The Meat Lovers' Guide to Plant-Based Meat

CR analyzed 32 faux burgers, nuggets, fillets, and sausages for taste and nutrition, and talked with experts about whether they’re better for the environment. Here’s what you need to know.

 

By Brian Vines, Consumer Reports   

May 5, 2022

 

I’d been a vegetarian for a decade when the global pandemic hit in 2020 and, for reasons I still can’t explain, suddenly found myself with a Popeyes chicken sandwich in my hand. Now, as the pandemic panic recedes, I seem to be returning to my plant-based ways—but with a meaty twist. Thanks to a new crop of faux meats, my freezer is a new-age Old MacDonald’s farm, with a chik’n here, a “burger” there, and even a “fish” filet and “pork” sausage or two.

 

And I’m not the only one. More Americans are trying to eat more plants or less meat—53 percent, according to an August 2021 Consumer Reports nationally representative survey of 2,165 adults.

 

Of course, not everyone is ready to trade sirloin for tofu. So this current crop of plant-based meat—which includes burgers from Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, as well as fillets from Good Catch and sausages from MorningStar Farms Incogmeato—aims to be guilt-free for vegetarians and animal lovers yet meaty enough for carnivores. We’re not talking about your granddad’s black bean burgers here. These aim to look like, taste like, and have the texture of meat.

 

But speaking as someone who spent a decade as a vegetarian and 30 years enjoying ribs in the summer and turkey in the fall, as well as 50 cent wings every Thursday night of my college career, reading the ingredients and the Nutrition Facts labels on these products can make you wonder what exactly is in these new-fangled foods and whether they really are better for you, and the world.

 

To find out, CR looked at 32 plant-based burgers, fillets, nuggets, and sausages, comparing them on taste and nutrition. We also dug into the research and talked with nutritionists and environmental scientists to answer common questions about these brave new foods.

 

What's in Plant-Based Meat? ...

 

Which Taste Most Like Meat? ...

 

Do They Cost Less Than Real Meat? ... 

 

Are Plant-Based Meats Healthier?

 

That’s the main reason people say they’re interested in plant-based meats, CR’s survey found. But it’s not clear that they always are healthier...  

 

What About Those Added Ingredients?

 

That is a worry. Lots of evidence supports plant-based diets, but most comes from research involving whole foods, says Basheerah Enahora, RD, who has a plant-forward nutrition counseling practice in Charlotte, N.C. That means lots of fruits, vegetables, beans, and grains, and modest amounts of poultry, fish, and low-fat red meat.

 

These mock meats are plant-based—but they’re not whole foods. And that raises concerns among nutrition pros because growing research links ultraprocessed foods to increased risks of heart disease, weight gain, and more...

 

Which Have the Most Protein?

 

The makers of plant-based meats play up protein: Twenty-seven of the 32 products CR tested come with a protein claim. In some cases, the amounts are fairly close to what’s in the real thing...

 

Are They Really Better for the Environment? ...  

 

The Bottom Line

 

Nutritionist Enahora sees these foods as a mixed bag but thinks that if they help you move toward a plant-based diet, that’s good...

 

CR's Mock Meat Ratings ...   

 

more, including links    

https://www.consumerreports.org/meat-substitutes/the-meat-lovers-guide-to-plant-based-meat-a1041127424/