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The Rise of Plant-Based Meat

Image of a man holding an Atlas Monroe chicken sandwich

As of 2020, there were nearly 1.5 billion people globally were vegetarian. That’s nearly 20% or 1 in 5 people. With so many supposed “protein deficiencies” and meat options out there, how are so many vegetarians surviving without meat? Well, there are many reasons why so people have opted for a meat-free diet.

Why do people go vegetarian?

It turns out, that the main reasons why people put down the steak and picked up the seitan were to:

  • Eat healthier

  • Reduce animal suffering

  • Eat cheaper

  • Reduce environmental impact

  • Support their spiritual and religious beliefs

Let's expand on those.

Health benefits of going vegetarian

The health benefits of vegetarianism are huge. Did you know people on a vegetarian diet have a 10-12% lower incidence of various cancers? Or that they’re 50% less likely less likely to develop type 2 diabetes? Even this Harvard study found that vegetarians were, on average, 25% less likely to die of heart disease. In terms of health and longevity, becoming a vegetarian is very compelling.

Environmental impact of going vegetarian

Environmental awareness is growing in the United States with an estimated 48% of US consumers going plant-based for environmental reasons. That’s because a vegetarian diet is theorized to cut greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 63%. But it’s not just about emissions, saving the air-purifying trees on the planet is important, too. Did you know 91% of the deforestation and destruction done in the Amazon is a result of animal agriculture? Yep, the global demand for meat-based protein is contributing to 70% of land degradation, 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, and 60% of ammonia emissions which contribute to the acidification of the environment. Consumers know this, and they want to make better choices for the environment.

Going vegetarian for spiritual reasons

Did you know that the vast majority of vegetarians are in India? 38% of Indians avoids meat, which if you do the math, accounts for millions of people. They primarily are vegetarian because of their Buddhism. Israel and Taiwan are close behind with over 10% of their populations practicing vegetarianism for spiritual and faith reasons. For those who follow a spiritual path, putting down meat can help them get closer to a high power in their faith.

Plant-based meats are big business

The rise in plant-based businesses is huge. While many individuals become vegetarian for ethical, health, and environmental reasons-–many businesses are jumping on the meat-free bandwagon because the market is growing. In 2020, the plant-based meat market made an estimated 6.67 billion in revenue. Not only do businesses get to take a piece of the financial pie home, they can also get to live out their values and supply an innovative product that meets consumer demand. Win, win!

Overall, a meat-free world means more green forests, less freshwater usage, less pesticides, and less greenhouse gas emissions. The benefits are endless. But, the vegetarian movement didn't start from nowhere. Actually, it's been a thing for longer than most people know.

A brief history of plant-based meats

Although vegetarianism seems like a relatively new idea. It really isn’t. The first plant-based meat alternative was introduced before Christ. Here’s a brief history of the rise of plant-based meats.

  • 206 BC - 220 AD: Tofu is invented in China by the Han Dynasty

  • 535: Wheat gluten (seitan) is mentioned in a Chinese agricultural encyclopedia

  • 1587: The first mention of Yuba (tofu skin) is found in Chinese text

  • 1852: “Vegetable sausage” made from red fennel and turnips is written about in the New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette newspapers

  • 1896: John Harvey Kellogg, a member of the vegetarian-heavy Seventh Day Adventists, creates a peanut “meatless meat” called Nuttose. He later goes onto make cereal as an alternative to egg and meaty breakfasts

  • 1911: Cold cuts made from soy arrive in France

  • 1922: The first commercial soy-based meat alternative was invented by Madison Foods in Tennessee

  • 1929: Meatless, bacon-flavored soy powder is introduced to the market

  • 1931: Seventh Day Adventists create the Loma Linda Foods organization which makes some of the first commercially available soy and wheat-based faux meats

  • 1967: British scientists discover Fusarium Venenatum, a very high-protein fungus.

  • 1985: New York Vegetarian Society serves banquet meal with “meatless turkey”

  • 1987: Paul Wenner, an Oregan-based restauranteur creates the first Gardenburgers made from leftover vegetables and rice pilaf formed into patties.

  • 1994: Quorn creates the first faux meat made of Fusarium Venenatum (fungus)

  • 1995: Turtle Island Foods creates Tofurky Roasts

  • 1999: Burger King launches the BK Veggie Burger.

  • 2012: Chipotle launches tofu “sofritas”

  • 2016: Impossible Foods launches the Impossible Burger

  • 2019: Fast food chains like Carl’s Jr, Hardee’s, A&W, Dunkin Donuts, and KFC start selling plant-based meat products

After thousands of years of developing plant-based meat alternatives, this millennium is bringing about some pretty cool options. Here are 6 brands that are building upon the long history of plant-based meats and making game-changing alternatives that would make any omnivore drool.

6 Game-Changing Plant-Based Meat Brands

Jack & Annie’s, formally known as the Jackfruit Company, is using the tropical jackfruit plant to make meaty, chewy plant-based alternatives. From meatballs and buffalo wings to breakfast patties and sausages, if you’re craving a chewy and truly plant-based alternative, Jack & Annie’s is it!

Who knew mushrooms were so versatile? Meati did. When they created their mycelium-based chicken and steak, I almost flipped. I tried Meati at a local restaurant and it was unreal. My omnivorous boyfriend couldn’t tell it wasn’t real chicken. Meati is chewy, savory, and almost impossible to tell it’s not meat. For the omnivores that don’t like soy and can tell the difference between "real meat" and "faux meat", try Meati. This may become their new favorite brand.

The art of bacon is not to be understated. Lots of brands have tried to make “facon” with some relative success. Libre Foods is different. Their mushroom-based bacon is still in development as you read this but don’t worry, your vegan bacon burgers and breakfast brunch will have Libre's fermented fungi bacon very soon. Crunchy, flaky, salty, and savory. What else could a bacon lover want?

As a woman who grew up on fried chicken, I have high standards. So does Atlas Monroe. Their soy-based fried chicken has won multiple awards for its amazing texture and flavor. That itch for chicken and waffles can finally be scratched. But, so can your cravings for dark meat, white meat, and even chicken strips. If you miss the comfort of a crunchy fried chicken, look no further than Atlas Monroe.

Who else grew up on breakfast sausages? Well, you don't have to deprive yourself any longer of alternatives that don't hit the spot. Nature’s Fynd is delicious. They’re mushroom-based patties that come in original or maple flavor remind me of the good ol’ days. They’re savory, chewy, and awesome with pancakes or waffles. Your next breakfast brunch just got so much better.

A hot chicken sandwich is on the list of so many people’s favorite foods. Now you can get that experience without the harm. Tindle is another great soy-based meat brand delivering a versatile chicken alternative for many cuisines. Whether you’re craving a sandwich or nuggets, you’re going to flip at how realistic and satisfying Tindle is. Is today the day to pick up a plant-based chicken sandwich? Yeah, I think it is.

Now’s the time to grab plant-based meats

After thousands of years of development, I think it’s safe to say the vegan meat market is hot and only getting hotter. Standing on the shoulders of innovative tofu creators and experimental meat makers throughout the year, you can trust that this century’s plant-based meats are more sustainable and satisfying than ever before. If you’re looking to pick up more plant-based meats, try any of these new, game-changing brands. Your stomach and conscious will thank you.


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