In the years that vegetarianism has become more mainstream, the meat-free diet itself has transformed. Gone are the years of the stereotypical “hippie” vegetarian who survives on dry oats, tofu blocks and raw vegetables (though there’s certainly nothing wrong with that). Now, in every grocery store one can find a section of “fake” or imitation foods, usually soy-based, created to substitute for real meat, providing a much smoother transition to the lifestyle.
With the recent breakthrough in the fake meat industry—a more realistic fake chicken texture – scientist from the University of Missouri are opening the door to all kinds of implications within the food industry.
Inventors of this new “chicken,” a food that combines soy-protein powder, wheat flour and water in an industrial extruder, claim that it successfully imitates the stringy texture found in the real thing, and, believe it or not, tastes like chicken!
Until now, the main argument meat-eaters gave against eating fake meats was that it just wasn’t quite right. With the technology to perfectly duplicate meat, in taste and texture, without the torture of animals, they may no longer have an excuse.
However, the idea that “technology” is used to create food does not seem completely compatible with the diets of many current vegans and vegetarians. In addition to eating meat-free to be cruelty-free, many adopt the lifestyle for its health benefits. A factory-made, processed food is a far cry from fresh, organic and local eating that many vegetarians and vegans prefer.
It will be interesting to see how current meat-free eaters, and those contemplating a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, will respond to the new “chicken” discovery. It could be, that most already adapted to the diet, or those who do not enjoy the taste of meat or its substitutes, will prefer to do without. The main breakthrough, it seems, will be with the meat-eaters, who may be more accepting of a diet without meat if they have a sufficient alternative.
With this invention, the final question is: What’s next? Surely the Missouri scientists will strive to imitate other meats, but they may have some bigger tricks hidden up their lab coat sleeves. Some scientists predict even more innovations: a next step with real meat grown “in vitro.” This would provide meat from a petri dish rather than a slaughtered animal. For now, I’ll stick to my veggies and oats.