Meat Substitutes And The Vegetarian Lifestyle
Meat substitution has a long history throughout the East and West. Tofu, a popular meat analog made from soybeans, was known in China during the period of the Western Han Dynasty (6 BCE — 9 CE).
An early document written by Tao Gu (903–970) describes how extra-firm tofu was valued as an imitation meat. Meat analogs such as tofu and wheat gluten are associated with Taoist and Buddhist cuisine in China and other parts of Asia. Throughout history, meat analogs were popular during the Christian observance of Lent, when the consumption of meat from warm-blooded animals is forbidden.
Prior to the arrival of Buddhism, northern China was predominantly a meat consuming culture. The vegetarian dietary laws of Buddhism led to the development of meat analogs as a replacement for the meat-based dishes that the Chinese were no longer able to consume as Buddhists.
Meat analogs such as tofu and wheat gluten are still associated with Taoist and Buddhist cuisine throughout East Asia.
Though most vegetarians are familiar with tofu many are not familiar with Wheat. gluten is a dough-like textured food made from the main protein of wheat. It is made by washing 100% whole wheat flour dough with water until all the starch granules have been removed, leaving the sticky insoluble gluten as an elastic mass, which is then cooked before being eaten.
is so similar in texture to chicken that sometimes when cooked with vegetables it is difficult to know the difference between chicken and gluten. Gluten has been documented in China since the 6th century
John Harvey Kellogg, the older brother of William Kellogg who founded the famous cereal company, developed meat replacements variously from nuts, grains, and soy, starting around 1877, to feed patients in his vegetarian sanitarium.
There was an increased interest in meat analogs during the late nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century. Prior to 1950, interest in meat analogs came from vegetarians, especially Seventh-Day Adventists searching for alternatives to meat protein for ethical reasons, and regular meat-eaters who were confronted with food shortages during the two world wars.
Today Meat analog products are currently made by two basic processes, through either thermoplastic extrusion or fiber spinning. Thermoplastic extrusion involves the adaptation of production processes that are more commonly associated with the making of ready-to-eat cereal products. Extruders are considered to be a cost-effective method of accommodating large-scale productions, and for forming desirable fibers.
Soy protein isolate or soybean flour and gluten are usually used as foundations for most meat analogs that are available on the market.
protein isolate is a highly pure form of soy protein with a minimum protein content of 90%. The process of extracting the protein from the soybeans starts with the dehulling, or decortication, of the seeds. The seeds are then treated with solvents such as hexane in order to extract the oil from them. The oil-free soybean meal is then suspended in water and treated with alkali to dissolve the protein while leaving behind the carbohydrates. The alkaline solution is then treated with acidic substances in order to precipitate the protein, before being washed and dried. The removal of fats and carbohydrates results in a product that has a relatively neutral flavor[ Soy protein is also considered a “complete protein” as it contains all of the essential amino acids that are crucial for proper human growth and development.
Lipids are added to the meat analog in the form of liquid or semi-liquid glyceride shortening from synthesis, or other sources such as plants or animals. The glycerides could potentially contain unsaturated or saturated long-chain acyl radicals ranging from 12 to around 22 carbon atoms. Due to the target audience of meat analogs, plant-based lipid sources such as soybean oil, olive oil, canola oil, and others alike are usually used.
While lipids do not contribute to the structure of the meat analog, it is crucial in increasing the palatability and broadening the appeal of the product across the consumer base.
There are many solid alternatives to animal protein. Still, watch out for food allergies, there are various food additives including flavor compounds, coloring agents, leavening agents, and emulsifiers that may be added to give the product a meaty taste, texture, and color.
Author — Lewis Harrison is an award-winning writer and Wellness Coach. Learn more about his work and sign up for his free newsletter at AskLewis.com