As many people have now noticed, the market is being inundated by the amount of new vegan products- in particular analog meats (also known as faux meat, imitation meats, etc). Although plant based analog meats have been sold in the market for decades, they seem to have added popularity in the last few years following a massive marketing efforts by international large cooperation.
Most of these products rely mainly on Protein Isolates, (soy, pea, wheat etc) ingredient that provides the “meaty” texture and mouth feel, as well as several other additives including methyl-cellulose, an additive that brings firmness mimicking meat texture. Those Ingredients defined by Nova Food Classification system as Ultra-Processed ingredients. The shift to this diet is largely supported by concerns over animal cruelty, environmental degradation and health.
As a shift to a plant based diet has always been supported by Syndian, we recognize its positive value on those multiple levels.
Having said that; following various inquiries and questions from the public, including retailers and consumers of Syndian Natural Food Products, we feel it is the appropriate time to explain our position regarding faux or analog meats.
Although Syndian supports the increase of plant-based food consumption, Syndian does not and has no plans at present to manufacture or sell products that are considered faux meats that are primarily based on proteins isolated for the following reasons:
Syndian has always advocated for plant-based food products- holding high the importance of wholefood, clean ingredients and minimum processing and its impact over the health and well-being of our consumers. We believe that protein isolates (from any of the pulses or grains) is an ultra-processed food ingredient, although it can be high in protein levels, the intensive processing degrades those ingredients of other nutrients that are important to a balanced diet, such as fiber.
To achieve the desired outcome in flavor and texture, analog meats rely heavily on fat, sodium and various additives, and in some cases preservatives to achieve and maintain those outcomes.
A recent study by the George Institute for Global Health in Melbourne has found faux meat poses health risks to the consumer.
"We know that Australians are leaning towards eating more of a plant-based diet. This is ultimately a good thing," study leader Ms. Farrand said. "However, these are still packaged, processed foods."
We believe that protein is an important nutrient, yet equally important to healthy development are other nutrients such as fiber, carbohydrates, minerals vitamins and others. We at Syndian, believe that a well-balanced diet which relies on balanced nutrients based on wholefoods, clean ingredients with minimal processing is a key component to healthy being.
While concerns over environmental impact may be a reason for many to switch to analog meats, it’s important to know that there is a growing body of knowledge suggesting that the process of isolation for meat substitutes has a significant environmental footprint. Although still much preferred than natural meat, the isolation process relies on high levels of water and energy to extract the pure form of protein.
Atze van der Goot associate professor of the Food Process Engineering department at Wageningen University suggests that "Due to the inefficiencies in the process to make meat alternatives, we lose completely the environmental benefits”.
Jacqueline Berghout, of the same institute, questioned the focus on the purity of the fractions. Due to that “we can question the sustainability of the protein isolation process…Is it really necessary to make these pure ingredients? No food consists of one single ingredient." She claims.
At Syndian we believe that the human palate is trainable, plants around us are endless, and provide us countless flavors and textures, with many having been accomplished and many others yet to be explored.
Yes, we completely support the idea that faux meats helps the transition of the meat-eater to plant-based foods by ‘compromising’ on the alternative, and we are willing to accept this as a great method to incorporate change, yet sustainability in the long term remains a question, do we want to continue to be attached to flavors of flesh despite the costs? At Syndian we feel that going back to basics, simple and whole foods is the way to move forward.
We at Syndian think that although the shift to plant-based food products is a welcome change in our society, the reliance on processed single ingredients such as protein isolates could have an unwelcome impact over our continued health and environment. We feel that further scrutiny is required.
Further questions remain regarding these ingredients- one relates to processing, in particular the methods of extraction, is it chemical or mechanical extraction? And what is the impact either method has on health and/or the environment.
Another question relates to ratio or percentage of protein extracted of the total pulse? This begs further question regarding the fate of remaining particles of that pulse? Which, if any, other industries benefit from it? Do the remains get dumped? Does it become animal feed? Or incorporated in food for human? These are questions, despite our trials; Syndian had not been able to obtain answers to.