You're no doubt aware of the rapidly growing plant-based meat market. But where exactly does this new sector fall in terms of classification and impact on human health?
Plant-Based Meat: Is it Meat or is it Memes? The Debate on Plant-Based Meat Classification
As the plant-based meat market continues to sizzle, many are left wondering: where does it fall in terms of classification? Well, according to the NOVA classification system, these meat alternatives can be considered "ultra-processed" if they're made mostly or entirely from substances extracted from foods and also often contain food additives. But let's be real, just because something is ultra-processed, doesn't mean it's not delicious (looking at you, instant ramen). And just because something is plant-based, doesn't mean it's automatically healthy.
The Great Plant-Based Meat Health Debate: Separating Fact from Fiction
When it comes to health, some argue that plant-based meats are a healthier option than traditional meats because they're lower in saturated fat and cholesterol. But let's not forget, if you're looking for a healthy option, you're probably not chomping down on a plant-based burger in the first place. And if you are, well, I have nothing more to say to you.
A common misconception is that once you read “plant based” it means healthy. The product can contain so many "hidden" ingredients that the customer will never imagine.
A plant based burger can contain high levels of sodium, sugar, and fats just like any other food. These critical ingredients are directly connected to high blood pressure, obesity, and even strokes.
The Harvard institute for public health says “ Plant-based ‘meat’ is not necessarily healthy” because it can contain a lot more sodium and saturated fats than meat."
Great food brands such as Panda Express, Burger King, Beyond Meat have been using plant based meat products for a few years now. Duke University conducted scientific research about metabolites that can be found in the plant based version compared to beef meat. Results are clear that plant based meat does contain the same amount of proteins, but it does not contain essential metabolites as amino acids that our body needs in order to stay vital, healthy and well nourished.
These proteins are disappearing in the process of isolation, hydrolysis, formulation and packaging. And this is just one ingredient in plant based meats that is mostly treated with strong chemicals like acids for better isolation or solvents like hexane for better extraction.
These are then mixed together - proteins, flavorings, colours, fibers, additives, salt, gelling agents, binding agents and more. Some even add vitamins of the B complex so the product is similar to real meat.
Consumers Bite into Plant-Based Meat: A Look at the Numbers
In terms of consumer behaviour, a report by Nielsen found that 39% of US consumers are actively trying to eat more plant-based foods, with millennials and Gen Z being the most likely to do so. Additionally, a survey by the Plant Based Foods Association found that nearly 60% of Americans are buying plant-based meat regularly.
The plant-based meat market has been on the rise in recent years, with an increasing number of consumers choosing meat alternatives for health, environmental, and ethical reasons. However, as with any new food trend, it's important to examine the facts and data to fully understand the impact of plant-based meat on both the industry and consumers.
According to a recent report by MarketsandMarkets, the global plant-based meat market has an estimated value of $7.9 billion in 2022, and is expected to generate $15.7 billion in revenue by 2027 . This growth can be attributed to a number of factors, including increased awareness about the health benefits of plant-based meat, as well as growing concern for the environment and animal welfare.
The Reality of the Situation...
In terms of health, a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that a diet rich in plant-based protein sources, such as those found in plant-based meats, is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. Additionally, a review of 12 studies by the University of Oxford found that plant-based diets are associated with a lower risk of obesity and a lower body mass index (BMI).
The environmental impact of plant-based meat is also a major factor driving its growth. According to a study by the University of Oxford, producing plant-based meat results in significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions, land use, and water use compared to producing traditional meat. Additionally, a report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) found that the livestock sector is one of the largest contributors to environmental problems, including deforestation, desertification, and water pollution.
Plant-based meat is here to stay. It's saving our planet and saving the population from obesity. It's easy to place any food under a microscope and find fault with it. (Well, not easy) But right now, plant-based foods are still in their infancy. There is still a lot of exploration and innovation to be had in this space which will no doubt bring about better processing techniques and simpler formulations to produce the food we love to eat.
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