Vegan meat: the possible alternative – Salt & Pepper – Italian Cuisine

Vegan meat: the possible alternative - Salt & Pepper


It has now been well over a decade since some visionary entrepreneurs began to study how to get one "Vegetable meat". Quotation marks required for a protein product which, in fact, is alternative to the meat. And we did not use the term "alternative" at random: because more and more consumers are approaching the world plant based while not being vegans or vegetarians. Not to replace foods of animal origin, but to have an extra food to be included in a diet that remains omnivorous. Among them, the more and more numerous flexitarians who, for various reasons, choose to reduce the consumption of meat, fish and derivatives. But also many curious who discover burgers, meatballs, minced meat and morsels that are ever tastier, fun to cook and with the added value of sustainability.

What are
Let's say immediately that they are protein products which, however, differ greatly from those typical of the soy-based veggie diet, such as tofu, or gluten-based such as seitan. The main feature is in fact that of getting closer, in consistency and taste, to the meat. Thus, the "minced" ones are red and succulent as if they were beef, the "pulpy" ones have an elongated fiber structure similar to that of chicken or pork. They have a good flavor, the so-called “umami” which could be translated as “savory flavor”. As for the formats, in the beginning they were i burger, or patties: the classic mashed meatballs to eat in a sandwich, with fresh vegetables and standard sauces. While today the variations are numerous and, in honor of the traditional specialties of street food, they often have English names like nuggets (nuggets, i.e. croquettes), pulled (frayed), chuncks (morsels), meatball (meatballs), minced (ground), sausages (sausages).

A growing success
The names chosen by the start-ups that, overseas, first launched the green challenge (we told about it in this post and in this other one), they expressed the full meaning of the bet: Beyond Meat (where "beyond" means "beyond") e Impossible Burger they were declarations of intent, even before being trademarks. Today, plant-based meat is a solid reality that is increasingly appreciated, as confirmed by the data collected by the delivery companies: both Just Eat that Uber Eats they put the vegan burger at the top of their customers' veggie choices. And the competitors of the two American companies are more and more. Brazilians of Future Farm they are inspired (and aspire to inspire!) "to the pro-earth generation, finally in favor of our planet". In Europe, the challenge was taken up by the Swede Ikea, which he has revisited in key cruelty free its famous meatballs, while the world of start-ups has recently seen the birth of the Spanish Heura and the switzerland of Planted. The latter, "incubated" in 2019 at the Zurich Polytechnic and become a reality thanks to the initiative of 4 students, has just landed on our market with a very specific choice: not to focus on various burgers and minced meat but only on variations " solid ".

The list of ingredients
The formulas developed by the different companies are, in fact, very different from each other. From the point of view of taste, the most effective proteins proved to be those obtained from peas. However, especially in ground products, they are mixed with many other ingredients: mainly soy, but also other legumes and cereals, fats, fibers, starches, thickeners, stabilizers. Additions needed to get it right consistency of burgers, sausages, meatballs, “chorizo”, frankfurters and company. It is to shorten the list of ingredients as much as possible that Planted has decided, on the contrary, not to "create" anything minced but "meat" solid, easier to "put together". Thus the "chicken", morsels that resemble a tender chicken breast, is prepared with pea protein and fiber, water and rapeseed oil. To these 4 ingredients the "pulled" (pictured above), made up of frays, adds oat and sunflower proteins, while the "kebab" is in thin slices flavored with Middle Eastern spices. The ingredients are a short supply chain, coming from local crops: thus, environmental sustainability is also ensured. Pursued by most of the companies in the sector, which adopt competitive production systems in terms of saving of water resources And drop in CO2 emissions.

The nutritional aspect
Interesting to note how the products plant based have a caloric intake similar, if not inferior, to the corresponding animals and in any case a content of saturated fats significantly lower. Then, of course, it all depends on the recipes: both at the origin (the flavored versions are generally richer) and in the kitchen, where the products natural they can be sautéed, browned and seasoned with oils and sauces, while still being one healthy choice thanks to the starting nutritional composition. And providing one more reason to really make it a viable alternative to change our diet and our impact on the environment around us.

Francesca Romana Mezzadri
January 2022

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