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The Evolution of Meatless Meat

Plant-based meat substitutes have come a long way from the bland, tasteless slabs of soy-based substance that has always tended to give vegetarians a bad rap for their boring food choices. The 1970’s saw tofu being widely popularized by hippies who were becoming more conscious of how their eating habits affected animals and the planet. However, this was a point in time where vegetarian and vegan diets were not nearly as common as they are today, especially in the United States. The idea of getting enough nutrition from plants alone seemed preposterous to most people, and tofu was often bashed on for being too plain and “gross.” By the 2010’s it was becoming easier to find vegetarian friendly options at the local supermarket or restaurants, but plant-based diets were still not extremely popular among the majority of society.

Flash forwards to the year 2021; the plant-based meat industry has grown into a booming 20 billion dollar industry, and is continuing to rise in popularity and worth. Companies have branched out from soy to utilize plants such as jackfruit, beets and peas to create products that mimic real meat in both taste and texture. Specifically, the brands Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have created burgers, along with similar products, that even cook like real meat, finishing with a juicy, substantial bite.

More people than ever are focusing on incorporating a higher volume of plants in their diets as questions of the health benefits of going vegetarian are raised. Even those who aren’t committed to cutting out meat entirely are embracing ideas such as meatless mondays or going plant-based for one of the daily meals.

When it comes to health, extensive research has come to show that plant-based diets can lower the risk of countless diseases causing a high percentage of deaths in the US that could potentially be prevented by diet and lifestyle changes. These include heart disease, which is the number one killer in this country, diabetes, and different cancers. Plus, cutting out animal derived products reduces each individual’s carbon footprint. Many people are so interested in a vegan lifestyle today because it reduces greenhouse gas emissions, saves water, helps to preserve natural habitats, and is simply a more ethical way to live.

Fast-food chains are jumping on the opportunity to promote business by offering vegetarian and vegan friendly options. Starbucks came out with the Impossible Breakfast Sandwich, Burger King with the Impossible Whopper, Carl’s Jr. with the Beyond Famous Star, and Dunkin Donuts with the Beyond Sausage Sandwich. Not that fast food is necessarily healthy, but it’s a big step in a good direction for the future of plant-based food.

Plant-based foods are now mainstream products in today’s society, which in turn has led to more delicious and versatile meat substitutes. What was once boring old tofu is now a plethora of burgers, nuggets, sausages, and even jerky that are made out of plants. Plant-based diets are the future of the planet, considering personal health and environmental issues, most importantly, climate change. The progress of plants as our main source of food is evident, and is nowhere near complete.

SOU ‘23

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