Why do so many vegans and vegetarians love to eat fake meat? 2 months ago

Why do so many vegans and vegetarians love to eat fake meat?

There's a difference between a veggie burger and a vegan burger.

Or at least, there's a difference between what we perceive veggie and vegan burgers to be.

The former is a crispy patty stuffed with vegetable mush, vegetable pieces, and maybe some actual vegetables. Usually brittle. Often liable to fall apart.

Vegans burgers? Well they're just fake meat, obviously.

The past year or so has seen an explosion of meat-free but meat-esque alternatives enter the food market.

Everything from burgers to sausages to fake bacon slices have cropped up in supermarkets across the country, offering the veggies and the vegans among us the chance to fill ourselves with delicious treats that still align with our dietary requirements.

Where vegetarian once meant Anything But Meat, it appears that vegan has started to mean All Of The Meat Substitutes, as more and more delicious fake meats appear in shops, and more and more restaurants try their hand at meat-free alternatives.

And yet, there remains the one question that many non-veggies and non-vegans are still desperate to have answered: if you don't want to eat meat, then why would you ever want to eat fake meat?

Three years off meat I still find myself hanging around a bit longer than necessary wherever bacon is being fried.

It's not so much the taste but the smell; the way it wafts through homes, filling whole rooms, informing entire swathes of people that yes, there is indeed bacon being cooked.

The taste? Not so much, I can take it or leave it. It's not like southern fried chicken, or tuna melts, or Bunsen burgers.

Those I do like the taste of. I just don't eat them.

Like any normal person in this world, I too have woken up hungover and willed a chicken fillet roll to materialise before me. I have craved a bacon and egg breakfast muffin. I have emerged from the valley of the shadow of death and wanted a sausage roll.

Following a meat-free diet a mere five years ago would have proven the above scenario an incredibly difficult one to remedy. Grab yourself a frozen mush-filled patty and away you go. It's boring, but you'll deal with it.

These days though, pretty much every supermarket in the country is stocked with vegan and veggie alternatives; sausages, burgers, and nuggets that taste like meat, but contain none of it.

The market has exploded, much to the delight of the meat-free among us. But just what is it about plant based alternatives to meat that make them so enticing to veggies and vegans?

Sam Pearson says that a lot of the time, customers are simply enjoying the fact that meat substitutes aren't dull anymore.

As a chef and owner of Vegan Sandwich Co, he's more than aware of what people following plant based diets want to eat - and for his customers, it's food that tastes so good it could be mistaken for not being vegan at all.

"Plant based has undergone a dramatic shift over the past few years," he says. "Gone are the days when consumers expect vegan food to be tasteless vegetable mush.

"Consumers expect plant based products to be just as good, and rightly so, and it's innovative small businesses that are creating excellent products to meet these needs.

"It's only the start for meat substitutes and over the coming years we will see more and more products that make you question everything that vegan food can be."

Chef J. Kenji López-Alt recently explained exactly how chefs and food businesses are going about creating vegan alternatives for meat that taste so much like the real thing.

He told The New York Times that although there are considerable differences between the textures of animal and plant proteins, companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have figured out a way to mimic the richness and juiciness of actual meat.

Not to total perfection, but they've gotten it pretty close.

Texture, appearance, and taste are achieved by a strict combination of isolated plant proteins, beet extracts, and of course, coconut oil.

And although an avid meat eater would no doubt be able to tell the difference between a vegan burger and real meat, so would a vegetarian or vegan. They just don't mind that the difference is there.

There are countless reasons why a person might decide to remove meat from their diet.

Among them is that they simply don't like the taste of it, never enjoyed it, and have no interest in ever consuming it again.

But then there's the people who do like the taste of it, did enjoy it, and would potentially like to consume it again - just without the ethical and environmental concerns.

Enter fake meat: the protein filled, soya based, beetroot bleeding alternative that may not taste quite the same... but is definitely a lot better.

It's not just the taste, it's the entire concept.

Meat has long been the main event - the predominant sandwich filling, the centrepiece at the table, the foodstuff that used to make a meal.

Being vegetarian or vegan once meant an absence, a lack of something delicious, the replacement being a significantly larger side dish or - if you were particularly unlucky - a mountain of iceberg lettuce.

Now, things are different. The options are there - and they're delicious - so why wouldn't we want to eat them?