Plant-based meat is becoming increasingly common, and rightfully so. Plant-based meats are making it easier than ever to minimize, or even remove, traditional meat consumption. They are a healthy alternative to meat, much more sustainable and packed with authentic tastes, aromas, and textures.

What is Plant-Based Meat?

 Plant-based meats are items made from plant materials that are engineered to taste, smell, and look like meat in any way. Burgers, sausages, ground meat, crumbles, nuggets, and even faux-seafood like shrimp and fish are all examples of plant-based meats that use one or more substitute protein ingredients.

Depending on the form of meat and the business producing it, plant-based meat can be made from a variety of ingredients. Grains and legumes are popular ingredients since they contain proteins, fibers, and starches that can be processed into isolates, flours, and concentrates.

What’s the Process of making Plant-Based Meat?

Extrusion is a method that involves putting ingredients through hydration, shearing, and cooking to make them more closely resemble meat characteristics while removing unwanted aromas, tastes, and textures. The star ingredient in the Beyond Burger, for example, is pea protein isolate.

Fibers and starches, in addition to protein components found in grains and legumes, are used in extruded plant-based meats to help them resemble animal meat. These ingredients, which can also be used to make realistic sausage casings, can help whole muscle meat products have a more realistic fibrous composition.

Fermentation is another method that certain plant-based meats employ. Impossible Foods, for example, developed a plant-based heme molecule that causes their burgers to bleed in the same way that animal-based burgers do. Impossible’s heme is made by fermenting yeast that has been genetically modified to produce it.

Types of Plant-Based Meat

There are two main types of Plant-Based Meat

  1. Whole muscle meat
  2. Restructured meat

Whole muscle meat items are made to look like a steak, chicken breast, or any other animal muscle. Many companies are working on a completely plant-based steak; for example, Nova Meat, a Spanish start-up, is working on a version made of pea and rice protein. The product will have a 3D-printed structure, which will give it a muscle like feel.

Ground beef, meatballs, sausages, and nuggets are all examples of restructured meat products. The Beyond Burger and the Impossible Burger from Beyond Meat are both restructured meats.

For retail customers and institutional food preparation, restructured meat products are ground, flaked, or chopped into steaks, chops, or roast-like products. These goods have a texture that is closer to that of a whole steak or chop than a ground product.

Ingredients in Plant-Based Meat

Beyond Meat, according to Business Insider, have five main ingredients and a total of 22. Water, pea protein isolate, expeller-pressed canola oil, and refined coconut oil are among them. Beyond Burgers contain no more than 2% of the following ingredients:

  • Methylcellulose
  • Maltodextrin
  • Yeast Extract
  • Sunflower oil
  • Dried Yeast
  • Gum Arabic
  • Citrus extract
  • Beet juice extract
  • Ascorbic acid
  • Succinic acid
  • Potato starch
  • Cellulose from bamboo
  • Salt
  • Annatto (food coloring)

How Plant-Based Meat act like Beef?

 Following are the characteristics of meat that Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat’s modern plant based alternatives are attempting to replicate.

  1. Texture
  2. Taste
  3. Appearance
  4. Texture

Because of a fundamental difference between animals and plants: muscles, which must be elastic and springy, simulating the texture of animal protein with plant-based ingredients has always been difficult. Animals must be able to adjust the form and strain of their flesh without weakening it in order to move their bodies. Plant cells, on the other hand, are stiff and unyielding.

Simply put, plants are crunchy, while meats like chicken and beef is chewy. This is why, without the bite and springiness of animal protein, veggie burgers can feel crumbly or mushy in texture. Researchers have spent years isolating and cataloguing a wide range of plant-based protein sources in order to solve this issue.

Animal fat, which offers mouth-coating richness and juiciness, is another important element in chicken, meat and beef’s texture. Because of a key distinction between plant-based and animal fats, this is difficult to do with plant-based fats.

Coconut oil, on the other hand, melts at a much lower temperature and much quicker than beef fat. In the mouth, this leads to bites that are rich and juicy at first, but quickly lose their juiciness. Plant-based meats have a long way to go in this department.

Taste

The exact composition of the flavoring’s used in Beyond and Impossible meats is more difficult to determine. Companies are only required to reveal whether they use “natural flavors” or “artificial flavors” under FDA labeling guidelines, not the exact flavoring agents. Impossible and Beyond meats, like most processed foods, don’t say where their flavors’ come from.

Also the words themselves may be deceiving. Natural and artificial flavors can be chemically similar, but only certain chemicals extracted from a natural source, regardless of how refined or processed, can be considered “natural.” The proclivity of plant-based fats to melt easily, similar to juiciness, causes fat-soluble flavor compounds to dissipate in the mouth faster than meat.

Appearance

The modern plant based meats have also made significant progress in resembling the red color associated with beef. Myoglobin, a protein that transports oxygen from the bloodstream to muscle cells, is responsible for the color of beef. Impossible Foods uses leghemoglobin, an iron-containing oxygen transport molecule contained in the red blood cells, whereas Beyond Meat uses beet extracts to color the label.

Coconut oil is used in both products in the form of thin, dense chunks that resemble animal fat. When you bite into a medium-rare Impossible or Above burger, the color and texture are surprisingly similar to ground beef.

Plant Based Meat Alternatives

Food producers have been producing plant-based animal foods in response to the increased emphasis on consuming more plant-based foods. On supermarket shelves, you can find plant-based versions of beef, fish, shrimp, and eggs.

  1. Beef / Meat

Impossible Foods and Beyond Burgers are two companies that offer plant-based beef, which has become popular in supermarkets and restaurants. Impossible Foods developed a soy-based plant-based beef that has the same taste and feel as beef.

Beyond Burgers have the appearance, taste, and even the visual appeal of a beef burger. Canola oil, coconut oil, and cocoa butter provide the protein, while peas, corn, and mung beans provide the fat. (Amidor, 2019)

  1. Chicken

“Getting the muscle structure right is one of the most important things with poultry,” Brown said. “You don’t have to have the same muscle structure with ground meat, but the customer needs the muscle structure with chicken.”

For those who have made the switch to a plant-based diet, the good news is that they can still enjoy their favorite plant-based chicken burgers and nuggets, which are both healthier and equally delicious.

Food technologists and scientists have developed a plant-based chicken that retains much of the essence of chicken and its juiciness. Several plant-based restaurants are serving their famous plant-based chicken sandwiches and burgers, which are extremely tasty.

  1. Tuna

Tuna has a premium taste and feel, is an omega-3 source, and has 8 to 20% less sodium than other fish products, according to the manufacturer. Tuno, a plant-based seafood substitute from Loma Linda, is available. It is fat-free, saturated-fat-free, and sugar-free.

The first ingredient is non-GMO texturized soy protein, followed by yeast extract, Arabic gum, sunflower oil, natural flavor, sea salt, and seaweed. Tuno comes in a variety of flavors and can be purchased in packets or cans.

  1. Shrimp

“Seaweed and other natural ingredients are used to make a plant-based shrimp alternative.” You can substitute New Wave Shrimp for standard shrimp, and it promises to have the same flavor, texture, and bite as the real thing.

70 calories, 1.5 grams of fat and saturated fat, 230 milligrams of sodium, 9 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, and 5 grams of protein are contained in 7 bits (85 grams) of New Wave Shrimp. It is cholesterol-free.

  1. Eggs

JUST Egg is a squeeze bottle that contains a plant-based egg. It tastes like scrambled eggs. JUST egg has 70 calories, 5 grams of fat, and 5 grams of protein in three tablespoons. It’s fat-free, cholesterol-free, and sugar-free.

Mung bean protein isolate, expeller-pressed canola oil, dehydrated onion, gellan gum, soy lecithin, sugar, tapioca syrup, tetrasodium pyrophosphate, transglutaminase, and nisin are included in the list of ingredients.

Is Plant Based Meat good for Environment?

Animal agriculture consumes 77% of the world’s available agricultural land while supplying less than 20% of the world’s food supply. All kinds of meats such as chicken, beef, turkey’s production requires large areas of pastureland and is one of the leading causes of global deforestation, which is a major contributor to climate change.

Plant-based meat is also less harmful to the environment in another important way: its processing emits up to 90% fewer greenhouse gases than traditional meat.

Plant-based meats thus have been shown to be more environmentally friendly, with no negative effects on the environment or other organisms that are equally significant.

Benefits of Plant-Based Meat

Even though more and more people realize the painful reality of animal slaughter and environmental degradation, there are many people find it difficult to give up meat.

To overcome this, plant-based meat substitutes have already started to make a great impact. Some people are unable to distinguish between meat substitutes and real meat.

Following are the major benefits of switching from Real meat to Plant-Based Meat:

  1. Less Animal Suffering: You would no longer be a party to the misery of poor animals all over the world if you abstain from eating real meat. Even better, you’ll be contributing to a move away from the livestock industry in the global economy, resulting in a significant reduction in animal cruelty.
  2. Improved Sleep Cycle: Aside from the moral and environmental advantages, consuming a plant-based diet has many health advantages. A high-quality plant-based diet will help you sleep better at night.
  3. Relieves Constipation: A plant-based meat diet has also proved to be effective to relieve constipation.
  4. Weight Loss: When you consume more plant-based vitamins, minerals, and fiber than animal fats and proteins, you’re likely to lose weight. In reality, a plant-based meal diet will help you lose up to five pounds in just two weeks without causing you to go hungry.
  5. Prevent Illnesses: You would be less prone to diseases like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease if you reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet while rising fiber and vitamin content. Aside from quitting smoking and abstaining from alcohol, adopting a plant-based diet is the single most effective way to prevent cancer.
  6. Reduce Cholesterol Levels: Unlike the real meat, Plant-based meat does not contain cholesterol. It protects your vessels from developing clots and reduces the risk of atherosclerosis.
  7. Improve Potassium Levels: Potassium aids in the reduction of blood pressure and cholesterol, but meat products are poor in potassium. Vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, legumes, and whole grains, on the other hand, are high in potassium.

Bottom Line

A plant-based meat diet is about far more than protecting animals and saving the environment; it also has a lot to do with improving your own health. Plant-based followers no longer have to contend with strange-tasting soy patties as a meat alternative, thanks to science. Hopefully, a multitude of these advantages will assist you in deciding where you want to take your diet in the future.

So, the next time you’re in the grocery store, try plant-based meat and see for yourself how good it is for the environment and your taste buds.

References

Amidor, T., 2019. Search Page. [online] Food Network UK | TV Channel | Easy Recipes, TV Shows. Available at: <https://www.foodnetwork.com/healthyeats/healthy-tips/2019/12/are-plant-based-meat-alternatives-healthier> [Accessed 25 April 2021].

Btbfoods.com. 2021. 9 Surprising Benefits of Plant-Based Meat Substitutes – Before the Butcher. [online] Available at: <https://btbfoods.com/blog/9-surprising-benefits-of-plant-based-meat-substitutes/> [Accessed 25 April 2021].