin ryouri. I know it's completely impossible, but I wonder if there is any way you could make something like that." After getting over the shock that a westerner would eat only shoujin ryuori, the response would inevitably be, "That's incredible. I'm impressed. That's a very difficult way to live" and they will either try to make something for you, or tell you that it is indeed impossible.

Apart from rice (which is a given), the basis of most Japanese cooking is dashi (soup stock). Most restaurants (and homes) use powdered soup stock that already has katsuo bushi (the dried fish flakes) added. In shoujin ryouri they use only kombu dashi (stock made from sea kelp), sometimes with dried mushrooms. If a restaurant has kombu available, they can make dashi and then can usually figure out something. All restaurants have vegetables and tofu hanging around somewhere. If they do not have kombu, then they will be completely at a loss and there is nothing they can do.

I was vegan when I came to Japan (although not ethically vegan -- I just like eating that kind of food). I tried to keep eating that way, but it was pretty difficult (and downright impossible when I had to go to work related functions -- I got a reputation as a hard drinker because I would only pick at my food and drink beer all night ;-) ). Pretty quickly, I started eating things with normal dashi and after about 3 or 4 months just ate whatever anyone else ate at restaurants.

It is not impossible to be vegetarian (or even vegan) in Japan, but it is extremely difficult.

There are generally 2 reasons to avoid garlic and onions - 1) they are considered 'stimulating' (eg: Krishna) and/or more likely: 2) onions and garlic are bulbs - if you uproot them you effectively kill the plant whereas other vegetables you harvest their fruits/leaves/etc and the plant lives on.

> However, this brings me to the only strategy that worked for me consistently in restaurants. It turns out that Japan has it's own traditional vegan cuisine. It is called "shoujin ryouri". It is a Buddhist way of eating (the "monk training food" noted by the GP). It is composed of very traditional Japanese dishes and is wonderful. Although there is much more to shoujin ryouri than just eating vegetables (and they also avoid alliums like garlic and onions for some reason), it is a word that every Japanese restaurant worker will understand completely.

This. I had some vegan friends that spent some time in Thailand and there are similar things. You just have to know the "secret code word" for vegan-type food. IIRC, restaurants in Thailand that have a yellow flag outside are marking that they serve food acceptable to a particular religious order of monks (or something of the sort).

That said, I was mostly referring to eating at Japanese restaurants in the West. I realize that eating in such a way in Japan itself is somewhat difficult.

Really great information here, thank you.

So you eat vegetarian rolls and tempura battered sushi rice in Miso and call that Japanese cuisine?

Thanks for the detailed explanation. It sounds like your definitions fit mine, so it's good to know that India would (at least from a dietary perspective) be a viable vacation destination.

And that's probably not just a thought experiment given the likelihood of eventually going there on business trips.

The monk training food is a good one.

If you are traveling in southeast asia, and want vegan food, ask for buddhist food. (Alas, that also precludes garlic and onion, but that's a small sacrifice in exchange for having an easy shorthand to explain vegan food.)

Some do include egg and milk, so would not be suitable for vegans..

Thanks! Does that understanding depend on the person you are talking to, or just the country you are in when you ask?

My definition, which tell people at restaurants, is 'nothing that had eyes except potatoes.' it's succinct, and everyone gets it.

I'm fine with eggs, though, so YMMV.

Leaves a few loopholes, but nothing anybody could exploit with anything they had at a typical restaurant. And easy to understand.

In japan seafood isn't considered meat. If you do then it can be pretty hard.

Also, as far as I understand, they don't use a lot of vegetable oil. So things that would be ok in the west, like bread, more than likely have lard in them.

This is true. I'm an Indian , now living in Australia. I love meat! The only time I don't crave it is when I'm in India where the vegetarian food is incredibly tasty/satisfying doesn't consist of largely salads. I eat salads, not because I enjoy them but because I know its good for me.

As much as I enjoy Indian vegetarian food, as a person that does eat meat, there are also a bewildering variety of dishes possible with the same spices and ingredients with meat added. One example is what you can find in Pakistani cuisine where the vast majority of the population is Muslim and does eat meat.

There is of course a great deal of culinary overlap in the Punjab region, food is much older than the 1947 partition. If you ever visit Lahore I highly recommend trying the local restaurants.

Oh, nonvegetarian food from the subcontinent can be amazing. Even from Hindu-majority areas -- Indian (or even Hindu) vegetarians are the minority (30%), just a generally affluent and vocal minority. Aside from beef, of course.

Not to mention pork as well--it seems like in a lot of places with arid climates and Islamic influence, people don't eat pork even if there is no religious prohibition per se. That's why I like Greek, Goan and northwestern Chinese food--it has all the tastiness of middle eastern & central/south Asian food, but with my favorite meat.

You need to ask your Keralite friends to prepare some beef.

Oh, not saying Indian beef cuisine sucks, saying beef-eating is not in the majority :)

If I had to give up meat, south Indian would be a lifesaver. It's so flavorful, you come out feeling filled and sated, and yet your stomach doesn't have the heaviness you get from a steak dinner.

Interestingly, a recent survey shows that despite having that highly refined vegetarian cuisine, Indians (especially South Indians) are nowhere near as vegetarian as is usually assumed:


It's a culinary difference in how meals are laid out in western cuisine.

In the west, we tend to have a protein of some sort, which is the centerpiece of the dish, with supporting elements of carbs and veges.

With Eastern food, they tend to have a carb, and then a curry or other mix of meat and veges to go with it.

To present the other side, I lived in India a long time and vegetarian cuisine there always left me unsatisfied. If, for some reason, I had to eat a vegetarian meal (say I'm going to a Brahmin wedding), I'd just eat meat before I left for it because the alternative was to be unhappy.


I'm Indian origin. At home, we usually eat vegetarian food (not a religious thing, it just is). I don't miss non vegetarian food at all. But if I go out to eat I usually have non vegetarian food.

My girlfriend is a vegetarian so I often end up eating vegetarian food when we go out.

Agreed with your assertion. Here in India, vegetarian food is often as good, if not better than meat.

I love indian food, and the vegetarian options are superb.

That said, I still adore tandoori chicken. >.>

Not a vegetarian or vegan, nor will I ever be in all likelihood - but I have been trying to curb the amount of meat I eat purely due to the environmental impact it has. I have a box of beef burger patties in the freezer that never gets touched outside of family gatherings, when I decide I want a burger I grab my bag of Morningstar Spicy Black Bean patties and toss one on the frying pan. I've also gotten really good at preparing tofu over the years, and I've found all sorts of delicious ways to prepare it.

I've found that substituting meat is an almost impossible task, I certainly haven't found anything that is as satisfying as a good steak. But replacing it with something I find enjoyable in a different way works really well, as long as you have an open mind and accept that it's not going to be an identical experience. (Personally, I prefer the black bean burgers for this reason. I absolutely adore spicy foods, I've been topping burgers with pepper jack and jalapenos since I was 13, having the patty itself with a good texture and a nice kick out of the box is wonderful)

Can you elaborate on the environmental impact? I've heard so many vegans say this but I've never seen a proper explanation of it. How can eating meat have a negative environmental impact when humans are natural omnivores?

It seems to me like people are confusing eating meat with our modern agricultural processes. And if that's the case then the solution should be to improve said processes, not to stop eating meat.

Cows produce a huge amount of methane, from their digestive system. That alone is enough to cause significant environmental impact, and if we stopped eating beef we would see a decrease in the amount of methane released.

Don't forget the large amount of water it takes to raise cattle.

Things like vats of liquified cow feces stored underground, which are later sprayed on (organic!) crops - these have a much larger impact than a few cows producing their feces, which is later composted. Cows produce methane, as do chickens.

The thing is - how is the average person going to improve the processes? People can eat less meat and urge the governments in different areas to force better farming practices through regulation, financial support for upgrades, investment in technology (for example, something that composts manure and spreads it better than the liquid manure we keep in vats or somehow breeding cows that produce less methane), and other such things.

Some countries will be able to pull this off. Others... well, will fail. And some of those are either major contributors or consumers.

Some farmers set parts of the rain forest on fire to then grow plants exclusively intended to be used as animal food, until there are no more remaining nutrients usually causing permanent damage to the soil.


The way I see it, selling anything to meat eaters as a "meat equivalent" is setting it up for rejection. I'd bet that if you took even real meat and told people it was "fake", a good portion of them would reject it as somehow weird.

The "burger" is just a convenient form factor. Each kind is really its own thing, with its own taste and mouthfeel. It needs to be tried and appreciated as such, or disappointment is inevitable.

Totally agreed, on both points. I think selling "fake meat" to meat-eaters is missing the point (as they could just as easily eat the real thing), and selling "fake meat" to vegetarians is a weak offer (as it reduces them to imitating meat-based recipes).

As an example of your second point, one of the more succesful alternatives in NL is Valess [1], which mostly comes in the "burger" form factor but does not try to sell itself as imitation meat.

[1] https://www.frieslandcampina.com/en/brands/valess/

But does that change if the fake is $3 and the real one is $15? I think a lot of people in the front end of these startups trying to create almost identical to meat and dairy products are looking at that possibility in the not so far future as to why they will be successful. As opposed to something like a boca burger that is more intended to fit inside a hamburger bun as opposed to being exactly like meat.

I say this as someone who hasn't eaten meat for well over a decade and a really close meat substitute sounds gross.

At social situations (where pollination between meat eaters and vegetarians occurs), that would make the appeal even tougher. Eating meat then becomes a way of showing off financial status, even more than it already is ("we grilled up this real nice cut of blah blah").

I say this as a vegetarian, but I'm having a hard time seeing cost being a real advantage for imitation meat. It seems like more of a first world problem - if one cannot afford meat, they're better off spending resources on replacing its nutritional value rather than its taste.

>Decent imitations of highly processed meat exist already

I am a meat eater and I can tell you that, in my experience, this simply isn't the case. Your opinion is colored by the fact that you really, really, want it to be a decent imitation because you're a vegetarian. Every imitation meat product I have ever tasted has been immediately recognizable as such, and was almost inedible.

Unfortunately, the idea of fake meat that people won't notice is, at least today, a vegetarian fantasy.

I'm also an omnivore and have made the same observation.

I think the larger issue is why do we stubbornly try to make one thing taste like another? I may be a meat-eater but I can fill my heart's content at a number of Indian vegetarian places, to the point where I don't realize I didn't eat meat. The meal as a whole is fully satiating and nourishing.

In the same vein, I love tofu when it tastes like tofu. But when some try to make it ressemble meat, it simply becomes bad tofu. Beans are awesome and can be combined in so many ways. Bean burgers are just over-seasoned patties posing as meat.

Maybe it's my French background showing but I prefer minimal processing, or processing that brings out the natural flavors of the ingredient, not trying to hide them.

> why do we stubbornly try to make one thing taste like another

because lots of people love meat but dislike the way it is obtained. compare fake cheese and icecream for the lactose intolerant - they love the taste of cheese and icecream, just not its effects on them.

Cheese and ice cream for the lactose intolerant are the same as normal cheese and ice cream, just with the lactose removed.

Vegan cheese is completely different from lactose-free cheese, and is one of the worst things I have ever eaten. It does not retain a single attribute that makes normal cheese appealing, but still manages to smell like an old sock.

i have a vegan friend who swears by her brand of fake cheese; she's even made bruschetta with it and had it turn out okay. also i didn't know you got actual lactose-free ice cream; the lactose-intolerant people i've known usually ate coconut-based ice creams. i wonder if any of them had tried the lactose free stuff but found they were more used to the coconut.

Lactaid makes lactose-free versions of many dairy products that usually contain lactose, including ice cream. A special process isn't necessary for most cheeses since they naturally have very low levels of lactose due, since the lactose doesn't really get caught up in the coagulation.

I've never had coconut ice cream, but I've had soy ice cream on several occasions and I thought it wasn't bad. (Shout-out to Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream, a Wisconsin manufacturer who does a great job of accommodating a wide variety of dietary restrictions)

I'm sure your friend finds her brand of fake cheese palatable, but I seriously doubt it bears any resemblance to real cheese. One of my close friends was a vegetarian because she couldn't give up cheese, until the point where her conscience overwhelmed her and she became a total vegan. She's been looking for a vegan cheese for the past seven or eight years, and I've unfortunately shared in the experience. I'm comfortable with the claim that right now, vegan cheese is not a replacement for real cheese.

The problem with vegan cheese is that vegan foods are generally only convincing substitutes in a specific domain. Ice cream works because ice cream is always frozen. Nobody complains if your vegan ice cream doesn't look like ice cream when melted or boiling. On the other hand, the same cheese can be melted, broiled, burnt, shredded, or some combination of the 4 depending on the application. Plus, it has to taste like cheese too.

In some sense, it's a bit like vegan bacon, which generally just tastes a bit smokey, and I've never found any that has the crispy texture that melts in the mouth like real bacon. Fake cheese just has a really ... off texture, and it's flavor is one-dimensional.

>Lactaid makes lactose-free versions of many dairy products that usually contain lactose, including ice cream

Despite the label claiming that, it isn't actually the case. Rather than removing the sugar, which is quite difficult without affecting the milk, they simply add lactase.

Interesting, I didn't know that. I knew you could add lactase to products yourself to achieve a similar effect.

i agree with you in general (and cheese is definitely not one of the things i'd want a substitute for myself), but note that one of the things that makes this fake mince product exciting is that they're explicitly trying to replicate the taste, the smell, the mouthfeel and the consistency of real beef mince. short of a breakthrough in vat-grown meat this seems like the most promising avenue yet.

>I think the larger issue is why do we stubbornly try to make one thing taste like another?

In my opinion, it's because vegetarians know that their diet is an extreme departure from the norm, and anything they can do to feel more included in the mainstream, they will do. I have relatives that are vegetarians, and being vegetarian limits their social lives to some degree (I'm sure the impact is partially dependent on where you live; this comment is based on my observations only). For example, they can't eat at certain restaurants, and they tend to not bother trying to host dinners at their homes for people with normal diets (or worse, they do host, and guests don't come back after the first time). One of my vegetarian relatives has children, and it impacts their social lives as well - kids in households with mainstream diets usually aren't big fans of tofu and aren't going to be hanging out in vegetarian households as often.

Everyone wants to feel normal, even when their lifestyle choices are far from it. This, in my opinion, is the driving force behind the quest for "vegemeat".

Your response is logical, but ultimately not true for me.

As a vegetarian, I'm weird. As a picky vegetarian, I'm even weirder. That's fine, I'm used to weird, and I don't expect people to cater to my weirdness.

For me, it's not about specific taste. When I went vegetarian, I lost the taste for red meat. Last time I had it (10+ years now) it was NASTY - I remembered it tasting good, but it doesn't meet (ha!) that memory.

No, it's mostly about texture. I want something that tastes _good_ (for however "good" is defined) and has the right chewiness to my mouth.

It's also about convenience - My wife and I have "meat cookies", which are morningstar "burgers" fixed on a george foreman grill, and after a few minutes of cooling, are able to be picked up and eaten like a cookie. The taste is good, but it could be better. Nothing about this experience is like a normal meat-eater.

I will concede that it'd be really nice to go to a restaurant and have an easy time picking out food from the menu. That's less about being normal and more about being able to eat when hungry.

So no - I don't think my desire for meat alternatives is about a desperate need to feel like I belong. Its about having tasty options that didn't kill animals. For many vegetarians straight vegetables can fulfill that need. Not so for me.

>Last time I had it (10+ years now) it was NASTY - I remembered it tasting good, but it doesn't meet (ha!) that memory.

You seem very self-aware, which I view as a rare and positive trait. So here's a question that I am genuinely curious about: in light of the fact that you said you remembered meat tasting good prior to becoming a vegetarian, do you believe that it is unpalatable to you now because it actually tastes bad (i.e. your brain actually no longer likes the taste), or is it the thoughts that you associate with meat (those that drove you to be a vegetarian in the first place - perhaps that a cow was killed for it, or its impact on the environment)?

Pretty sure it was specific to the actual taste my brain was receiving - I consider pork to marginally ethically worse than beef, yet pork retained its good taste to me (at least then, no idea now, but I assume that's still true). Chicken and turkey and fish likewise remained tasty, but red meat tasted very greasy, a touch bitter, and otherwise tasteless.

It was actually very weird - I'd smell it, and remember the good taste, then have some and be quite startled how bad it seemed to me. (and again, other meats did not have that reaction). I have no idea if this is a matter of personal chemistry, a more intricate mental gymnastics than the one you propose, or is actually commonplace. To this day, the smell of KFC original recipe will make me salivate. (I once found an Indian place that had a veggie Pakora that tasted JUST LIKE THAT BATTER. Man I miss that)

For background: I went full vegetarian for 6 months in college, but stopped when I was seeing stars constantly. It's easy to get decent nutrition with a vegetarian diet, particularly as I'm not active, but microwaved rice and beans and mac n'cheese (my college diet) wasn't healthy enough. So I returned meat to my diet and that's when I found I didn't like red meat anymore. I imagine I could've taught myself to like it again, but I was content with the other meat options and had no more health issues. After a few years like this I noticed that a few foods (e.g. lettuce, baby spinach) that were previously on my "ick" list were now palatable, so I started dropping a meat a year, giving my taste and lifestyle time to adjust. After a few years of that, I was fully vegetarian, and my diet has expanded, though I still have a depressingly large "these foods don't taste good to me" list.

Why do I think pork is marginally than beef? I grew up in a rural-ish* area, and have a lower opinion of cows than pigs, in terms of intelligence and awareness. I similarly think a turkey is smarter than chicken, but we are talking literal bird brains at that point.

* rural-ish = a large town surrounded by farmland. State College, PA, for the curious.

Some meat eaters and conformists in general have a bizarre insecurity that causes them to invent elaborate just-so stories to explain how anyone who is different from them.

I pity the provincial world you love in where nobody can tolerate a departure from slabs of meat. It's such a rural American perspective, alien to most of the world.

It beggars belief that you claim to be related to a vegetarian and you think that kids subsist on tofu, or even that meals are a major part of kids hanging out. Kids eat chips and pizza and pasta, all of which is vegetarian.

> I pity the provincial world you love in where nobody can tolerate a departure from slabs of meat. It's such a rural American perspective, alien to most of the world.

I am French, I live in France, and grew up in a large city. I can confirm what he said about kids in some cultures, and it's not limited to the "rural America" the sanfran crowds like to dismiss so much on the internet. I had Indians friends I grew up with as a kid, and they were made to eat meat every time we were going out with the other neighborhood kids because we liked to go to fast foods like Quick (a belgian fast food franchise that's a bit like the European McDo) and there was no decent vegetarian food there, at least when I was a kid, I wouldn't know if they changed their menus because I haven't gone to fast foods for a long time. He had to lie to his parents about not eating hamburgers, they were devout, religious vegetarian hinduists and I have no idea how they'd react if they knew their kids ate beef.

What would have happened if they refused to eat meat with us? They would either have to watch us eat at Quick while growing hungry, or just leave the group altogether. Seeing our food cultures, I would definitely have hated the very idea of growing in a vegetarian household. The indian kids could come at our places and order pizza with us, but we never, ever shared a meal at their home.

My parents loved sharing food with our indian neighbors though, despite the fact that my father loved meat, he also enjoyed the food they made and my grandmother often made vegetarian cooking to exchange with them. But that's a whole another story when it comes to kids.

Pizza, at least pizza that is fit to eat, is not vegetarian...

Most native New Yorkers will disagree with you there.

I think the larger issue is why do we stubbornly try to make one thing taste like another?

For the same reason that people use birth control instead of abstinence: People like to "have their cake and eat it too." If we can get the part of something we value minus some downside we deem undesirable, we are all over it.

> Every imitation meat product I have ever tasted has been immediately recognizable as such, and was almost inedible.

I am a vegetarian, and have been for about 8 years. I agree that the taste isn't a duplicate, but inedible that's a stretcher?

> Unfortunately, the idea of fake meat that people won't notice is, at least today, a vegetarian fantasy.

And I never understood why. I like the taste of vegetables. Needing things that duplicate meat in taste and texture feels unnecessary and almost ... not quite, I can't find the right word ... hypocritical -- as if humans need that flavor?

I think the whole idea behind "fake meat" components is due to the lack of vegetarian dishes in Western cuisine (speaking specifically for NL here, don't know much about the rest of Europe or US). That situation is changing very slowly, but ten to twenty years ago there was almost nothing.

Still, these imitation components strike me as tacky or cheap knockoffs. Even worse, for me they signal that even vegetarians can't go without the taste (or structure) of meat. I really wonder if their availability is a net positive for reducing meat consumption.

I consider myself quite a meat-eater, but I do enjoy properly thought-out vegetarian dishes (like Thai or Indian vegetable curry's), and I'm a big fan of main dish salads (usually with Feta cheese, walnuts or raisins). Still, when I do need to "replace" meat, I'd much rather go with nuts (mostly cashew, pine and almond) than any of the meat imitations.

> inedible that's a stretcher?

Technically, cardboard and shoe leather are edible, if you boil them enough, but you tend not to go out of your way to eat them, unless there's a bunch of people with pointy-murder-sticks outside and you've already gone through all the dogs, cats, rats, and insects.

With all due respect we can agree on your factual observations, yet while you're pessimistic about replacing a top quality perfectly grilled London Broil steak, I'm feeling optimistic about replacing a mcdonalds hamburger, which also is immediately recognizable as almost inedible.

How about that stick of beef jerky I carry when I go out hiking ... replacing something that artificial with something plant based doesn't sound overly challenging and maybe it would have better shelf life? Or the mystery meat in canned store bought soups?

"a mcdonalds hamburger, which also is immediately recognizable as almost inedible."

People don't buy 6 million units per day when something is "almost inedible".

Insert standard argument about zillions of flies can't all be wrong WRT poo.

Also the argument doesn't depend on a specific "meat" or seller or sales figures. How about mystery meat products at the food store like "olive loaf bologna" not even sure what kind of animal that comes from...

That "standard argument" doesn't apply here.

The OP claimed that McDonalds burgers were "inedible". Observably, millions of people do eat them, therefore the OP is wrong.

That says nothing about the quality of the burgers, or whether eating them is a good idea, or anything else. It merely demonstrates that people do, in fact, find them edible.

"How about mystery meat products at the food store like "olive loaf bologna""

What about it? People obviously buy it and presumably eat it, or it wouldn't be in the store.

I think that highlights how subjective the word "inedible" is.

> How about that stick of beef jerky I carry when I go out hiking ... replacing something that artificial

Artificial? Where the heck are you buying your jerky? Jerky is one of the least artificial mass produced foods you can find - a big hunk of solid beef, dried, and flavored with some salt and salt-relatives. If at anything else it's not jerky.

...I'm going to have to go with the meat eaters that ARE fooled by the meat alternatives and found them quite (note I mentioned it is a decent imitation of "highly processed meat", not "quality" meat) vs your lone opinion of my burning desire to be normal.

Why so dismissive? Your opinion is also colored by your experience and preferences, and is no more valid than his.

Also, there is no requirement that meat substitutes be indistinguishable from meat to be considered edible.

Your opinion is colored by the fact that you really want to hate vegetarian meat, as is seen by calling it "inedible" when in reality is is merely different and bland.

I've eaten "imitation meat" at my friend's and sure it's not the same thing as the real deal but if real meat suddenly disappears I wouldn't be unhappy with the "fake" meat. (I'm not a vegan if that wasn't obvious and my friend isn't either but he eats very little real meat)

Beyond Meat's ground beef and chicken strips are the closest I've had to "I had no idea" meat alternatives, but even though the flavor is pretty much spot-on, the texture is always just a little bit wrong. It's a very tricky problem, and I'm inclined to say that it's a better idea to sell things as "not meat, but delicious in their own right" instead. See, for example, Chipotle's sofritas - which are the most heavily seasoned / arguably most flavorful protein on the menu.

Beyond Meat's ground beef really surprised me by how close it was to ground beef (texture and appearance are great, flavor needs work). The chicken strips somewhat less so, but still enjoyed it.

As a pescetarian, I find meat alternatives weird. Tofu is good. Seitan is good. Eggs are good, etc. etc. etc.

I've never wanted a "something that approximates meat", I want good plant-based food, not a processed frozen puck in a box.

Similarly, I eat fish, but I'd never want to eat a "fish stick" - ick. That's where I categorize these meat alternatives.

> but I'd never want to eat a "fish stick" - ick.

Are you not a gay fish, then?


Do you not find it unethical to serve your in-laws fake meat without informing them?

Wouldn't you be upset if your in-laws served you seitan that was actually chicken?

*edit: I bring this up because many people do not react well to meat substitutes. Gluten and soy intolerance affects many people and serving soy or gluten-based meat substitutes without prior informed consent can induce adverse reactions. I do believe that veganism in morally superior to carnivorism, but that still doesn't grant the right to trick others into consuming meat substitutes without their informed consent.

I almost covered this case because I knew someone would (reasonably) ask, but didn't for length.

I checked everyone's dietary restrictions beforehand. I served fake meat without informing them at my wife's request, because she knew her father (who is stubborn southerner) and brother (who is mentally handicapped) would both refuse to like it immediately. (A visit to an all-vegetarian restaurant would later prove her correct).

In all other circumstances where I've served fake meat to others it's been very openly labeled and/or pointed out.

I'm inclined to agree with everything you've said, but Thanksgiving with the in-laws is a special moral situation, vegetarian or not :)

Thanks for clearing that bit up. Glad that dietary considerations were made :)

I'm sure the parent would be upset if secretly served chicken, not because they would feel defrauded, but because they were tricked intol violating their ethical principles.

Secretly serving non-vegetarians vegetarian food is, technically, fraud, but it's not disrespecting their morality. That fraud might be slightly immoral (I don't think it is, but it's a topic for debate), but it's easily offset by the potential for convincing someone to become vegetarian.

as the parent poster in question:

* I think it was absolutely unethical of me. But it's one of those unethical things you do with in-laws, and falls within "white lies" territory as long as am I'm not endangering anyone's health nor causing them to violate moral principles.

* It was done simply to serve food we'd all eat, it was not my goal nor intention to "convert" anyone. Personally, I don't try to convert people beyond example and offering my reasonings when socially appropriate.

* I would consider tricking me into eating meat as worse than tricking someone to eat more non-meat than they would. That doesn't make what I did less of a trick.

Hell, no.

People may be eating what they choose to eat with just as much moral conviction as your vegetarianism. That is not for you to decide.

You have no right to deceive others about what they are putting into their body, let alone in hopes of "convincing" or converting them.

You have no right to physically force your own morality upon others without their informed consent.

Think about what you have just argued for here.

It helps not to get too theoretical when it comes to morality. Someone that eats turkey and not vegetables out of moral conviction? That's not a sane thing to worry about and compensate for. There is a 0% chance of that being the case. If you worried about preferences that obscure/made-up you'd forbid every category of food, every color of food, every texture of food...

On top of that, it's very likely that every ingredient in the "turkey loaf" was something that would not be out of place in an actual turkey loaf. In other words, no ingredients being secretly added, just one being removed.

You happen to be wrong, I am a counterexample (I don't eat soy, and yes, for moral reasons), but I won't explain, because I don't have to. And what I am saying is that I shouldn't have to. Sure, you can decide to believe whatever you want on your own, but when it makes you justify feeding things to me that I have resolved not to eat, that's downright violating.

I meant someone whose morality specifically insists that there be bird meat. Sorry for being unclear.

So again here there is a difference adding a problem ingredient, and there being an ingredient you don't put in. For the former you need to ask about dietary restrictions and respect that. Which they did. For the latter, I don't think you're in much risk of violating anyone's moral system.

You're making a lot of assumptions: I'm not a vegetarian, first of all. My point is simply that tricking someone into eating tofurkey is objectively more moral than tricking them into eating turkey, because both involve equal trickery, but it is incredibly improbable that anyone has moral objections to tofurkey (and in the specific case, this was a certainty). With a stranger it's more complicated because they might have a soy allergy or some compelling reason other than ethics to avoid the fake meat, but that's not relevant to the specific situation.

Fine, but you being vegetarian wasn't part of my objection. You're the one making assumptions. I don't eat tofu for ethical reasons, and I shouldn't have to justify them over your own to prevent you from violating my bodily integrity by deception if I were to eat at your table. Your argument is still deplorable and morally corrupt.

In spite of my better judgement, I'll continue this discussion. What could possibly be your moral objection to soy? Is it GMO related? If it's Monsanto's abusive practices toward farmers, how is eating turkey any different, considering the similar entrapment practices of the poultry industry? If it's because you object to the idea of GMOs, then have you considered that GMO practices could help develop crops for cultivation in hunger-stricken areas, and that GMOs can enable the use of pesticides that are less damaging to the environment? How do you justify that objection when it stifles progress that could save lives? It seems similar to objections to stem cell research.

If it's unrelated to GMOs, I'm genuinely interested in what your objection might be.

There are people concerned about how soy might disrupt the endocrine system, and who don't broadcast this concern the way vegetarians do. Tricking them into eating it anyway is definitely unethical.

If his inlaws have expressed a definite desire to not eat vegetables, then you're correct that it would be unethical.

Most people don't do that. It seems reasonable to assume (until established otherwise) that his inlaws have not done that.

> won't even try any of these, sight unseen

I don't get this sentiment. I'm not close to vegetarian, but I go out of my way to try to eat less meat and when I'm not at the discretion of others (eating out, eating over at a friends house, etc) I prioritize my favorite meat-free foods, but nobody should be saying "its not meat? No way, never gonna try it, I am a blood thirsty carnivore". Even if you're like me and don't have the time, effort, or circumstance to cut meat out entirely, you should still at least try alternatives when they are presented to you.

I've noticed people tend to react defensively on certain issues:

* Mention you are dieting, and someone will declare how good their triple chocolate fudge cake is. * Mention you're a vegetarian and they'll talk about how tasty meat is. * Say you can't eat a particular thing (lactose, gluten, sugar, etc) and they'll loudly declare how they don't share your restriction.

I've even noticed the same tendencies in myself, so I think it's some sort of deeply wired social construct. It's not solely restricted to food but is quite common there.

I think this is partially a defense mechanism. Ask yourself -- how have people been hurt in the past that might make them want to react aggressively to these sorts of mentions? I think most people have, at some point in their lives, had someone treat them as morally inferior for their weight or their eating habits. So loudly extolling a positive perception of their experience is a way of creating a wall to preempt an attack on their character from a "superior" dieter/vegetarian/religiously-kosher/whatever type of person.

Of course, this creates a vicious cycle. Just yesterday, someone offered to buy lunch for a friend of mine. He said it would have to be vegan, and the guy lost his temper. Like "how DARE you be one of those pushy types!" When the guy only said something because he was being offered food for himself to eat. Which perpetuates the cycle of distrust and mockery.

I get where the gp is coming from, to me texture is a big issue with foods that I can eat. I'm mostly vegetarian now, (less than half a kilogram of bison a week) but that last step to cutting out beef is difficult, because I just can't stand the texture/flavor of mushrooms, soy or tofu and other 'meat substitutes'.

> I don't get this sentiment.

I almost exclusively eat meat. Just the thought of trying vegetables makes me feel sick to my stomach. Whether that's immoral or not is of secondary concern to me, when the alternative borders on a panic attack. Why that is, I have no idea, but I know other people with the same reaction as me, and it might partially answer your question.

Do you think people with different sexual preference than you also "should still at least try alternatives when they are presented"? When it comes to something as personal as putting food in their own body for their own nutrition and enjoyment, nobody should do anything just because you think so.

My concern is health. Soy even fermented isn't that great. It is a trigger food for many as well. The amino profile is an issue too. Rice\pea is the closest I've found but lean poultry is the king of protein quality and until I see bodybuilders switching I'll stick with that. I know they also use whey which works for me but makes me put on fat. I have tried vegan and vegetarian, but after more than a month on each I never got out of the feeling fluish phase. Atkins did the same thing. So I just stick with vegetables, lean white meat, a few fruits, and a handful or two of whole grains and nuts a day. And some eggs, dietary cholesterol is not blood cholesterol.

Someone fed me a veggie burger once, several years ago, without telling me it was a veggie burger. I insisted there was something wrong with it, but they said it was fine. They finally told me it was a veggie burger, and it all made sense.

I would MUCH rather have had a good vegetarian dish that wasn't trying to be something else.

> Green peppers are nasty and food-destroying in my opinion, which immediately removes over half the vegetarian options out there

I'm a flexitarian, but I'm pretty veggie heavy and have been mostly vegetarian for significant periods of time. I very rarely come across foods with green peppers.

I never noticed it until I finally committed to going fully vegetarian (and thus, stopped considering the non-veg options as possibilities if the veg option was unappealing...making unappealing vegetarian options a lot more noticeable). It doesn't happen everywhere, but I know what he/she is talking about.

In sandwich shops and some places with tacos and wraps, it's not uncommon to find just one dish that's properly vegetarian - often some mix of peppers, onions, squash, etc. I've always been puzzled by it, considering they tend to be somewhat polarizing vegetables. Something like beans, potatoes, rice, even corn - those things are much more broadly appealing, filling, and probably cheaper, too.

I also find that a lot of places/people don't know much about vegetarian cooking and they seem to think the only way to cure the blandness is to toss in peppers and onions.

> beans, potatoes, rice, even corn - those things are much more broadly appealing, filling

Far more bland and full of carbs, too, so they may be more polarizing than you think.

My wife is vegetarian, so more often than not, I'm eating that way. Boca and Morningstar taste awesome, but my problem is that I truly continue to feel quite hungry by foregoing meat in the meal. So even if these veggie options "behave" as they should, I think the bigger problem is that, for people like me, the lack of animal protein propagates as hunger, and I never feel fulfilled, and consequently am irritable.

Are you eating enough? Faux meats tend to have fewer calories than the meats they are replacing. Boca burgers only have 70 calories each (according to Google... I never eat those). That is hardly anything!

I keep a close eye on calories (used to be very overweight) as a rule, and comparing days I eat meat and days I don't, even when calories are the same, I end up much hungrier.

I'm a meat eater, and I think Morningstar is the shit. My favorite thing to whip up is the grillers prime, a fried egg, and sriracha.

Amen to that. I like the spicy black bean patties, also topped with a fried egg, some jalapenos and sriracha :)

To be fair, if you give someone and tell them it's a chicken nugget, you are setting the bar pretty low. People have come to expect pretty much any quality of meat and even texture in a chicken nugget.

Absolutely. I don't think we've gotten very close in matching "meat", but we're pretty close to the nugget/pink slime/McDonalds burger line.

You're talking mostly about the aesthetic part of fake meat, but there is another huge advantage over existing products which is health/environmental. Current vegan/vegetarian incarnations of fake meat (Boca, Morningstar etc.) are typically actually not that healthy in terms of protein/amino acid content and sort of end up being eating a cake made of grains.

The ability to create, cheaply, a high protein, high calorie, amino acid packed product, regardless of whether or not it is aesthetically pleasing, could have massive impacts on our ability to support the human population of this planet, in a way that existing meat and vegetarian solutions do not.

> Current vegan/vegetarian incarnations of fake meat (Boca, Morningstar etc.) are typically actually not that healthy in terms of protein/amino acid content and sort of end up being eating a cake made of grains.

This is why I've stopped trying to find a meat substitute, they all fail in some way or another (they either don't taste right, don't have the right texture, or are far worse nutritionally than what they try to replace). I'm not a vegitarian, but I've found I prefer the Morningstar Spicy Black Bean Burger to a traditional beef patty - I like spicy foods and it has a nice texture I enjoy without feeling the need to compare it to beef. Also, the first ingredient is just plain black beans, there's some brown rice in to help as a binder but overall it has a fairly low amount of carbohydrates compared to other similar products (13g total, 4g of that is fiber).

Right, which is why I'm more excited by "fake" meat vs meat alternatives. There are some trying to recreate literal meat (chemically indistinguishable) but without the animal. If you consider the stomach of a cow to simply be "input grass, output beef" it's obviously a vast oversimplification, but is sort of what is being aimed for, and where I see most of the potential in this market. Numbers I've seen have been close to 1/9 the caloric cost to create a calorie of "fake" meat as opposed to real meat (3:1 as opposed to 27:1).

When it comes to Morningstar's black bean burger, we agree it's not an adequate alternative in terms of taste, but I'd argue it's also not an adequate replacement in terms of health. I mentioned most existing meat alternatives do not provide enough protein. Black beans are generally fine and normally thought of as high protein, but they actually aren't a great source protein since they do not have complete amino acid profiles.

This was how I managed to find carob edible. I used to think "this is a chocolate substitute" when eating it, and it was awful and never measured up. But when you eat it on it's own merits and aren't "comparison-tasting", it's tolerable.

> I've had chicken nuggets that meat eaters had no idea were fake,

Because chicken nuggets are mystery meats to start with. They're usually made from meat slurry, with various fillers added, and shaped into that shape. A chicken breast, for example, has 43g of protein per 140g of weight; a nugget, on the other hand, has 3.1g of protein per 20g of weight.

I've also been a vegetarian for the last decade and change, and the idea of eating dead animals disgusts me, as does the taste of it.

I find it very difficult to understand how meat eaters can manage to get it through their throat without throwing up, but to each their own.

I sometimes get comments about how environmentally conscious I am or how ethical I am for being vegetarian, but I don't feel virtuous at all. It doesn't take any special willpower for me not to eat meat, I have zero craving for it.

I hate vegetarian food that tries to replicate the taste and texture of meat.

As other commenters have mentioned, there's a big market for just honest vegetarian cooking that does not try to imitate anything.

The same goes for food as for people: just be yourself! Don't try to be something you're not.

>I fed my in-laws a "turkey loaf" dinner for Thanksgiving for years without them realizing

I was fed a Tofu-rkey one year when my sister and her husband were vegan. I don't think rioting occurred, but I seem to be suppressing all memory of that horror fest.

Convincing meat eaters to convert is going to be hard but just getting McDonalds to make it special on their menu could make a vast number give it a go and once they find it to be just as good or even better, and eventually cheaper, then a good portion of that resistance will have been overcome.

McDonalds gets hit disproportionately by anti-capitalists and environmentalists and is always trying to improve their green credentials so I'm sure they'll be working on their own recipe.

Honestly, at this point I'm satisfied with the approximations in terms of flavour. I've had fantastic maple-smoked bacon tempeh, seitan italian sausages, and soy burgers. I'm good.

At this point the challenge is more flavour, astronomical preparation time for home-made versions thereof (DIY deep-fried veggie patties can taste excellent but they're an assload of work), and trying to reduce dairy/eggs and move more towards a vegan direction (daiya has some catching-up vs fakemeat).

I spent several years as a vegetarian, and then a few as a vegan, and I wouldn't/won't touch any of those products, either. I've tried them, and they're gross. They don't taste like or feel like meat.

There are enough delicious vegetarian and vegan recipes that it makes very little sense to go vegetarian and then eat processed imitation meat. I found being vegan significantly easier when I just looked for recipes that happened to be vegan.

> Most of my meat eating friends won't even try any of these, sight unseen.

I don't want to speak for your friends, but I'd be unwilling to try any veggie burger, sight unseen, either, due to a long history of disappointment with people trying to get me to try veggie burgers that aren't tasty.

I really think food like this could have a massive market in India

I'm Indian and lots of my friends are hesitant to eat meat for religious and/or animal rights reasons.

We also don't have the stigma attached to vegetarianism as it is in America. There is no "masculinity = meat" culture here.

Just as a n=1 anecdote, I'm (mostly) vegetarian, and this wouldn't really appeal to me. I might try it out of curiosity (just like I tried chicken and fish), but it isn't something my brain has learnt to crave, and in fact will probably trigger the same kind of mild nausea that non-vegetarian food currently does in me.

I am curious to see how it works out in practice though.

I've been vegan for over 10 years and I like where things are going.

My favorite dishes don't contain mock meats (when I went vegan they didn't exist where I used to live, so I just got used to eating lots of legumes, whole grains and tubers), but it's fun to try these foods once in a while.

>And in america, at least, where meat-eating is tied to masculinity and bacon is worshipped, that's a tough stigma to shake.

Being a picky eater is a childish trait, not sure how it became synonymous with "masculinity."

It didn't. Eating meat did. It has nothing to do with being picky.

It does when you insist on eating meat in literally every single meal, as many people do.

There's a good fungus based chicken nugget, do you know this one?

I'm assuming you mean Quorn, which is a mycoprotein (the history of that company is fascinating!). Those are the nuggets I mentioned that are quite similar to "real".

I (omnivore) actually find Quorn chicken nuggets better than the real chicken ones you get in supermarket somehow.

Yeah they're delicious. All the other pea products are disgusting.

Quorn? It's pretty close to chicken. But then again, chicken is also relatively easy to emulate since it doesn't have a lot of flavor or texture.

Grocery store chicken in North America has no flavor or texture because of the speed it's "grown" in factory farms. Almost to the point where a fried chicken breast is like a mass of dense meat-like wonderbread. I'm no organic foods/free range/whatever zealot, but if you eat a chicken raised on a small farm in Pakistan or Indonesia it probably took 3x as long to grow to full size, ate a much more varied diet and also has SIGNIFICANTLY more flavor in the meat. Every time I travel outside North America to somewhere in the developing world I'm struck by how much the chicken actually tastes like chicken, whereas in the US you need to specifically search out the "special" expensive chicken to get something that tastes like chicken. See also:


>but if you eat a chicken raised on a small farm in Pakistan or Indonesia it probably took 3x as long to grow to full size, ate a much more varied diet and also has SIGNIFICANTLY more flavor in the meat.

They have small farms and dual purpose chicken breeds in the US too. You don't even need the small farm, you can raise them yourself quite easily and cheaply.

That hilarious link reminded me of SCIgen:


One potential problem: the heme that they're claiming gives it flavor comes from a genetically modified yeast.

It's a GMO, and people who're vegan on principle often don't like that.

What does being "vegan on principle" mean here? What specific principles are you talking about?

Some vegans do it because killing animals is morally bankrupt.

Some vegans do it because raising livestock is unsustainable. There is not enough land on earth for everyone to have a meat diet.

Some vegans do it because it's healthier. In general you can expect to ingest less toxins by eating lower on the food chain.

I'm not sure what vegan principles are violated by GMOs. I don't know of anyone who is actually against GMOs, the debate is around labeling them not banning them.

Personally I don't understand why someone wouldn't want to eat pesticide/herbicide drenched food. It's how we're going to feed the third world.

> Some vegans do it because raising livestock is unsustainable. There is not enough land on earth for everyone to have a meat diet.

I'm dubious about this statement. There is a lot of ocean, so seafood farming is probably quite capable of feeding humans meat. In addition, western societies currently overconsume meat. I suspect that if calorically balanced levels of consumption were observed, we probably have plenty of land.

> Some vegans do it because it's healthier. In general you can expect to ingest less toxins by eating lower on the food chain.

I see a lot of vegans eating far less healthy diets than those of carnivores. They up the oil and carb content quite significantly to make things taste better/create satiety.

I find that vegetarians (and even those who just back off on meat) seem to eat healthier than vegans, in general.

One pound of beef requires 1,847 gallons of water. Cattle produce a huge amount of methane. Ranchers use antibiotics profligately. Cows require a terrific amount of energy to grow, relative to plants, meaning lots of the corn we grow in the US goes to meat, which is far less energy efficient.

Um, you do realize that most nuts require in the same range of water, right?

Hazlenuts, walnuts, almonds, and cashews need from 1100 to 1900 gallons per pound.

So, I'm not quite sure what you are trying to prove other than don't farm things that require water in areas that also require irrigation.

Um, you do realize that a fair summary of your argument is, "nuts too require much water, therefore beef is a sustainable food source?"

Not all people subscribe to the conventional wisdom that carbs and oils are unconditionally unhealthy.

Oils can help your body absorb nutrients more effectively and also aid in other cellular processes.

Carbs are energy and your body needs this.

The key is to not consume processed carbs/oils that your body can't integrate.

Carbs from fruits and natural oils (like coconut) are a large component of any thoughtful vegan's diet. You can eat lots of these foods because they not only have carbs but they also have fiber, protein and other vitamins in good proportion, so "carb the f* up!"

Obsessively starving your body of all carbs and eating lots of meat is an extreme and unbalanced diet and will certainly lead to an early death. Just eat whole foods.

I prefer (and am so far practicing my self) population control to bring the number of humans inhabiting Earth towards a /sustainable/ level with all living humans having the quality of life we'd like to see.

For the record, I know plenty of people who are actually against GMO's and want them labelled so that all consumers can boycott them and they get forced out of the market.

I don't think getting GMOs labeled is a plot to get all consumers to boycott them... It's so the subsection of the population that cares about ingesting GMOs can make an informed choice when buying food.

That's like saying getting kosher food labeled was really a plot to get everyone to boycott all non-kosher food.

That's not the plan by everyone who wants labelling, no. All I said is that I know people who do want/expect it to work that way. (I neither want it to or believe that it will).

For the record, I know plenty of people who actually believe climate change isn't real. Is that relevant to a discussion on environmental policy?

A vegan or vegetarian diet (as commonly practiced, with loads of grains, potatoes, sugar, etc, etc) tends to be much less healthy than a meat-loaded keto diet.

It's an informal sociological clustering observation. Vegans are often sort of 'hippy' types, who place value on food being 'natural', 'organic' and dislike GMOs.

Ohhh I see. It's similar to how vegans generally consider all non-vegans immoral lazy unhealthy fat poison-eating murderers. The informal sociological clustering is efficient since the generalization is ~80% true. Nuance wastes too much time.

Is linking to some random opinion article on the Internet your way of arguing for the validity of stereotypes? Well, I'm convinced. Too bad "accurate enough" doesn't work in physics, we'd already understand the universe by now!

> It's a GMO, and people who're vegan on principle often don't like that.

veganism != primitivism

I understand that there's an overlap between "I don't eat that, I'm vegan" and "I don't eat that, it's not natural", but when I think of vegan principles I think of animal rights -- not fallacious appeals to nature.

> It's a GMO, and people who're vegan on principle often don't like that.

That's okay! They're already vegan, so clearly they've already found a way to eat a meat-free diet that works for them.

Carnivores are a much bigger market to chase than vegans. These new meat substitutes are targeted at converting more carnivores, not making existing vegans happier.

As a carnivore, don't try to make a fake steak, if I wanted a steak I would by one. Instead try to create food so delicious that I want to eat it, even if it happens to be vegan.

You won't convince me with ethical arguments, you won't convince me with guilt, you won't convince me with health (I am sitting with a glass of whiskey right now), but you might convince me with taste.

That actually ties into an interesting problem: People who are vegetarian/vegan for ethical reasons and lab-grown meat.

One idea is, instead of trying to make plant-based food taste like meat, just make meat that doesn't involve raising and killing animals. Efforts thus far have had only mild success (IIRC, it's been done at great cost, and it reportedly tasted terrible).

Assuming these efforts succeed, where does that leave me? I have no objection to harming cells, but I'd be against the killing/harming of the various animals necessary to GET the initial stem cells to be able to grow that lab meat. But, if they perfect a method of growing "meat" that no longer involves that mistreatment, at what point is it morally acceptable to me to buy and eat that "meat"?

I imagine it's similar to anyone in a field that benefits from ethically questionable research. Military smallpox testing, that one king that raised "feral" children to see what their tabula rasa state was, the Milgram experiments...I suppose this falls in the same, um, vein.

> Efforts thus far have had only mild success (IIRC, it's been done at great cost, and it reportedly tasted terrible).

I have so much hope for this. I'm not vegetarian, but I wouldn't mind cutting out animal cruelty from my life as much as possible, as it is a place I recognize cognitive dissonance in myself. I'm really hoping they can get the cost down, and since it's controlled, can start experimenting on ways to improve taste (artificial stimulation, etc). I see no reason why we can't eventually grow meat that tastes multiples better. It's not like nature selected for pigs and cows to taste good (although we may have, over the last few hundreds or thousands of years).

> Assuming these efforts succeed, where does that leave me?

Hopefully, it means you'll eventually be eating the best burger you've ever tasted. :)

> at what point is it morally acceptable to me to buy and eat that "meat"?

I would assume immediately at the point there's a version that doesn't harm animals, if you're in it for ethical reasons. I'm not sure I understand the question, or the implications, because it doesn't seem controversial to me at all, given the predicates.

> I imagine it's similar to anyone in a field that benefits from ethically questionable research.

I'm not sure it's related at all. What animals are harmed to help us get better lab-grown meat?

That said, questionable research it's a very interesting question in itself. I've been culturally indoctrinated to belief that it's bad, but rationally, if the resaerch leads to improved lives for people during the time we would not know that information until we found it otherwise, shouldn't we weigh that correctly? Would a study that resulted in the death of 1000 people but eliminated heart disease be worth it? Yes, but we can't know what any specific research will result in, so all we do is increase the risk of our gambles with the hope of a bigger payoff.

That said, I think we need more nuanced rules regarding some studies and people that want in them. If someone is already terminally ill, but it shouldn't affect the study, I don't see the problem with a large payout to participate in a very dangerous study.

> What animals are harmed to help us get better lab-grown meat?

I'm assuming the acquisition of the original cells is not done at all kindly, (as in, I suspect the animal doesn't survive it), and that this is done many, many times before they perfect the process, but I'll admit that's an assumption on my part and it could be well within my ethical boundaries.

I don't plan to prejudge any options until I actually know, this was more of a hypothetical exercise that I've pondered now and again because I assume the day will come when it's actually real and the question will no longer be hypothetical. Knowing what matters to me then is better than trying to figure it out on the spot.

> I'm assuming the acquisition of the original cells is not done at all kindly, (as in, I suspect the animal doesn't survive it), and that this is done many, many times before they perfect the process

I was sort of under the impression it's animal stem cells, which doesn't necessitate death on the part of the animal (although I'll give you it's probably likely, to easy harvesting in some way). Like human stem cells, they aren't consumed entirely in use, which is good since US law precludes any new lines of stem cells in research[1]. There are 279 approved lines of cells in the US, but most researchers just use two or three lines. They just culture more cells from that line when they need them.

Well, it's only hypothetical in that it costs far too much at the moment, but if if trends continue from the extremely small dataset I've seen[2], we're seeing a 60% drop in price per year. If it's $18k a pound now, it should be under $10 a pound in 15 years (which might match the cost of beef with inflation by then). So, count on it in 15 years. Totally scientific. ;)

1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stem-cell_line#Access_to_human...

2: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/lab-g...

I'm a vegetarian on principle, and have no problem eating GMO anything.

OTOH, I've been vegetarian for 15 years and most meat flavors and textures have worn on me.

> It's a GMO, and people who're vegan on principle often don't like that.

I don't think they care about people who are vegan on principle. They want to sell to meat eaters.

Have you tried any Gardein products? They're by far my favorite frozen mock meats.

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