Saturday, July 28, 2012

Beyond Meat

Another reason to be optimistic about our environmental future is that we will eventually have tasty, affordable, environmentally friendly substitutes for meat. If Farhood Manjoo is right, that time may be soon:
The first time a vegetarian tastes Beyond Meat’s ersatz animal flesh, he’ll feel delighted and queasy at the same time. There’s something about the way these fake chicken strips break on your teeth, the way they initially resist and then yield to your chew, the faint fatty residue they leave on your palate and your tongue—something about the whole experience that feels a little too real. “My first reaction was, if I was given this in a restaurant, I’d get the waiter to come over and ask if he’d accidentally given us real chicken,” says Biz Stone, one of the founders of Twitter, who has been vegan for more than a decade. “It has a plumpness to it, what they call a ‘mouthfeel,’ like a kind of fattiness. When you eat other leading meat analogues, they’re delicious, but you kind of know they’re not real. They’re missing something that’s hard to identify. This has a very realistic, meaty, delicious quality.” . . .

Beyond Meat is not perfect. Its faux chicken breaks apart in your mouth more easily than real chicken, so you won’t get strips of it stuck in your teeth. (In this way, I thought they resembled chicken breasts that have been prepared sous vide—the process of cooking food at low temperatures for a long time, yielding extremely tender results). But you only notice the slight differences if you’re looking for them. If you taste Beyond Meat’s chicken in a dish alongside regular chicken, there’s a good chance you’ll be fooled. This year, after tasting them in a sandwich wrap, New York Times food writer Mark Bittman mistook the fake stuff for the real stuff. So, too, have many others in the company’s taste tests. And once you forget you’re eating something fake, you will too. Over several days of eating Beyond Meat in sandwiches, salads, and burritos, I forgot I was eating something that didn’t come from a living creature. I was just eating something tasty.
Beyond Meat's chicken substitute is made from powdered soy protein, made into a paste and extruded like pasta. They are also working on ground beef, made from peas.

I have no moral qualms about eating animals, but producing meat is hugely destructive of the environment, so if this stuff tastes as good as they say, I would happily eat it.

1 comment:

leif said...

chicken is fairly easy to ape. beef, not so easy. fish or crustaceans appear to be altogether unworkable given today's technology (or market pressures). i've tried nearly every veg 'meat' that is commonly available, and so far, mycoprotein, such as what the brand 'quorn' uses, comes the closest to what i remember as 'real' from sixteen years ago. if one extends the search beyond vegan to lacto-ovo, bacon moves to within easy reach.