Almost one year ago, I learned about an exciting startup called Beyond Meat. It had the early support of Internet entrepreneurs (and vegans) Biz Stone and Evan Williams of Twitter and I’ve been waiting impatiently for their products to become available in New York City. Recently I found Beyond Meat for sale in my local Whole Foods and decided to dig in a little more closely into what this product is about, and use it in a recipe.
What is Beyond Meat? On a practical level Beyond Meat is a plant-based protein source created from soybeans and peas. Made in strips that look just like chicken, this meat substitute is low in fat, carbs and calories and is a complete protein. It’s sold refrigerated and ready to heat and eat, designed for use in any dish where one might consider using chicken, such as sandwiches, salads or stir-frys. Beyond Meat’s attractive modern packaging, uncanny resemblance to meat, and recent press have roused the curiosity of vegetarians, vegans and meateaters alike. While I found Beyond Meat stocked in the ‘meat substitute’ section of Whole Foods, I have also read that the founders planned to sell it at meat counters, a fact that highlights why I think Beyond Meat is so interesting and important.
The name Beyond Meat suggests a time in the future where we no longer need or desire meat. Providing the nutritional and experiential aspects of meat without the appalling and labyrinthine meat industry, Beyond Meat begs the question: Just because it simulates the taste of chicken, does it mean it has to come from a animal? In the same way that Twitter has distilled the overwhelming noise of content down to essentials creating an entirely new form of expression, Beyond Meat is a new type of food product that challenges our ideas about where our food comes from. It’s funny how many articles about Beyond Meat will reference the film Soylent Green, a 1973 science fiction film in which a resource-depleted New York City is forced to consume a plant-based food, only to find that it is made from the remains of people. But rather than sci-fi and dystopic, the evolution of food production into a (truly) plant-based system could actually work out better for us in terms of health, the environment and the battle against hunger. (I would argue our current food system is closer to Soylent Green than we realize, but that’s another blog post).
But will meat devotees eat it if it didn’t come from an animal? “For anyone who craves the flavor and feel of meat, this might be the first legitimate substitute,” said Stone in a Fast Company article. On the other hand, some vegans will no doubt be uncomfortable buying a plant-based product sold at the meat counter. Stone goes on, “For people who are actually repulsed by meat, they’re not going to like this. It’s just too real-tasting.” On both sides of the meat divide, Beyond Meat may be enabling a discourse about meat consumption, causing us to reevaluate what satisfies us and where our food comes from.
Beyond Meat provides a glimpse at the future of healthy and humane food consumption. With its essential nutrients and flavorful appeal, it has the power to not only substitute but to replace meat for many people. I almost hate to refer to it as a meat substitute, as it is a tasty, satisfying product in its own right that has the potential to change the meat industry. I found Beyond Meat to have a remarkable resemblance to chicken. (While actual chicken disgusts me, this product was enjoyable). It absorbs flavors beautifully and you’re immediate struck by its visual similarity to chicken, which may partly explain why it can fool tasters. The product still has a barely detectable sponginess similar to tofu, but the slightly stringy texture unquestionably evokes chicken.
For this recipe, I used Beyond Meat’s Chicken-Free Strips, Lightly Seasoned. (You’ll also find Grilled and Southwest Style offerings). Check out www.beyondmeat.com to see where the products can be found near you. Serve with rice or rice noodles.
- 1 bunch broccoli, cut into florets
- 1 mango, peeled and sliced
- 4 scallions, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, sliced
- 1 T vegetable oil
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 t ginger, minced
- 1 12 oz package Beyond Meat Lightly Seasoned Chicken-Style Strips
- ½ t crushed red pepper flakes
- ½ c orange juice
- 4 T soy sauce
- 1 T lime juice
- 2 t rice vinegar
- 1 t sesame oil
- 1 T corn starch
- optional garnish: fresh cilantro or additional chopped scallions
- Steam broccoli until tender but still crisp and prep all remaining ingredient.
- In a small bowl, combine orange juice, soy sauce, lime juice, rice vinegar, sesame oil and corn starch and stir until corn starch has dissolved.
- In a large saute pan, heat vegetable oil. Add garlic and ginger and saute over medium heat 1-2 minutes. Add crushed red pepper and Beyond Meat strips. Saute another 3 minutes. Stir in pepper and scallions, and cook another 2 minutes. Stir in broccoli and mango and gently combine and tossing until heated through.
- Stir in orange juice mixture and simmer for 3 minutes until sauce has thickened.
- Remove from heat and garnish with cilantro or scallions, if you like.