My vegan love of TVP – stop demonising soya

Soya chunks with vegetables in a pan

What is TVP?

When I first became vegetarian and then vegan, textured vegetable protein – TVP or soya chunks was about the only meat replacement I could get hold of locally.

You could and can get it either flavoured or unflavoured and in either chunks or mince.

As a dried replacement, it lasts for ages and grows when “rehydrated”. It’s brilliant as soaking up flavours and the cheapest meat replacement out there.

Admittedly, it doesn’t look all that appetising, but it tastes just fine.

Bags of dried TVP - mince and chunks

Is TVP good for you?

Yes.

It’s low in fat and calories and high in fibre. It’s a complete protein too.

But, it’s also highly processed and so some people may wish to avoid it. It’s good in moderation, like most things in my view

What’s so bad about soya?

The UK imports ton tonnes of soya a year – estimates state thirty to sixty per cent of this is from sustainable sources. One per cent of the UK population is vegan – so it stands to reason we are not the main consumer of all that soya.

Seventy per cent of the soya imports in 2018 came from soya meal – in other words, animal feed.

We also import soya oil and animal products which have already ingested soya.

It’s all explained here

Soya imports are responsible for 47 per cent of the European Union deforestation footprint. Palm oil is responsible for a minute 10 per cent in comparison – yes, soya is a more devastating crop than palm oil – but it’s down to the meat industry, not veganism.

Can soya be grown in the UK?

Yes, in short.

Check out this page from Soya UK – http://www.soya-uk.com/soya/

I would go as far as saying, as vegans are just one per cent of the population, the UK could grow enough soya to feed us easily – it’s the animal agriculture industry which is consuming it all.

Why do I love TVP?

It’s cheap. In fact, in some good independent health food shops, you can buy it as a refill and measure out how much you need.

It lasts for ages in the cupboard.

It’s so adaptable – the mince is good for bolognaise, chilli, shepherd’s pie etc

The chunks are great in a curry, or with pasta – I rehydrate them and fry them with garlic and in soya sauce sometimes – or Henderson’s Relish. And just serve with rice.

I also like to rehydrate unflavoured TVP chunks in vegetable stock, stir fry with onion, mushrooms and broccoli and mix with penne or pasta shells using vegan mayo or pesto as the sauce depending on my mood. A good grind of black pepper also adds a nice kick.

Incidentally, when I did the Ration Challenge last year – Read about it here – I chose TVP as my extra protein rather than tofu as, unhydrated, you get much more TVP for the allowed weight than you do tofu and it lasts longer too.

Hand holding dried TVP chunks

 

Is Veganuary killing vegan businesses?

Vegan "fish" and chips

I spoke to the owner of a vegan small business last week who is considering their options after a downturn in trade.

This year, in particular, has seen a huge rise in the number of vegan products on supermarket shelves. I’ve even written about it myself.

The Greggs release of their vegan steak bakes brought about a similar explosion in PR as the Greggs vegan sausage rolls row – boosting the profile of Greggs and Piers Morgan – and to a lesser extent veganism. The fact both products were already widely available as a vegan version in other shops was lost on absolutely everyone.

But the fact said bakes and sausage rolls are so cheap means that small businesses simply cannot compete. People are buying a vegan steak bake from Greggs and then make a token purchase from the small trader – and these token gestures are not enough to sustain a viable business

I noticed a post on Facebook last week about a small vegan business closing soon, and she raised many of the issues addressed in this blog.

The fact people are struggling financially – especially during January, means that supermarkets are able to tap into the Veganuary market and push the ethical vegan traders out. I understand fully why it’s Veganuary and not Vegurary – New Year’s resolutions and a healthy new year – and it has a ring to it – makes perfect sense. I just wish that more independent vegan traders are promoted alongside the big-name launches.

The Christmas Vegan Festival I co-organise saw a drop in numbers this year, but was still a great success, I believe people will save their money and spend at similar events – but vegan businesses need all of the vegan events they attend to be successful in order to continue trading – or in the case of High Street firms need people to go to them at lunchtime instead of the local supermarket od big name brand. A point raised by this blog.

Of course, I understand that some vegans simply have to go for the cheapest option, that for me is buying veg from the local market and cooking from scratch. It’s worth remembering that many of the products from independent traders are hand-made, not mass-produced like those on supermarket shelves.

I, like many older vegans, grew up when supermarkets had no vegan options and I, like others, managed to get by just fine by cooking from scratch and supporting the few vegan traders out there. It’s also worth remembering that independent traders are often solely vegan – unlike supermarkets and their ilk – they do not have a separate pot for vegan money and meat product money – the same applies to takeaway branches now offering a token vegan burger.

It must be pointed out that the issues raised in this blog also applies to fruit and vegetables – which last longer and taste nicer when purchased from your local market.

Vegans take over the world

As we race into 2020 and another promising start to Veganuary, it seems that retailers are falling over themselves in a bid to get some of the vegan pounds – especially since 300,000 people have signed up to take part this year. That’s in addition to the vegan army already marching through the world’s supermarket aisles.

With Greggs receiving most of the publicity in the new year for their Vegan Steak Bake the predictable response on every Facebook thread was “It’s not a steak bake if it’s vegan”. One would think that non-vegans are becoming seriously obsessed with all things vegan – their displeasure is seriously good publicity though, I think Piers Morgan alone drove Greggs Vegan Sausage Roll Success Van.

Iceland Vegan Products

For me personally, it was the Iceland Vegan Cheese and Onion Pastie I was most excited about. As a vegan of 20 years, that is the thing I still miss and I was heartbroken that my local branch had sold out this afternoon. I had one from an independent vegan shop in Leicester a few years ago and that one was divine, so I’m hoping for more of the same from Iceland. I did notice, however, they now have No Yolk Vegan Mayo and Piri Piri Mayo, which I can’t wait to try and they’ve added mushroom steaks to the range too. Mushrooms are my favourite food in the world – so I’m excited about these too.

In the battle for publicity pixels, KFC has been biting hard at Gregg’s heels with their Vegan Chicken Burger. And, while this means that young vegans can eat fast food with their meat-eating friends without feeling left out, it also provokes fierce debate on vegan forums. Personally, I’d never eat in KFC or McDonalds, their direct link to the meat industry makes it hard for me to stomach, but not all vegans agree with me.

M&S Tofish & chips.jpg

Something else which excited me was the Tofish and Chips addition to MArks & Spencer’s Plant Kitchen range, Sadly the vegan fish is tasteless and you get about seven chips with it. I had half a packet of their Dirty Fries with the meal too and I was still left wanting more. Some vegan meals are better than others.

It does seem much easier to eat a vegan diet these days, but it’s also much easier to live on processed food alone. This article is about the mass of new lines on supermarket shelves this Veganuary.

When I became vegan, you could only really get processed vegan food from the local health food shop and I’m sure many vegans cooked from scratch out of necessity. So it was the launch of Jack Monroe’s Veganish which excited me most. I’ve long been an advocate of cheap and easy vegan cooking and Jack’s recipes are absolutely spot on in that respect. Very tasty too.

I am optimistic about the growth in veganism but would like to see more people using smaller independent fully vegan traders.

Veganuary ad

 

The reason people hate vegans revealed!

I found the recent Press stories about vegans lacking choline a bit odd. At first, I thought it because we weren’t visiting enough public swimming pools, but apparently, it’s a vital brain nutrient.

I’d never heard of it before the Media used it as a “bash the vegans” stick, the Mail’s story even totally neglected to mention the plant sources of the nutrient.

Apparently, Emma Derbyshire wrote the piece for an opinion body, so it’s an opinion piece, not scientific fact and vegans had great fun debunking the story on Facebook. The anti-vegans were also less than quietly condemning vegans for their “nutritionally deficient” diet, an opinion backed up by no evidence at all.

The Vegan Society have summed the whole thing up rather well: https://www.vegansociety.com/whats-new/news/statement-media-reports-about-choline-and-vegan-diets

But that’s the point in this social media opinion dominated world, facts go to the wall and convenient truths rule the roost. I read someone said “I don’t trust scientists” on one thread. Personally, I don’t trust anyone who’d believe politicians and businessmen above scientists – maybe he thinks the world is flat, cigarettes don’t cause cancer, water isn’t necessary for survival and cars do run on baked beans – basically anything that isn’t a scientific fact! This is what we’re up against when debating climate change – one of the reasons it’s important to be more vegan. Yes, I said “vegan!” Most people say “plant-based” these days as if veganism is a dirty word.

Similarly, stories that vegans carry a higher risk of strokes – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-49579820 – neglected to mention the fact the same study found vegans had a lower risk of heart disease in their headlines.

So, the real question is, why are people so worried about vegans’ health?

They’re not.

When people ask you “where do you get your protein/B12/iodine/choline” (delete as applicable) what they actually mean is “don’t be vegan, it doesn’t give you a balanced diet and that’s a good excuse for me not going vegan”. It’s another stick to beat vegans with. This one has “don’t you dare question my safe little reality with your vegan facts” etched on it.

They say “ignorance is bliss” and this rings so true when it comes to attacking veganism. Vegans are questioning the status quo, in effect questioning capitalism itself as the system is built on animal testing, animal agriculture and viewing our fellow creatures as commodities and not living beings – no wonder the Press, politicians and business leaders wish to lead the attack against veganism.

They do like to profit from the vegan pounds, of course, paying lip service to us by introducing plant-based products in supermarkets and fast-food outlets, raking in the vegan cash while failing to cut back on the number of animal products available.

People who question vegan nutrition online probably wouldn’t rush to your aid if you did collapse from protein deficiency. They laugh in a morbid “I told you so” manner when vegans happen to fall ill – totally ignoring all other factors. It is a sick way of reinforcing their prejudices if you think about it deeply – or not deeply at all come to that.

It comes down to asking why people hate vegans – and it’s not because we always talk about veganism, push our opinions down their throats or any other weak excuses, it’s for all the reasons above. Veganism remains radical, veganism remains rebellious and, fundamentally, it is the only way to save the planet’s wildlife and the planet itself. That this is seen as a threat shows that something is deeply wrong about people’s thinking and attitudes in the world today.