Meat for the Meatless: Fake Chicken Gets So Real ‘It’s Freaky’

Synthetic chicken product Beyond Meat is so good, it scares some reviewers into thinking it's real meat.

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Have we transcended the animal necessity of meat? TIME reported on it before it reached the commercial stage, but now the reviews are in from critics and connoisseurs, and it seems that scientists may have finally cracked the code to the perfect synthetic chicken meat: vegetarians (and meat-lovers) rejoice!

Slate writer Farhad Manjoo contemplated Beyond Meat —  a soy-based product that looks, tastes, and feels like chicken meat — and decided that it was as good or better than really chicken (it breaks apart slightly easier, so it doesn’t get stuck in your teeth, a major plus). As the commercial firm behind the new product begins to expand Beyond Meat’s availability, its planned proliferation raises some interesting questions about whether carnivorism will die out — but either way, it’s freakishly realistic.

(MORE: What Would a Test-Tube Hamburger Taste Like?)

Manjoo describes his Beyond Meat experience poetically: “There’s something about the way these fake chicken strips break on your teeth, the way they initially resist and then yield to your chew, the faint fatty residue they leave on your palate and your tongue—something about the whole experience that feels a little too real,” Manjoo writes.

And others agree. Christopher Isaac “Biz” Stone — the vegan Twitter co-founder just made a major investment in Beyond Meat — and he explained his financial move to Co.Exist: “The first reaction I had was, I know this is a meat analogue but if someone were to serve this to me in a restaurant I would have said ‘I think this is a mistake… There’s something about the mouth-feel, the fattiness. It feels fatty and muscly and like it’s not good for you when you’re chewing it. For a long-time vegan, it’s a little bit freaky.”

As TIME reported two years ago, Beyond Meat is the result of more than a decade of research conducted by two scientists at the University of Missouri, Fu-Hung Hsieh and Harold Huff. Ethan Brown, who got his start in the clean energy business, founded the commercial enterprise alongside the researchers in 2009, and he told Manjoo that he sees long-term success for the company for vegetarians and meat-lovers alike.

“Once, we had the horse-drawn carriage, and then we had the horse-less carriage, and then we had the automobile,” Brown told Slate. “I’m firmly convinced we’re going to go from beef and chicken products that are animal in origin to those that are made with plants—and at some point in the future you’ll walk down the aisle of the supermarket and ask for beef and chicken, and like the automobile has no relationship to the horse, what you get will have nothing to do with animals.”

MORE: The Fast-Food Ethicist

34 comments
TabithaJoy
TabithaJoy

What if you are highly allergic to SOY BASED PRODUCTS?!? IF this takes the nation/world by storm and no one gets actual meat anymore, this will effectively cause many people allergic to such foods to no longer get all the nutrition they need. Because most Vegan/Vegetarian diets include soybeans/soy flour in some form, then such people can't even go that route. So what about them?!?

tawster
tawster

There are two opposing trends in the USA (and much of the rest of the world). One trend is towards an artificial, urban, concrete, plastic, bugless, false-food existence. The other is a trend towards honest, natural, dirt and sunshine, human-as-animal, reality-based existence.

This "innovation" is firmly planted in the world of the former. This is a disturbing trend that, I fear, is outpacing the trend towards a more natural existence. This trend, of course, leads towards a dismissal of the importance of the natural world.

Sara Andrews
Sara Andrews

Unless you just got back from hunting a wild animal outside with a spear and limit to yourself to meat obtained that way I don't see your point.  There is nothing more far from natural dirt and sunshine than most modern animal farming practices.  You can be vegan on an entirely plant based whole foods "real" diet and be perfectly healthy (with a b12 supplement - this is a modern need btw, b12 is from bacteria that lives in dirt and it is only because we wash our vegetables so well that we even need a supplement) - which is great for those who wish to dedicate time and resources to it (a worthy endeavor I feel).  OR you can eat something made from vegetables ingredients occasionally that resembles meat from animals - this may not be a core of your diet, just part of it - there are very few modern people's who don't eat any processed food and good on them but  just because we've gotten good at combining vegetable foods to make something resembling flesh doesn't make it unnatural.  The trend that is disturbing is the growing population on earth of humans who currently consume 58 billion animals per year worldwide.  With pollution caused by animal farming and transport plus the increased resources animal farming requires at this rate we won't soon have a natural world to give any importance too.  

tawster
tawster

My response was never about vegetarianism. You want to eat only veggies, nuts, and berries and contain all animal injury and death to those activities, sure, go for it.

As for some of your points:

* Pollution due to animal farming is like pollution from non-animal farming. There is way too much of it, and it is caused by unethical farming practices.  It needs to end. I can't agree more. But, nothing to do with this discussion.

* The "unsustainable resources argument" in regards animal production is total bunk and has been debunked a long time ago. Again, nothing to do with this discussion.

*  58 billion animals being eaten per year. That just emphasizes that our population is out of control. Want real environmental change? Focus on reducing the human population. That is the only route to truly lasting change. Again, nothing to do with my comment.

I was not bashing vegetarianism or omnivorism. Different topics for a different day. I was pointing out that, over time, so many folks have moved into a world of total abstraction from reality and the natural world. It has happened so rapidly (really just in the last 100 years give or take). This "food innovation" is just a particular glaring example of that.

Beanybag
Beanybag

 You can assert the importance of nature, but you haven't demonstrated it. Happy words like dirt and sunshine aside, this existence is a more ethical one.

tawster
tawster

You're kidding, right? Food born in a lab is more ethical? Really? No. No it is not. Divorce yourself from reality and the natural world if you want, but you become part of the problem.

tawster
tawster

Can't reply directly for some reason. Anyway...

Factory farming is indeed in the same category as this faux-food/lab-farmed food. No one is arguing with that. Both are extremely disdainful of the natural world.

Beanybag
Beanybag

 That's an excellent retort, close your ears and shout no while clinging to your precious traditions and naturalistic fallacies. A cursory understanding of animal ethics will show the cold reality of factory farming as possibly the cruelest of all human inventions. Creating meat in an ethical and artificial manner, while somewhat creepier, is infinitely more humane. 

Doug W
Doug W

Grow up! You (meatless) eaters should just stick to your fruits and veggies and stop messing with foods. Most soy is produced by companies such as Monsanto and they pollute your (pretend) food. Let the meat eaters eat meat and you 'freaky' people can eat your Frankenstein Monsanto creations.

Tracey Chiancola
Tracey Chiancola

So you think the meat you eat doesn't contain the Monsanto poison?  Unless you are eating organic animals, you are consuming a lot more than just Monsanto chemicals.  What do you think they feed those poor animals?  Not to mention the antibiotics, growth hormones, steroids and pesticides associated with meat production.  Mad Cow disease, avian flu and the swine flu are direct results of a contaminated industry.  Jenny Sue is right, most vegetarian and vegans are very conscious of what is in their food.  

Joshua Katcher
Joshua Katcher

 "Most" global soy crop  is fed to cattle. Overwhelmingly.

Jenny Sue Hane
Jenny Sue Hane

Check the labels of vegan products ... a number of them make a point of avoiding any GMO soy in their makeup, because they know that most of the people they cater to are health- and/or environment-conscious.  It isn't Frankenfood, just a clever recipe.  Maybe you should grow up and stop insulting people who are trying to make the world a better place.  What would it take for you to trade in your meat products, anyway?  If you're offered something that tastes like meat, looks like meat, and has the same nutritional value as meat, and you still push it away in favor of "the real thing," all I can think is that you simply enjoy killing.

Michael Mc Carthy
Michael Mc Carthy

I LOVE meat - but having worked in agriculture in the past know what poor animals go through before they get to our plate, I feel guilty eating it. If a substitute for chicken and beef comes along I will be straight into it - and never look back!

Doug W
Doug W

Well, of course, they have to die to get to your plate. Be aganizingly awful for the poor creatures if you ingested them while alive... like prey animals do to their prey.

If we keep messing with our (food) we are all going to be very sick people in the future (as if we are not already).

Have you seen what kibble (horribly processed waste product) does to domestic animals when they play with it and convert it? Dogs and cats, specifically, crave and (need) real meat, organs and bones in their every day meals.

Tracey Chiancola
Tracey Chiancola

Messing with our food!  Don't you realize that animals have already been genetically altered?  The meat you eat has already sickened the population, look around.  Do your homework before you bash people's choices the live a more compassionate lifestyle.  The way animals are treated on factory farms and slaughter houses is nothing short of barbaric.  Try to visit one (although I suspect you may work for the industry) and see for yourself, oh wait, you won't be able to get in and god forbid you take a picture of the operation.  Don't want the torturous treatment to get documented.   

Beanybag
Beanybag

 Animals need to die, but do they need to be tortured? I'm guessing you're not aware of the cruelty of factory farming. Go ahead and tell me about how sick we will be while you watch people cut body parts off of animals with full consciousness and no anesthetic. I know where the real sickness is.

lukenbecki
lukenbecki

real meat eaters eat there meat raw , so what are you  ? a knock off meat eater ?

( If we keep messing with our (food) )  do you research on meat and quite hating  :)>

 Dogs and cats, specifically, crave and (need) real meat, organs and bones in their every day meals. are compareing yourself to dogs and cats . lol

Loomis Orange
Loomis Orange

If you're going to go and be a vegetarian Then Be One! Don't go cheating and eating something that Looks Like Chicken. You veggie people are nuts anyway. I thought you loved chickens and didn't believe in biting into one? If I was a vegetarian I certainly wouldn't want to bite into something that looked like something I have been refusing to eat. You wanna Chicken breast? EAT ONE

Joshua Katcher
Joshua Katcher

And this is evidence of you completely missing the point. Believe it or not, I had a watermelon flavored piece of gum - and there weren't any watermelons used! And it was still yummy!

Jenny Sue Hane
Jenny Sue Hane

The point of ethical vegetarianism is to save animals, not to deny oneself pleasure.  So it is not "cheating" to eat something that looks, tastes, and feels as if it came from an animal, but is actually plant-based.  I don't avoid chicken meat because I think it is gross; I avoid it because animals are killed to obtain it.  If I could eat something that resembled chicken without harming or killing an actual chicken, why shouldn't I?

Michael Mc Carthy
Michael Mc Carthy

Being a vegetarian doesn't necessarily mean a life style choice based on love of animals, many vegetarians love meat but don't eat it in protest at the cruelty involved in bringing meat to the table, many others are vegetarian because of health reasons. I also know some really freaky hypocritical vegetarians - but those types don't speak for the majority. (Have I gone off topic here?)

Doug W
Doug W

 Buy your meat from wholesome farming operators. They cost more but so do a lot of these (pretend) Monsanto-generated foods. LOL  I can just see the (do-gooders) stopping meat-eating animals (wolves, tigers, bears, etc.) from eating meat because it is SO CRUEL to the animal being hunted and killed and consumed. You (pity people) are pitiful.

Loomis Orange
Loomis Orange

I saw a woman the other day sitting at an outdoor dining area in Knoxville attempting to get her canine to eat his garden salad. I stopped long enough to laugh at her and suggest she give up her dog  and buy a set of rabbits.

Tracey Chiancola
Tracey Chiancola

Your reference to wolves, tigers and bears is ridiculous.  You really should educate yourself on the plight of animal rights before casting such uninformed comments.  Why is it that speaking up for animals is considered "extreme"?  Are vegetarians/vegans that much of a threat to you?

ThomasNeidhart
ThomasNeidhart

"fatty and muscly" - sorry that doesn't sound appetizing.  maybe he didn't use the best words.   I don't like fat on my chicken, it makes me gag.  I'll take the non-fatty type, please. ha

Doug W
Doug W

 Fat and organs and broth-cooked bones are the best part of the animal. The (lean) part of the meats are one of the last parts of the animals that carnivores eat in the wild. People cut off from (civilization as we know it) eat the fats and organs first, cook the marrow out of the bones and make broth but with the (lean) part of the meat they dry it out and use it for future meals. They cover the dried (lean) meat with fat to re-invigorate its' nutrient/intake balance.

Steve B
Steve B

Although I will continue to drive my car in lieu of a horse-drawn carriage, Mr. Brown, I do not foresee giving up actual beef and chicken for synthetic substitutes anytime soon. 

Luca
Luca

imagine if we get to live 400 years! where are we gonna go? jesus! mars, moon? water!!!!!couse NASA is busy doing taxes 

Luca
Luca

finally!

James Keller
James Keller

I've tried something like this in a vegetarian restaurant before. It looked like chicken but didn't really taste like one. I am yet to try this one that also tastes like chicken.

Maritza McLaughli
Maritza McLaughli

Coming to a Dumpster Dive Burger Joint, soon...MomentDifference.blogspot.com