Plant-based “meats” are not meat

middleman?

middleman?

Lightlife is trying to redefine “meat”.  The premise: all meat is made from plants because animals eat plants. Therefore Lightlife’s plant meats are also meat.  The tagline: cut out the ‘middleman’ (the animals) that stand between plants and your turkey sandwich.  Sorry, no.

You might think it peculiar for a person such as myself, who just published a handbook on vegetarian/vegan nutrition for teens, to disagree with Lightlife’s PR scheme.  After all, animals do eat plants.  So let’s cut to the chase.  Here’s the ingredient list for Lightlife Smart Deli Turkey:

Ingredients:
Water, vital wheat gluten, soybean oil, soy protein isolate, soy sauce (water, soybeans, salt, wheat), navy bean flour, yeast extract, rice bran, wheat gluten, wheat starch, organic dried tofu (organic soybeans, calcium sulfate), carrageenan, calcium lactate, natural flavor (from plant sources), sea salt, dried onions, dried garlic, citric acid, salt, natural smoke flavor.

Here the ingredients for real deli turkey:

Ingredients:

Turkey

Yum!  Soy Protein Isolate.  Vital Wheat Gluten.  Where do those come from?  Oh right, they’re extracted and purified from soy and wheat, involving a lot of food processing (water, energy, chemicals), then packaged up and shipped to some other manufacturing plant where they’re cooked up with that other stuff (all of which is also extracted, purified, processed, using water/energy/chemicals) to make something vaguely resembling meat.  Basically Lightlife just traded one middleman (the turkey) for several other middlemen — large chemical processing and food manufacturing plants.

Sure, you can quibble about what the turkey ate, and how it was processed.  But the point is this: companies that claim their fake plant meats are morally superior to animal meat are not telling you the whole story about how their products are manufactured.  And they are definitely manufactured.  If you’ve ever eaten a plain boiled soybean, you know it had to undergo a whole lot of processing to turn it into a turkey-like substance.

I personally find all this meat fakery really, extremely annoying and an insult to the whole point of vegetarian diets.  If you’re avoiding meat for whatever reason, what is the appeal of fake meat?  And why use “turkey” to describe it on the label.  Why?  If you’re so opposed to animals, why use an animal name to sell your product?  That’s just bizarre.  Then there’s the other problem with these products: they make it all too easy to eat a junk vegetarian or junk vegan diet based on (fake) cheeseburgers and (fake) bacon sandwiches and (fake) pepperoni pizza.  Add some chips, fries and soda pop and you’ll never have to touch an actual vegetable.

My approach to vegetarian dining: eat actual plants, as close to their natural state as possible.  Learn to appreciate the variety of flavors you get from vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains, fruit and healthy fats.

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