(This is an article I wrote that was posted to my town's online newspaper.)
Why do people have such strong opinions about vegans eating fake meat? The criticisms do not come solely from meat eaters; they also come from fellow vegans! Commonly, people ask:
(A) Why imitate the taste of meat when you say you don’t like meat?
(B) Fake meat isn’t a “whole food,” is it?
(A) Most vegans could be happy on a vegan diet without any fake meat, but having it is one more added texture and flavor. Even though mock meat can taste a lot like real animal meat, there is none of the greasy or gamey taste and no gristle.
(B) Sometimes vegans are just in the mood to slap a fake burger on a bun and call it a meal rather than make a bean burger from scratch. Vegans tend to eat a lot of vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains, but we do not have to eat them exclusively! We’re just like anyone else; we like variety. The only rule for a vegan is no animal products.
A meat eating friend commented that she would never eat a soy product because it might contain hexane. Hexane is a chemical that is used to separate oil from peanuts, corn, olives, and from the whole soy pod. Hexane is used at ADM, but ADM claims that hexane is used only in the initial stages of processing and is totally rinsed off. There is one study that disputes that, but only a trace of hexane was found. It is important to note that a person would have to eat about 1.4 million veggie burgers per day for 90 days to feel any neurological problems if there were that tiny bit of hexane! I am not too worried.
Further easing any concern is the fact that many of the main fake meat brands such as Tofurky, Field Roast and Amy’s are not made from ingredients that require hexane!
There are far more potent substances in real meat to worry about. Fats in meat are a serious health hazard as their effects quickly accumulate in the body. Three year olds have striations of fat on their hearts now because of the meat and dairy diet we think is “feeding them right.” We see the results of too much fat with the rise of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. The American Diabetes Association states that a low fat vegan diet is better at reducing heart disease and diabetes than the American Diabetes Association diet. (Re-read that last sentence and let it sink in!)
When critiquing the effects of fake meat on the body, it is important to note the amount that is consumed. It is rare to see fake meat mounded on a plate as a main course. Mock meats are a treat rather than the norm with most vegans.
Phytoestrogens and Soy Protein Isolate
This is a controversial subject and research has shown positive and negative effects from both phytoestrogens and soy protein isolate. Phytoestrogens simply means plant estrogen and soy protein isolate is concentrated soy that is separated from the rest of the plant. Skip the protein powders and high fat protein bars, eat whole foods in general, and these will not be an issue. They certainly are safer than the growth hormones found in factory farmed animals.
Real Meat vs. Fake Meat: The Comparison
Here is a comparison of one of my Field Roast Frankfurters to an Oscar Mayer Hot Dog. I chose my favorite mock meat with the “good brand” of hot dog I ate when I was a meat eater
Filtered water, vital wheat gluten, expeller pressed safflower oil, organic expeller pressed palm fruit oil, barley malt, naturally flavored yeast extract, tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, paprika, sea salt, onions, spices, whole wheat flour, garlic, natural liquid smoke, caraway, celery seed, ground yellow mustard, paprika oleoresin. Contains 0 mg of cholesterol.
Oscar Meyer hot dog ingredients: mechanically separated turkey, mechanically separated chicken, pork, water, corn syrup, contains less than 2% of salt, sodium phosphates, sodium diacetate (fungicide and bactericide), sodium benzoate (preservative), sodium ascorbate, flavor, sodium nitrite (additive, can form carcinogenic nitrosamines and trigger migraines).Contains 35 mg of cholesterol.“Mechanically Separated” means pureeing or grinding the carcass left after the manual removal of meat from the bones and then forcing the slurry through a sieve under pressure. What is in the hot dog includes bone, bone marrow, skin, nerves, blood vessels in addition to the scraps of meat remaining on the bones.
Hopefully, this article has shown that a little fake meat is not worthy of the huge amount of criticism and ostracism that is given to a vegan who will admit to occasionally eating it!