First published December 2008, updated March 2011
Being an omnivore who cares about the environment can create a few dilemmas – particularly in relation to meat. I often get emails like this one from Green Living Tips reader Katie:
“I’m trying to cut down meat consumption due to the effect livestock production has on the environment.. the problem is, some of the meat substitutes really taste bad. Do you have any recommendations?”
I can certainly empathize with Katie. I’m still tussling with reducing meat consumption after growing aware of the associated environmental impact (not to mention the humanitarian issues). For meat eaters, it can be really hard to make changes, particularly if your first tests of meat substitution products aren’t successful.
Times have certainly changed since I first published this article and there are now quite a few fantastic meat substitutes available. Most have been available in the USA for some time, but it’s been slim pickings in Australia until recently.
The major ingredient in many meat substitutes is TVP – which stands for textured vegetable protein. TVP is defatted soy flour, a by-product of soybean oil production. It is high in protein and low in fat.
While soy has its issues and some of these products are heavily processed and have their share of preservatives and colors, for this article I’m just focusing on the lesser of the two “evils” environmentally speaking – just about satisfying that craving for meat. I’m sure the cows, pigs, chickens and sheep would prefer I did too :).
Michael’s Mock Meat Picks
Here’s my recommendations to help satisfy meat cravings (and the companies aren’t paying me to say this, nor are they aware I’m writing about them).
Sanitarium (in Australia) puts out some quite tasty products – and some that aren’t; of course that’s my personal taste.
The products I really like are Not Burgers and Tender Crumbed Schnitzels. They are very quick and easy and the Not Burgers come up great on the barbecue. We’ve tried these out on a few diehard meat eaters and they all enjoyed them.
Sanitarium also make Not Bacon, which is ok taste-wise, but the texture can be a little like cardboard when you fry it – it should be fried very lightly. However, it is particularly good in potato salad and also diced and added to pizza! Sanitarium also have a range of soy based sausages which to me are reminiscent of sawdust unfortunately. In terms of canned stuff, Sanitarium’s Casserole Mince is pretty good in lasagnes, tacos and other recipes in place of ground beef.
Another brand I recommend is Fry’s. I’ve only tried their burgers (standard and chicken-style) so far, but they are wonderful. – good enough that there’s no burning desire to go back to meat based burgers really. I never thought I’d come across something that isn’t just a compromise, but an equal in terms of taste. My only gripe with Fry’s is that they are made in South Africa (really piles on the food miles) and that each burger is individually wrapped in plastic, which I’m assuming is because of the shipping issue. I’d really like to see the company start up a facility locally.
I also had the pleasure of being introduce to Quorn products recently and like with Fry’s products, I was amazed. Their sausages taste like sausage, the “chicken” products tastes like chicken. Quite a few people have mentioned Quorn’s range in the past and now I understand what all the fuss is about.
Making your own mock meat burgers
If you want to avoid TVP, colors, preservatives and such, you could always have a go at making your own meat substitutes. The following recipe for mock meat patties was kindly provided by Green Living Tips reader Michael Jeffrey.
“Although patties like Not Burgers by Sanitarium are delicious, you can also make wonderful patties at home- very inexpensively and simply. There are just three things to remember. Something bulky. Something protein. And something to bind it together. For example:
Something bulky: You can use left-over well-cooked rice — or mashed potato — or cooked Silver Beet/Spinach — or mashed vegies from the night before — or small pieces of wholemeal bread (crumbed in a blender) — or grated carrot — or mashed pumpkin.
Add Something protein: e. g. 2 tablsp. of Millet Meal (fine) — or Brown Rice Flour — or Almond Meal — or Sunflower Meal — or L.S.A. (Linseed, Sunflower and Almond meal) — or Ricotta Cheese -or Grated hard Cheese — or mashed Tofu (best done in a food processor).
Something to bind it: Two beaten eggs — or Egg-Like Powder with water — or melted cornflour and gravy powder — or Spinach Dip. The mixture has to be thick.
Add herbs and a little salt and pepper to taste. Form into patties with the hands. Place in fry pan. Sprinkle with Sesame Seeds or other seeds (delicious!) Fry on both sides until set. You can make a lot of patties for a coming party, or enough for two dinners and lunch. Keep them in the freezer or fridge.”
Do you have a favorite mock meat product? Please add your recommendations below, and don’t forget to include your country so we don’t send others looking for items that likely won’t be available to them.