Fake meat options are coming fast and furious these days. Last week, Smithfield Foods launched a line of plant-based proteins that are designed to look and taste like pork or beef. A few weeks before that it was Tyson Foods and Nestle.
There’s certainly a lot of hubbub about plant-based proteins with catchy names, such as Impossible, Beyond and Pure. But I just don’t get it.
For the life of me, I don’t see advantages these fake meats offer over tasty and nutritious steaks, chops and burgers that Americans have always enjoyed.
Plant-based proteins aren’t superior nutritionally. Animal-based proteins, as nutritionists often say, provide complete proteins by providing all the essential amino acids that people need. Plant-based proteins can’t do that.
Claims about the environmental advantage of plant-based proteins are also shaky. First, cattle and other ruminants consume grasses and other materials that humans can’t eat. Second, without nutrition-packed animal-based protein, people around the world would have to open more fragile lands to produce protein. Definitely a bad thing for the environment.
Consumers today also say they want clean and simple labels. But these fake meats don’t fit that and read like something from the supply closet of a high school chemistry class.
The bottom line: It’s a consumer’s choice. If they want to pony up for plant-based protein, that’s fine. But misleading consumers about the trendy new products’ advantages over real meat is definitely not fine.