What are some vegetarian artificial meat recipes

Meat substitute products: What to look out for when buying vegetarian sausages

by Peter Carstens
For meat eaters and flexitarians, they can be the entry point to an animal-free diet. But what are veggie schnitzel, tofu wieners and Co. really good for?

Meat substitute products, as muscle-free roasting is called in technical jargon, suggest enjoyment without animal suffering and with a clear conscience. Without anyone having to do without the crispy searing and hearty bite. Even if die-hard vegans turn up their noses at the fake meat: For more and more people it is a good alternative to conventional animal products.

The market for such products is still a niche market compared to the trade in meat and meat products. But it is growing rapidly - by almost a third in 2015. The meat producer Rügenwalder Mühle, for example, was one of the first to enter the German market in 2014 - and already makes 20 percent of its sales with veggie meat.

Reason enough to take a look at how good the products actually are. This is what the magazines "Ökotest" and "Test" have done. And were not very enthusiastic.

Because it is true: no pig had to lose its life for a vegetarian schnitzel. However, it is by no means an all-round eco-correct, perfectly healthy product. The reason are problematic ingredients. This applies to the issues of animal welfare, health and the environment.

"Test" put a total of 20 veggie schnitzel, sausages and meatballs under the microscope. Chicken eggs were included in half of the products. However, they only come from animal-friendly organic production in one case. And even they are faced with the problem of the mass killing of "excess" male chicks. The Bratwurst from Valess received an overall rating of "good" from "Test", but contains not only chicken protein, but also 71 percent milk and cheese - from conventional dairy farming.

Interesting for allergy sufferers: Almost all of the products tested contain seitan. What sounds good at first is, in terms of food technology, nothing more than gluten, a sticky protein that is obtained from wheat. Such products are taboo for those who are allergic to the substance. And three quarters of the products examined by "Test" are based on soy. The legume comes from organic and regional production only in exceptional cases. If you want to avoid genetic engineering (in South America mainly genetically modified plants are grown) and pesticides, you should go for the eco option. However, "Test" did not find any traces of genetic engineering in the products analyzed.

Particularly problematic: mineral oil in the sausage

It is irritating that both "Öko-Test" and "Test" found considerable amounts of mineral oil components, so-called MOSHs (mineral oil saturated hydrocarbons), in many of the products examined. They should ensure a meat-like, firm consistency. "Test" found values ​​of 20 to 60 milligrams per kilogram in six of the products tested. In the "classic schnitzel" of the Rügenwalder Mühle even 400 milligrams. That was enough "test" to rate the product as "unsatisfactory". Another five veggie sausages were only rated "sufficient" for the same reason. Although there is no legal limit for the substance, the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa) has rated it as "potentially worrying" according to the "test".

From the point of view of animal welfare and health, meat fakes are not always recommended. And what about climate protection? Here, too, the "test" conclusion is sobering: It is true that meat has a poor CO2 balance. But nobody should buy the substitute products to protect the climate. Because they consist of heavily processed intermediate products - plus packaging. Since the climate advantage shrinks beyond recognition.

Our tips

  • If you are concerned about the fat content, you should look at the nutritional information. Not all meat substitutes are leaner than the animal original.
  • Pay attention to terms like "vegetarian" (can contain animal products such as milk, cheese or eggs), "vegan" (purely vegetable) and eco-label - and take a look at the list of ingredients.
  • Soy from Europe has a better carbon footprint than soy from Brazil. Some manufacturers already advertise explicitly with the domestic protein supplier. Sweet lupins are also a good alternative - and they also grow in German fields.
  • Anyone who buys veggie products from the large meat companies should be aware that the massive commitment of the giants is a problem for smaller pioneers of meat-free nutrition. And most of the proceeds from traditional meat producers are still used in the manufacture of animal products. So it is better to use the products of the smaller (organic) manufacturers who only produce animal-free products.
  • The good news: Meat substitutes are not required for a balanced, healthy vegetarian or vegan diet. Fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, seeds and nuts contain - apart from vitamin B12 - everything your heart desires.