From vegan beef to fishless filets, meat substitutes are on the rise


October 20, 2014 by Tess Riley

When asked to investigate the fascinating world of meat substitutes for the Guardian recently, I was keen to get stuck in.

Well versed already in the arguments around meat consumption and its contribution to climate change I may have been, but I knew little about the world of vegan beef, fishless filets (sic) and the mycoprotein Quorn, far less its implications for climate change.

As a non-meat eater for the majority of my life, I (like so many) had presumed that these meat-free products were aimed at me – a substitution for something that I did not miss whatsoever but which, I guessed, companies had created just in case I and my fellow veggies did. Indeed, many of my meat-free friends do consume meat-free foods and there are now products out there so realistic that taste tests between meat products and their equivalents have baffled meat and non-meat eaters alike.

However, as my latest Guardian article on meat substitutes demonstrates, I’m just one very small part of the target market. Why, for example, just aim your product at the 3% or so* vegetarian and vegan population of the UK when you have the other 97% of the population to think of too – from occasional meat-eaters to die-hard carnivores (well, omnivores).

The climate change implications of significantly reduced national and international meat consumption are significant. While I may be quite happy to ditch meat without needing an alternative look-alike, and support farmers who produce meat ethically and sustainably as we work towards transitioning to a low-meat diet across the board, I’m starting to wonder if these these meat-free products couldn’t be a key tool in helping us curb the dietary demands meat consumption currently places on the planet.

Have a read of my Guardian article here and let me know what you think…

*3% is the latest government figure, although Mintel research out earlier this month estimates that this figure is now more like 12%, with that figure rising to 20% for 16-24 year olds.


6 thoughts on “From vegan beef to fishless filets, meat substitutes are on the rise

  1. Philip says:

    Great article Tess. Very well researched and presented.
    Thank you for all you did at Streetbank, an organisation I love and champion.

    I must reccommend to anyone reading this Cauldron Food’s vege sausages. So herby and delicious.

  2. Thank you for your fine writing, Tess! I first read your article in Transition Free Press this spring. I think that you and your readers would be interested in the climate walk we are having this July. Here is a short description of that walk. Your ideas would be appreciated.

    The Converging Climate Walk across Britain in July 2015

    Britain started the Industrial Revolution, and now it must lead the world towards the Low-Carbon Revolution

    The impact of the Industrial Revolution on humans and the natural world is now being acutely felt. It is time for Britain to lead a new Low-Carbon Revolution, which is now essential for world stability. Since Britain was the world’s driving force in the technological and societal changes that brought about the global Industrial Revolution, it can be easily argued that there is an ethical duty for Britain to be the leading inspiration to stop rapid climate change.

    The September 2014 People’s Climate March has shown us that many governments, companies, faith groups and people in general are keen to enact a renewable energy commitment, as well as initiate actions for the entire Earth Community that can place Britain as a leader once more.

    Our vision is that by mid-July 2015 extensive partnerships will be in place for groups of people to set out from all corners of Britain on a walk to demonstrate their commitment to a low-carbon economy/culture. Travelling in relays and converging from all directions, the groups will initiate a Great Circle of Britain to firmly establish an unshakeable resolve to transition rapidly away from the fossil-fuel economy/culture in Britain and embrace climate-friendly solutions.
    We envisage that the event will draw support from a wide variety of groups and individuals of all ages, including Transition Towns, businesses, schools and colleges, faith groups and walking groups, writers, musicians, dancers, storytellers, painters, sculptors, actors, industrialists, economists, scientists, agriculturists, low -carbon transportation supporters, renewable energy enthusiasts, naturalists, historians, health professionals, advocates for social and climate justice, social media networkers, and representatives of political parties from town council to national government.
    Some groups might follow long-distance footpaths or cycle. Some might acknowledge key places, events and people that shaped the Industrial Revolution, such as James Watt’s birthplace in Greenock, or Ironbridge Gorge in Shropshire. On each leg of the journey there will be possibilities to create a range of bold climate-change responses to fit each local area’s values and aspirations.
    Grassroots efforts including everyone are essential. A symbolic green torch of flowers carried by the participants in each section of the walk will be handed over to the next group. Each section of the walk will close with a gathering including a Dance of Unity celebrating the Earth Community, with the next group joining in to begin their part of the walk the following day. The impetus can then be carried on in that community, with plans to implement local solutions to mitigate climate change. Tree saplings can be planted at the end of each local walk as a sign of commitment. People wishing to walk beyond their own geographical area to the Great Circle will intensify and expand the conversation and ultimately the regional solutions.
    The ‘Great’ in Great Britain can then be restored.

    • Tess Riley says:

      Hi Douglas – thanks for flagging that up. It makes me think of the very effective Climate Caravan that was part of Climate Camp – hope this is as colourful and inspiring!

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