Why people are eating plant-based meat
Gone are the days where you need to be exclusively vegetarian or vegan. Many people now are simply swapping out meat for a plant-based protein once or twice a week. “People are becoming more likely to get out of their comfort zone and prepare a few meat-free meals,” Lethlean says.
In her experience, Lethlean believes people are trying plant-based foods for health, environmental or animal welfare reasons.
The environmental credentials of a plant-heavy diet are well established, with research from the University of Sydney indicating that greenhouse emissions could be cut by 61 per cent if the world’s highest income nations switched to a plant-focused diet.
Speaking on the research, Dr Diana Bogueva from the University of Sydney says, “Adopting a plant-based diet is among one of the most powerful things a person can do for the climate.”
Eating a diet rich in plant-based foods also has several health benefits. Nutrition Australia, the country’s peak body on community nutrition education, notes that a plant-based diet has been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers when compared with a diet containing both plants and meat. Substitute meats can also be high in protein compared to traditional meat, depending on the ingredients.
That’s not to say all plant-based foods are created equal. As the industry grows, you shouldn’t’ assume all commercial plant-based foods are automatically healthier. “It’s important that issues like food additives, the introduction of new allergens, as well as potential reductions in food quality, are all considered when designing the next generation of plant-based foods,” Dr Bogueva says. “Plant-based diets need to be safe and nutritious, while also being good for the environment.”
Tips on how to cook and eat plant-based meat
Many of the items sold at supermarkets as well as at the Kynd Butcher can be directly swapped out for meat in recipes.
“I have customers come in and they say, ‘What would I do with the chicken that you have here, Amanda?’,” Lethlean says.
“And they'd tell me, they'd make a salad, they'd make a chicken curry, they would do a stir fry. That’s exactly the same thing that you can do with our plant-based chicken. I don't want people changing their habits. We just want to really substitute one product for the other.”
Lethlean does recommend reducing the cooking time for plant-based meat when compared to animal-based meat, to prevent overcooking. “One of the things with our plant-based products is they don't need to cook them for lengthy periods like we traditionally need to do with meat. “Most foods can even be cooked in a sandwich maker!” Lethlean says.
If you’re trying plant-based meat for the first time, ease yourself into it says Lethlean. “When transitioning into a meat-free meal there is always a compromise and adjustment in relation to the texture and taste.”
“I don't think that as a meat substitute, we were going to get the exact same experience. It's not necessarily going to taste the same as a [animal-protein] burger or sausage.”
“But when we're using lots of herbs and spices in curries, in Mexican dishes, Asian dishes, or even Italian dishes, we can get very close to mimicking those meat experiences.”