Meat Alternatives Have Come a Long Way

Columnist Stephanie Casey
Columnist Stephanie Casey

Eating an increasingly plant-based diet again these past few years has been mostly about consuming straight plants for me — fruits and veggies, the more local and organic, the better.

However, this year I have also been experimenting with meat substitutes. Their quality and technology has greatly advanced since I was a vegetarian teenager (20 years ago … cough … ahem). Recently, I went on “Fox 4 Good Day” and cooked up a totally plant-based protein BBQ sandwich. One of the hosts questioned, “so, it’s not tofu?” It’s a common reaction from folks not familiar with the wide variety of alternative proteins available these days. No! It is not tofu (not that there is anything wrong with tofu).

When I say the technology has changed, I mean that there are (very wise) companies engineering this stuff to create product with minimal processing and natural ingredients, and which simulates the animal product experience. Bill Gates funds one of these companies. He knows this is the future of food.

We literally cannot sustain meat and dairy in every meal. It’s rarely talked about by environmental groups or media, but harvesting livestock, especially cows and pigs, pollutes more than all transportation sectors combined.

Acres of forest are cut down daily to graze cattle and other animals. GMO corn and soy are grown in abundance, harvested and fed to the animals. They eat a lot and drink lots of water. And all that comes out the other end of them — billions of them every year. Google “factory farm satellite photo” to see the waste run-off from these places. The “ag gag” laws large food corporations are constantly fighting for are meant to criminalize coverage like those photos so the public will remain in the dark.

In addition to the food in and waste out, we also give most of our factory livestock antibiotics (even healthy stock are given antibiotics, preventatively), hormones and various other drugs to make them grow big, fast, and counteract the negative health side effects of the stressful and unnatural environments they are raised in. Often, meat is “cleaned” at an end stage by “washing” it with ammonia. When you eat factory farm meat and dairy, you are ingesting all of that.

Long story short, we all need to cut way back on animal consumption for our health, the environment, and to preserve resources. Meat substitutes allow this without lifestyle diet change.

Dallas continues to get an influx of alternative choices in our groceries and restaurants. Try the Crispy Chick’n sandwich at Lyfe Kitchen (several area locations), the “Beef” with Broccoli at Skyamore (4029 Crutcher St., near Baylor Hospital) or the new Sofritas (braised spicy tofu), which just became available at all area Chipotle locations. In your local grocer’s freezer section, look for Gardein Crispy Chick’n Fingers for the kids or try one of the many veggie breakfast sausages available.

If someone asks you what you are eating, you can answer, “plants.”

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