Mock, faux, vegan, fake
That hunk of seitan isn’t getting you to pass on a ribeye anytime soon. Let’s face it, meat substitutes are no substitute for meat.
So why are Twitter cofounders Biz Stone and Evan Williams, guys who know a thing or two about trends, calling vegan meat substitutes the next big thing?
Stone and Williams are funding and also participating in the marketing of a vegan meat maker called Beyond Meat. The company website touts its product as “the first plant protein that looks, feels, tastes, and acts like meat;” and Stone calls it “A little bit freaky… just too real,” claiming that the experience might even be disturbing to long-time vegetarians. Their target market is not just vegetarians; they see it as anyone with religious or health-related dietary restrictions, or anyone who is concerned about the environmental impact of raising livestock. They have their work cut out for them.
Crimes committed in the name of the frankfurter
The conventional hot dog is the poster child for all of our food system’s woes: highly processed, factory farmed mystery meat loaded with fat, sodium, and preservatives. That’s why, for many meat eaters, the veggie dog is the first foray into meat substitutes. This is an unfortunate place to start. The true frankfurter’s snappy casing with its barely contained salty-smoky-spicy-juicy interior defies replication by soy, gluten, and textured vegetable protein. Instead, you get rubbery skins and spongy, off-putting textures; and a taste that no amount of mustard can salvage. It can be a Smart Dog, Tofu Pup, or Tofurkey frank; it doesn’t matter because they all get it wrong.
It’s worth noting that Beyond Meat doesn’t list a hot dog in its product line.
To faux or not to faux
This is the vegetarian’s dilemma. Most people don’t stop eating meat because of the taste, but more often for health or ethical reasons. Meat substitutes offer them a meatless way to recreate favorite recipes and replace the protein in their diets, and might even move confirmed meat eaters to make more sustainable choices. But many vegetarians say that cooking with faux meat is no different than the questionable morality of wearing faux fur. Just like some anti-fur advocates wonder if wearing faux fur promotes real fur as fashionable, there are vegetarians who feel that meat substitutes send a message that meat is desirable and that the vegetarian lifestyle demands sacrifice and deprivation.
The Twitter team is banking on Beyond Meat as the gateway meat substitute, the one that will wear down faux meat resistance from vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. They believe it can have a real impact on meat consumption–and in turn, our health and the environment. And you know, they’ve been right before.