“I don’t need meat alternatives”

My fellow vegans now and then say things that I’m critical of, and this one is pretty high up in that list: “I don’t need meat alternatives. I think it’s kinda disgusting, the way those products resemble meat. Give me beans everyday!” (or something like that).


Sure, I get it, your tastes are different. I also get that you are over the desire for anything that looks or tastes like meat. Maybe you want to show how totally you don’t want to have anything to do with animal products at all, so much so that you don’t want to be around anything that resembles them.

But here’s the thing, dear meat alternative-hating vegan: it’s not about you. You are already part of team vegan. You don’t need any convincing anymore. You’ve said bye-bye to animal products (hopefully forever), and that’s just great.

So who is it about, if not you? It’s about the 99% we still have to get to jump on the vegan wagon, of course. We need to do whatever appeals to them. This is, once more, about putting yourself in your audience’s shoes and trying to imagine what they want to eat, what they want to hear, etc.

Most people like (love!) to eat animal products. But I’m sure most of them wouldn’t insist that these products come from a (dead) animal. If we can make meat, dairy, egg… alternatives look and taste exactly the same as the original & cruel thing (and can make them not more expensive, at least as healthy, more sustainable, etc), then we can potentially convince a lot of people.

So people will like products that remind them of the products they like. It’s that simple.

Well, it’s not, of course. I know there are also concerns like “imitations, meh”, and “why do those vegans want to eat stuff that tastes like meat if they don’t want to eat meat”. I would suggest not to take such arguments too seriously.

Bottom line: alternatives for animal products are awesome. If you can get by on rice and beans (or even just raw food), that’s wonderful, but don’t confuse yourself with the people we still need to reach.




32 thoughts on ““I don’t need meat alternatives”

  1. Everybody I know says something at some point that I am critical of, not just the vegans. They are entitled to their opinions until I am installed as dictator and instruct them all to adopt my opinions. Until then, how about not hatefully attacking others for having a point of view and a thought-process. Your continued attempts to incite and divide vegans are tiresome.

      1. Tobias, your article is excellent! I totally agree with you. I am a vegan (about three years now) and a vegetarian for more than half of my life, and it’s true I don’t need my food to resemble meet- in fact I rather not- but it’s not about us but the people we need to appeal to so that they can also do the transition to a compassionate way of eating. If the alternative foods resemble more closely to what they are used to eating, the easier and faster that transition will be. Thank you for writing such a good article!!!!

    1. How interesting. I got pretty much the opposite of that from this article. I sensed no hatred at all, and an attempt to bring vegans together. An entirely positive experience.

  2. Excellent & well-written piece. My sentiments exactly. It’s my 26th year as a vegan. I’m pleased that quorn are bringing out vegan products. In the early years, without meat alternatives, being a person who ate meat every meal, it would have been very difficult for me to stick to a vegan diet – I wouldn’t have had a clue. Even today I enjoy Fries pies, Linda McCartney sausages & Swedish Glace ice-cream. I say a big “yes” to meat alternatives.

  3. Thanks for the post. I have no need for meat/cheese/egg alternatives but I buy them and eat them regularly, at grocery stores and/or restaurants. I want to encourage their production and distribution, and see them get better, more available, and less expensive. It’s a good way to stay focused on the animal victims–they come first!

  4. I didn’t try a lot of fake meats and just did by curiosity. Some are really salty and disgusting. I don’t think they are of any benefit in initiating people to veganism. But others are really fabulous and even better than originals. I remember that when I quitted meat years ago, I thought I needed soy burgers and tried them. They were so disgusting at that time I delayed my transition to learn more about how to replace meat. So yes to GOOD fake meats 🙂 The other ones are a threat!

  5. I wholeheartedly agree with your post here, Tobias, and find it hard to improve upon. Most of us eventually transition away from these meat analogs, but who (but the self-aggrandizing and toxic, trendy food-tripper) cares if we do or if we don’t. If this supports someone in making, and embracing, the transition from animal abuser to one who enjoys plant-based cuisine, how could a sincere animal rights advocate find fault? This IS about the animals along with our one shared planet. Not us. Whatever it takes to liberate non-human beings from the horrors we perpetrate on them via animal agriculture can’t happen fast enough. Vegans could choose to be part of that realistic solution. And once the global shit really does hit the proverbial fan, leaving animal agriculture a relic of dietary customs past, we’ll all celebrate those incredibly innovative souls who are currently working to perfect such alternatives. I just hope they don’t use up all the beans and rice to fabricate them! ;>)

  6. Prior to becoming a Vegan I was never really accustomed to Legumes. Once I did it was ‘hell where have these things been all my life’! I am one of ‘those’ that can live on legumes as I adore them. I have become such a creative cook with minimal cost that I wouldn’t even consider using ‘fake’ meat that is overpriced and frankly ‘fake’. When I cook for family and friends they are bowled over by my meals and many have gone Vegan not evening considering the fake meats due to my cooking wholesome colourful food. I never discuss the fake meats with any potential vegan as there are too many bad ones out there which puts a negative spin on veganism.

  7. I love fake meat, cheese, etc. Of course, they are much better now than they used to be. I have zero shame in eating them, but I have to admit all of the talk about how bad they are for your health, etc. is annoying. They’re certainly better than the analogous animal product, and like all foods, some are better than others. I’m vegan for ethical reasons and I honestly don’t think any cow cares whether I eat beans or vegan burgers. Interestingly, we eat a lot of beans at home because they are a traditional food – not because we are vegan. A balanced, fun, diet makes life nicer, and it’s stress relieving to eat comfort foods.

  8. I always agree with meat eaters that most meat tastes nice. It does, after all why would I have eaten it before I became vegetarian and then vegan if it didn’t?

    Although when I see meat I associate it with suffering, which puts me off, the reality is the physical taste bud sensations (minus the psychological overlay), is still nice. When I’m with someone who is eating meat I often say ‘oh that looks tasty’, this often completely floors them, and they then usually ask ‘well why don’t you eat it then’? Bingo!

    Getting squeamish in front of people who are eating meat is counterproductive. All it does is reinforce the misperception that you don’t eat meat because you don’t like the taste, rather than for any other reason, leaving them thinking, ‘well I like the taste unlike you, that’s why I eat it’.

  9. Good post! I agree so much with the idea that it is not about us, It’s about the animals and reaching those who still eat the animals. That is how we save more animals. I am excited about new vegan products, lab grown meat, vegan restarants, cookbooks, blogs and anything
    which will get people away from eating animals and their products.

  10. As with most discussions of food in the vegan community this one is done with no respect for the nutritional role foods play in our diet. Food isn’t just something that tastes good we put in our mouth, it supplies nutrition……and you just can’t replace meat, dairy, etc with anything you’d like. Many fake meat, dairy, etc products are junk with poor nutritional value and using them to replace nutritious meat, dairy, etc products is not likely to end well. These products also have the side effect of discouraging food experimentation which is precisely what you want, you want people to discover nutritious plant-based alternatives….you want these to become more common place and accepted. None of this will happen when people are focused on fake meats, fake dairy, etc which just re-emphasizes the role of meat, dairy, etc in our diet.

    A sensible and responsible vegan food culture would teach people how to thrive without meat, dairy……but that isn’t being done and the reason is obvious. Most of the $$ in the vegan community hinges on the marketing efforts of the producers of fake meat, fake fairy,etc…..

    What reason is there to believe that fake meat, fake dairy, etc products encourage people to eat less meat, dairy, rather than teaching them about sensible, ,tasty and nutritious alternatives?

    1. I like your comment. Makes me feel I’m looking the right way.
      I’m not a vegan (yet) and I’m researching about it, but my instinct tells me faux meat is no good, in many ways. I want to eat vegetables, real food. Otherwise is like eating any other processed foods. And one big problem in this world is processed food.
      Feels to me that eating faux meat is like breaking up with a boyfriend then getting another boyfriend that looks like your ex. It might feel awesome but it’s not healthy on the long run.
      I understand that some people feel this a bridge from meat to a vegan diet, but I don’t think it’s necessarily like that. Actually for a while what made me go away from veganism is all these faux animal products. I see many of my friends trying to recreate our favorites dishes with faux cheese or meat, and it’s not very appealing to me. I think we should change our minds and our taste buds completely into new, different flavors. I feel it’s better to eat a falafel than a burger for example.
      I recently, understood that I don’t need to use faux meat to be a vegan, that what I should do is what my mom always told me to do, eat your veggies…
      Anyhow, just saying, I like your comment.

  11. Mr Toad, you are so very wrong in your comment…..for those of us who live w’need to have MEAT folks, (husbands, kids, Parents-Law, etc., etc.) these products enable ME to keep both “the PEACE” and a Vegan kitchen! On the night I get “not more beans” I can be SURE of a very diff response the following night w’a meat or fish analog. The NUTRITION is mostly in the “whole plant foods” and most of these analog have as much or more protein than what the are substitutes for. Nobody is missing anything w’a few “fake” animal meals a week that include whole,plant food sides, and I thank those who have developed them (would have loved to mention them by name and give “KUDOS”) with all my heart as they have enabled me to have mostly Peace and Healthier family members as would have been impossible not that many years ago.

      1. Thanks, I always respond in a reasoned way….which is more than I can say for some others : )

        But really Tobias, you should encourage ideas from outside your echo-chamber….not discourage.

    1. @Karen, so true! My kids love Gardein’s beefless burgers and it’s nice for them to enjoy something familiar and fun. And like virtually all faux meats today, these burgers have more protein than a regular burger, very little fat, B12, iron and a host of other nutrients, plus fiber (try finding that in a “real” burger”.

      1. ModVegan,

        Its not just about protein and the total amount of protein is misleading….the quality matters as well. If its primarily made from vital wheat gluten than the overall quality of protein is considerably less than meat…..while soy based would be similar. But the other nutrients are the real concern, iron and zinc from meat is far more bio-available than iron and zinc from plants and since these fake vegan products are made from processed/refined ingredients a lot of the nutritional value has been stripped away. Some of the manufactures play the same game that cereal manufactures do, namely, sell a processed product with limited nutritional value and then make it appear nutritious by fortifying it.

        In any case, the goal should be for meat *not* to be familiar and fun.

        1. You know, these fakes re only meant to be eaten from time to time, just like candies and potato chips… Of course we can’t rely on these thing for nutrition, nobody should sustain themselves on processed food! However they can helps make veganism more appealing since we don’t have to give up entirely on the things we used to eat… But knowing you I guess you don’t want that…

          1. Any Nomous,

            If the fake vegan products were being promote as junk foods I wouldn’t have the same issue with them…..but they aren’t. They are being promoted as serious alternatives to meat, dairy, etc.

            These products may make veganism more appealing to a very particular person that is inclined to be vegan…..but I have no reason to believe they are good for the promotion of plant-based eating as a whole. People routinely make fun of them and they, more often than not, aren’t very good.

            But the distinction I’m trying to make here is between what may be good for a vegan or vegan household….and what is good for the overall promotion of meat elimination in society. Vegans focus on the former….but don’t think much about the latter.

    2. Karen,

      You start out saying I’m wrong……but then ignore much of what I’ve said. My comments had nothing to do with keeping a “vegan kitchen” but instead the more general ramifications of these products in society. There is nothing inconsistent about these products being good for your “vegan kitchen” but bad for a societal transformation away from meat. I personally don’t care about anybody’s “vegan kitchen” and think its far more sensible for people to slowly move away from meat, etc while they learn about nutritionally adequate alternatives.

      I’m not sure I understand what you’re trying to say about nutrition, but if you’re only eating fake meat, cheese, etc here and there then its not going to be an issue in the context of an otherwise balanced diet. But this ignores the issue, namely, that when you systematically replace meat, dairy, etc with these fake vegan version there is an overall drop in the quality of the diet and the vast majority of people lack the nutritional knowledge to offset for this drop. People base their diet on culturally determined “food rules” that tend to lead them to a balanced diet…..those rules go haywire when you start eating fake versions of animal foods that have drastically different nutritional values.

      So, as I said, these fake vegan products emphasize the current dietary paradigm….yet people need to move away from this paradigm if they are going to eat a quality diet without meat.

      1. It’s not necessary meat (and it’s taste and texture), that we are against, it’s more about the harm we have to cause to get that meat. It’s more about animal crualty for many of us, I myself am planning on trying lab meat once it’s affordable, because it would be cruelty free.

        1. Meat, weather it’s “lab meat” or a current “analog” made to taste and have the texture of the “real thing”, or the original “real thing,” isn’t particularly good for one. Aside from the B12, caused by animals eating dirt when they graze or root around as pigs do, there is NOTHING in meat that isn’t freely available in PLANTS and with FAR less calories to fill oneself up! The Standard American Diet (SAD) is killing us at an earlier and earlier age! As far as protein goes, there is more of it in 100 calories of POTATO than 100 calories of beef.

          1. Herbivorous don’t obtain B-12 from soil….but instead from fermentation in their digestive track (typically upper digestive track). And there are plenty of things in meat that aren’t available in plants….but it seems at least for adults none of them are essential nutrients. But they could be for select individuals and young children with immature organs……we don’t know enough yet.

            You can’t compare a vegan diet to the SAD diet….because a vegan diet represents a general class of diets where as the SAD diet is a particular diet.

            Your comment about protein isn’t accurate, there is only around 2.5 grams of protein in 100 calories worth of potato where as there is 10~20 grams in beef depending on the cut. And just think how such a comment comes of to non-vegans…..you lose all credibility and just think how they hurt vegans who may end up under consuming protein.

  12. Me thinks one ought to seek the “intent” of the comment and not “conflate” what was said into “new meaning”! I mentioned “whole food” as part of a analog meal and mentioned it also as an occasional treat so as to keep a family member both healthier and a Kitchen Vegan (something very important to many of us.

    Listen more and and conflate less……..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *