This is something that’s been on my mind ever since a commenter pointed out that fake meats are also highly processed, but we seem to give those foods a “pass,” because they’re vegan. I think this is an excellent point and something worth exploring a bit more.
Vegan Doesn’t Always Equal Healthy
It’s tough to tackle the fake meat dilemma without taking a look at the whys of veganism in general. Many of us chose veganism because we care about our health and the environment, but there’s more to it. It’s about a cruelty-free diet that’s free from animal products.
I think the reason that we give fake meat a pass sometimes is that from an animal rights perspective, it is the best choice, processed or not. You can argue that there’s humanely raised meat out there, but as a vegan it’s hard to reconcile that. Sure the cow had a good life…until that slaughtering part.
That said, processed fake meat is not health food. In fact, faux meats have a pretty hefty carbon footprint. Richard Sayer, a reader over on Facebook also made an excellent point about fake meat and GMOs:
Watch out for soy-based meat substitutes. Unless they declare that they are not derived from genetically engineered sources, they most certainly are!
If you’re going to eat soy-based faux meats, organic is the way to go, since organic foods are not allowed to be genetically modified.
The Fake Meat Dilemma
When I posed the fake meat question to Facebook, you guys had a lot to say. The omnivores out there were pretty staunchly against faux meat, and I can totally understand where you guys were coming from. You don’t see an ethical dilemma when it comes to meat, as long as it’s not industrial meat.
A few vegan readers chimed in, as well, and they seemed to share my feelings about fake meat: it’s good as a transitional and as a sometimes food.
Giving up meat is hard, especially if you’re used to eating the standard American diet, and I don’t see a problem with occasionally indulging in a Tofurkey sausage if you’re mostly sticking to healthy, whole foods.
Jeannie also brought up an excellent point when she shared her lentil and rice veggie burger recipe: not all meat substitutes are processed. Her recipe is a great example of that. This burger is not trying to taste like a beef burger. Instead, it’s a patty that accentuates the delicious flavors of healthy rice, lentils, and veggies.
Fake meat is definitely a tricky topic, especially for vegans who are also committed to making eco-friendly food choices. I think that as long as you’re balancing the occasional Field Roast with a diet full of fresh fruits, veggies, nuts, beans, and whole grains, you’re probably doing just fine.
We had such a good discussion on Facebook, and I’d love to continue the conversation here! How do you guys feel about meat substitutes?