Are vegan meat replacements too real?

Vegan burger which looks realistic

There seems to be a never-ending race to create vegan burgers which resemble meat in taste, texture and look.

The Guardian calls them “meat-a-like” foods in the following article:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/shortcuts/2019/jul/02/im-paranoid-its-meat-the-rise-of-vegan-conspiracy-theories?fbclid=IwAR2MTm5HO65XPz5ONwS0IC4PhZMltOK-Jh5Slu6X6xbVNGwqQNAmkJzTx28

The following comment sums up how realistic things are getting: “”I always get paranoid when [fake meat] tastes so much like the real thing, that one day it’s all going to come out on the news that we have been tricked into eating real meat this whole time,” reads one comment on the Facebook group. In February, a commenter posted a picture of Greggs’ vegan sausage roll, seeking reassurance that it wasn’t real meat. “Had to stop eating,” they wrote. “Please tell me it’s safe.””

One phrase which vegans hate with a vengeance is “but bacon”, however, over the years there have been a number of bacon substitutes on the market. It seems that here too the alternatives can be super realistic, as highlighted in this article:

https://www.mirror.co.uk/money/shopping-deals/super-realistic-vegan-brand-tricks-17910556

There are a couple of interesting comments in this particular article. The first paragraph states: “Looking to reduce your meat intake but can’t tear yourself away from the idea of from a weekend bacon sandwich, or a roast chicken?”  So, are these products even aimed at vegans?

It seems not! These are vegan products not targeting vegans, and that does actually make sense.

I became vegan because I don’t believe it’s right that animals have to suffer and die to provide for me. The environmental and health benefits are something I discovered after turning vegan, but they are reasons why people are not starting to either turn vegan or reduce their intake of animal products. The article also says: “The Isn’t Bacon even have half the salt of conventional bacon, no cancer-causing nitrates and zero saturated fat – so it’s even better for you.”

So, you see, the health-conscious vegans are part of the target audience here – and that is why there is such a desire to make products so realistic.

Meaty-looking vegan burger

While many die-hard, long-term vegans hate the idea of anything which resembles meat, those looking to reduce their intake or new vegans may crave a realistic substitute. There is also the fact that vegans dining with meat-eating friends or family may wish to have something which will have their meal companions say: “Wow, I can’t believe that’s vegan!” Although the potatoes, carrots and cabbage on their plate also happen to be vegan!

The Mirror article also includes the line: “It’s also more sustainable, as it uses 90% less water and 70% less CO2 emissions than meat.”

The environmental impact of animal agriculture has been in the headlines a lot recently and meat production’s impact on the planet cannot be underestimated.

Exact facts and figures are hard to come by, but this Guardian article from 2018 is a pretty balanced look at the issues:

https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/may/07/true-cost-of-eating-meat-environment-health-animal-welfare

Its conclusions are pretty similar to those which vegans have been highlighting for some time now.

I tried the Beyond Burger with cheese a couple of weeks before writing this piece and I was shocked at the realism. I have pointed out before that some supermarkets have started stocking vegan foods alongside meat products on their shelves:

https://veganonadesertisland.com/2018/07/15/vegan-in-the-meat-aisle/

As I pointed out then, I am not the real target audience for these products – but it’s undeniable that the growing number of vegans will also buy them – and maybe buy them for meat-eating partners, children or friends who come to dinner.

I do like the No Bull Burgers a lot, and I love that they have added beetroot juice, I don’t think this makes them look or taste like real burgers particularly, but then I don’t really know what “real” burgers taste like. I do know what they smell like, however, and I despise it.

I didn’t despise the Beyond Burger, I just felt it was a little “too real”. I understand that people don’t turn vegan because they dislike the taste, look and texture of meat, but because of the suffering behind the meat. That’s me really, but I have grown to dislike the idea of meat so much that the thought of its taste repulses me. But others are different and they are also catered for by such products.

Of course, the fact that these products are controversial means lots of debate and therefore free marketing for the companies behind them.

I personally prefer veggie burgers to have bits of vegetables in them – but I’d love to hear what you think.

Let’s talk iodine

Let’s talk about iodine

Why? Well, the Press and non-vegans seem to think it’s a problem for us vegans – isn’t it nice how they worry more about our health than we do?

Until recently, I, probably like many of you, hadn’t even heard of iodine, let alone wondered about its absorption into my body – so what is it?

In the words of the Vegan Society, “Your body uses iodine to make thyroid hormones. These hormones control how fast your cells work. In the UK, the recommended iodine intake for adults is 140 micrograms per day. Every vegan needs a reliable source of iodine in their diet.”

So now you know!

Earlier this year, there were a couple of articles about concern vegans weren’t getting enough of the stuff. There are always articles about what vegans lack (I lack tolerance for stupid comments made by non-vegans, for example), but I wondered how many people had actually heard of the stuff? So I decided to blog on it – because it’s important nutritionally. Iodine deficiency affects mental health and alertness and can cause fatigue and stunt mental growth in children – it’s vital pregnant women get enough (incidentally, breast milk is another good source). In the words of Wiki: “It may result in a goiter, sometimes as an endemic goiter as well as cretinism due to untreated congenital hypothyroidism, which results in developmental delays and other health problems. Iodine deficiency is an important public health issue as it is a preventable cause of intellectual disability.”

In other words, it’s important.

So, why is it a vegan issue? Well, some believe (wrongly) that animals are the only source of iodine – or the only reliable source anyway.

The best source is some seaweed (kelp, nori, kombu, wakame). But, the Vegan Society warns: “Although seaweed is a rich source of iodine, there are several reasons why it may not be the best option. The iodine content of seaweed is variable, and sometimes too high. Also, some types are contaminated. Iodised salt is not a good option because public health authorities recommend that we cut down on salt.”

They argue that a supplement may be the best option.  The Vegan Society markets a daily vitamin and mineral supplement designed for vegans called VEG 1, providing reliable intakes of vitamins B12 and D, iodine and selenium. Please discuss the use of supplements with a health professional to help ensure that they are suitable for you. Read what they have to say on the issue: https://www.vegansociety.com/resources/downloads/iodine

Personally, I adore samphire – I love foraging for it and cooking it – most of all, I love eating it! In fact, I wrote about it last year: https://veganonadesertisland.com/2017/07/23/foraging-for-samphire/

But it is rich in iodine. The amount of iodine in veg varies so widely because it comes from the soil in which they grow – and the amount in soil varies wildly. Therefore, the dairy and eggs supposed to be strong sources, also vary according to the amount of iodine the cows and chickens themselves receive.

The Vegan Society explains: “During the last century, farmers started supplementing animal feed with iodine because research showed that this could make their businesses more productive. This also resulted in a huge increase in the iodine content of cows’ milk, particularly during the winter months when grass is limited. Disinfectants containing iodine also contribute to the iodine content of cows’ milk because they are used to clean teats and tankers. It is probable that supplementation of animal feed boosted the iodine contents of meat and eggs too.”

In other words, animal agriculture is only a reliable source because the products are supplemented with it – hardly natural!

It also needs to be said that you can get too much. ODing on iodine causes thyroid issues and weight gain – so be careful with the supplements. The NHS online says taking a 0.5mg or less supplement a day is unlikely to have any adverse effects.

 

A film more important than Earthlings

Land of Hope and Glory is described as the “UK Earthlings”.

It basically consists of undercover film shot in UK farms and slaughterhouses.

It’s harrowing, it’s hard to watch, it’s heartbreaking and shocking. It is also a film all vegans in the UK should watch.

Why?

Well, it’s free to view online – either from the website at the bottom of this article, or on Youtube.

The film is about 50 minutes long.

But mainly because the facts are laid bare. It’s a stark reminder of what is happening every single day of the year. Plus, everything you need to know to form a solid argument while debating with others is there.

These facts are also printed out on the website – as are links to where the footage came from.

So, if Earthlings already exists, why make this?

That too is answered on the website. The makers – Surge (surgeactivist.com – the group behind the Official Animal Rights March) said that people were saying “that doesn’t happen in our country” in response to Earthlings. This film proves it does.

I, personally, think that this film should now replace Earthlings in UK “experiences” as it’s more start, more relevant and will resonate with people on a deeper level in this country – this is their bacon, pork, eggs and milk.

Yes, eggs and milk. Make no mistake, this is a vegan film, not a vegetarian film – footage of the eggs and dairy industries are also laid bare.

It also dispels the myth that halal slaughter is somehow different to traditional methods of slaughter – stunning often does not work, and animals are still conscious when they have their throats slit.

The documentary is split into chapter by species – pigs, cows, sheep and birds. It does focus on farming and the use of animals for food – but there are other films available that tackle subjects such as animal experimentation and hunting.

There is a link on the website to a short film on fish.

Despite the fact this film was released earlier this year, it seems to be getting very little publicity among vegan groups on social media. That is the main reason I have decided to write this blog.

It is an important film. It’s modern, it shows what is happening on farms and in slaughterhouses here in the UK and it does not shy away from graphic, hard-hitting scenes.

In other words, it is vital ammunition in an activist’s arsenal.

It doesn’t go into the health benefits of a vegan diet (again that is discussed in other documentaries) and it would be nice to see a farmer try and defend what they do in a film such as this. I may think it’s indefensible, but I like to see a little balance just so the charge of “vegan propaganda” can be discounted.

I also think the fact the film lacks star appeal may put some people off – as does the fact that Earthlings is seen as THE animal rights film – but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for other movies! There is certainly room for this – I cannot reiterate enough how relevant it is to the UK! It is notoriously difficult to obtain footage from inside slaughterhouses and farms, so this really needs to be seen by everyone:

By vegans to remind them of what goes on and to arm them with the facts.

By non-vegans to show them the suffering behind their diets.

See the film at https://www.landofhopeandglory.org/