The craze for vegetable steaks indicates a desire to eat healthier while preserving the planet and animal welfare. Based on soy, peas or cereals, many processors and distributors now offer these products which are now found in different forms: pancakes, steaks, minced … Is this the end of meat consumption?
A steak that looks more and more like meat
“ Impossible Foods ” is an American company that has been developing meat and cheese substitutes made entirely from plants since 2011 and has been selling them in a few restaurants since 2016. Its researchers analyzed animal products on a molecular level and then selected of protein and nutrients from vegetables , seeds and grains to recreate the taste of meat and dairy products. “Impossible Burger”, the first product, is made from wheat, coconut oil and potatoes and a particular ingredient, heme.
The heme allows to obtain the color and the taste of the meat and catalyzes with other flavors during cooking. It is very abundant in animal muscles, but it is a molecule that is found in all kingdoms, including the plant world. The company used genetically modified yeasts to produce heme from soybeans (fermentation similar to that used to make beer) and give the color, texture and taste of meat to these products. This steak, for regulatory reasons, will probably never be sold in Europe…
A positive impact for the planet
Consuming meat today poses environmental questions to many consumers. Livestock occupies a third of agricultural land, and the growing demand for meat products raises fears of increased pressure on biodiversity and natural areas. The plants needed to feed them use a quarter of the available water, and livestock farming alone accounts for 15% of greenhouse gases. “Impossible foods” claims a significantly reduced environmental balance: a quarter of water less, 1/20 th of arable land and 1/8 of greenhouse gas emission in less to produce these vegetable steaks.
But bartering meat for a vegetable steak, is it really good for your health?
In view of the numerous articles and advertisements touting vegetable steaks, one might think that the answer is yes.
First of all, many products do not contain enough protein , while it should be 15% minimum per serving. And above all, no vegetable protein alone brings the nine essential amino acids to the body. Ideally, protein sources should be mixed with grains and legumes, but this is not always the case. Vegetable products also contain very little iron or zinc, while meat contains a lot.
In short, completely replacing meat with plant products can be a nutritional error for growth and metabolism in general.
Finally, plant products are processed foods: they contain different ingredients but also flours, additives, gelling agents and dyes. And this is all the more true as the final product most resembles an animal steak, like “Impossible Burger” which contains an ingredient produced from a GMO ! They are also sometimes even more caloric because they are rich in carbohydrates and lipids.
To their advantage, they contain more fiber, not hormones or antibiotics.
If vegetable steak is clearly good for the planet, it should be eaten as part of a balanced and varied diet, and perhaps give it a less connoted name. Because the consumption of meat is falling, but it remains a quality food for the omnivores that we are!