Meatless meat (Pig Tales)
(Editor’s note: Dr. Rich Barczewski is a professor at Delaware State University.)
Recently, I have been kind of interested in a fast food chain that has promoted a new “meatless” hamburger.
I know you have heard of it as it has been advertised on television for quite a few weeks now.
My first exposure to vegetarian meat came about when I was in college, roughly 40 years ago.
I remember it quite well as we got the chance to sample a meatless sausage and a meatless bacon. While the flavor at those early attempts was actually quite accurate, the problem that I had with them had more to do with the texture of the product.
The sausage was flavored like a typical pork sausage (sage), but the consistency of the product was very mealy. Not meatlike at all, and to be perfectly honest, the texture was a turn off. The bacon, as I recall tasted like bacon but had the texture of chewing on a couple of sheets of paper. Again, not very appealing.
When this new “meatless burger” came on to the scene, one of my fellow faculty members decided that we needed to go on a lunch excursion and try it. So off we went, and to be perfectly honest, it was actually quite good.
I would venture to say that the meatless burger tasted very close to what the regular beef burger tasted like so from my perspective, it was acceptable.
Mind you, the burger was slathered with mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard, pickles, onion, tomato and lettuce and on a bun so the burger itself was only a portion of the entire product.
So that brings me to a couple of other points. First of all, nutritionally, what is the benefit? Well, that depends.
If you for some reason are trying to eat lower on the food chain, the burger does not contain meat.
While I am not of this persuasion, some folks have an issue with eating meat and this offers them an alternative.
From a caloric standpoint, the meatless burger is 30 calories lower than the traditional beef burger coming in at 630 calories compared to 660.
It also has 6 grams less fat (34 versus 40), one gram less saturated fat (11 grams versus 12), 80 micrograms less cholesterol 10 mcg versus 90 but contains 100 mg more sodium 1,080 versus 980.
The meatless burger is made of soy protein concentrate, coconut and sunflower oil, heme (from the roots of soybean plants) and potato protein, whereas the regular burger contains beef.
I guess it all comes down to what do you want to eat.
One other consideration is that the meatless burger was a dollar more expensive than the more traditional one.
Part of me has always wondered why someone who would go out of their way to avoid eating meat would want to eat something that tasted like meat? You would think that if you do not want to eat meat, you would not want to eat anything that tasted like meat. Regardless, the option is there if you choose to take advantage of it.
There is no doubt in my mind that we will see more meat alternatives in the future.
As an animal scientist, I can understand why some folks who are opposed to eating meat may want alternatives to more traditional fare.
I often tell my students that there are over a billion vegetarians in the world and that it is possible to be a healthy vegetarian, but you have to make sure you do it right.
One of the major advantages of including animal products in your diet is that it makes it much easier to obtain a complete balance of amino acids where as a vegetarian diet requires some special care to make sure that the right balance is acquired.
It is not impossible, but it takes some nutritional knowledge and effort to do so.
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