Rethinking Vegetarian-based Meat

First off, let's get something straight. I'm a carnivore. And while I toy with the idea of going vegetarian, I never made the leap.

But being a carnivore presents a number of challenges, and the future of meat has me asking some big ethical questions. Beyond issues surrounding humane living and dying conditions, did you know the meat industry produces more greenhouse gasses than transportation or factory production? According to a UN report, "current production levels of meat contribute between 14-22% of the 36 billion tons of 'CO2-equivalent' greenhouse gasses the world produces every year."

Meat. It's far from an efficient system. NPR's Morning Edition, noted that, "meat has more of an impact on the environment than any other food we eat. That's because livestock require so much more food, water, land, and energy than plants to raise and transport."  It's a powerful piece illustrating the resources that go into a mere 1/4 pound of hamburger:

6.7 pounds of feed and forage
52.8 gallons of water
74.5 square feet of land for grazing and raising feed crops

While the environmental debate rages on, I think about my own contribution. I've written a lot about: know your rancher, whole animal butchery, and ethical meat. And I'll be honest, it's something I still struggle with. I eat less meat. I eat better meat. But I bump against my own limited finances. In a perfect world, I'd love to buy a cow share. At this juncture, it's not feasible.

Grappling with these issues, I explored another option.

Have you ever heard of Quorn? UK-based Quorn is a non-GMO meat alternative. Until a dinner invitation landed in my inbox, I'd never heard of Quorn. I quickly learned it's one of the top 40 food products sold the UK. Distributed in 10 countries around the world, Quorn's annual sales top $214 Million. This was worth exploring.

I could extol the benefits of Quorn: lower carbon footprint, protein level on par with meat, cholesterol-free, economical, and freezer-friendly. But the real question does it taste? The texture reminds me of meat, brined and slightly spongy (thanks to the Mycoprotien). It's a significant leap to other "meat alternatives" I've tried, an the most closely resembling "meat."

At our dinner, the "Grounds" - Quorn's answer to ground meat, was presented in a luscious bolognese. Truth be told, I'd never know the difference. I'm anxious to play with it myself, envisioning a Quorn-based version of my mama's meatballs.

By the third course, I was a believer. Chef presented a goat cheese ravioli, featuring a light sauce with cherry tomatoes and diced Chick'n Tenders (non-breaded). According to their website, you can cook "Quorn products in the oven, grill, microwave, or on the stove, as you would meat our poultry." The tenders hold a lot of promise in my kitchen..specifically as an added protein source on top of salads, or in this case, as an addition to pasta dishes.

While the meat industry battles it out, I'm excited to discover another option:

Quorn products, spotted at Target. Photo credit: Nancy Croisier