A new vegan chicken substitute called Beyond Meat is selling out of grocery stores in California. Backed by Twitter co-founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone and vetted by flexitarian hero Mark Bittman, this fake meat supposedly looks and tastes just like the real thing. Beyond Meat sounds pretty amazing; it might just be the best meat alternative on the market.
Nutritionally, Beyond Meat looks better than the average “chick’n”–it’s free of gluten, cholesterol, dairy, GMOs (which is big for fake meat), saturated fat and antibiotics. It’s also pretty high in protein, containing 19 grams per serving. Not too shabby, right?
Early adopters say they love both the taste and texture, that it shreds just like chicken. Even Bittman, a food columnist and advocate for cutting back on meat, didn’t realize that the product wasn’t actual chicken–though, it was wrapped in a burrito and topped with mayo and veggies. But still! It sounds almost too good to be true, right?
There is one negative aspect of Beyond Meat, which is that, aside from from pea protein, amaranth, carrot powder, and a few other ingredients, it also contains refined soy. Increasingly considered dangerous or at least worrisome because of its potential to increase estrogen in the body, soy has become kind of a black mark on the fake meat industry–though in small amounts, it’s not harmful. And if you can hold out a little while longer, the company is working on a ground beef substitute, which will not contain soy of any kind.
It’s a little too early to tell, but it looks like Beyond Meat could be the meat substitute people have been hoping for. From what I’ve read, it certainly seems more appetizing (and better for your body) than products like Quorn, Tofurky, or any of the myriad of soy-based vegan options currently available.
Beyond Meat is geared towards meat lovers who are looking for meat-free options; it probably won’t satisfy hardcore vegetarians and vegans who don’t miss the taste of animal flesh. Ethan Brown, the creator of Beyond Meat, says, “For people who are actually repulsed by meat, they’re not going to like this.”
Brown sees Beyond Meat as more of an alternative to meat production, a way to fill people’s plates with real protein without contributing to the environmental and health detriments attached to the industrial meat industry. It’s a good, lofty goal, but if Beyond Meat continues to take off, I hope vegetarians and vegans will continue to make whole, unprocessed fruits, grains and veggies the main components of their diets. Changing the way you eat is about more than just finding apt substitutes for old favorites: it’s about revamping your diet from the inside out.
The chicken strips are only available at a few stores in CA and MD, but are expected to be available more widely in the next few months. The company also hopes to eventually make the cost of Beyond Meat less than that of industrialized meat and other meat substitutes.
Image via Beyond Meat