Tried and tested (by a meat loving omnivore)
Apolónia Supermarkets, having previously introduced the “Beyond Burger” to the Portuguese market, have just launched the latest product from US plant-based “meat” producer Beyond Meat and they are no ordinary veggie sausages. What they are is the result of a lab-produced, plant-based substance that has been engineered to look, smell and eat like meat.
As a committed meat lover, I was highly sceptical of these products when I watched a documentary on the project some time ago. But this is already a multibillion dollar business that has some very heavyweight investors behind it, amongst them Bill Gates, Leonardo DiCaprio and ex McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson.
Before I describe my own experience of cooking and eating these sausages, let’s have a look at who will be eating them and why. To start with, they are not cheap, costing just under €9 for three bangers. This makes them far more expensive than any meat-based sausage and up there with good quality beef in terms of cost-weight ratio. Clearly, they are not for anyone on a budget.
So, what about hardcore vegetarians and vegans? Now, surely if they miss the taste of meat that much, they would treat themselves occasionally to naturally-reared meat from animals that have had a happy life. But then I suppose many purist vegetarians are so inclined, not for environmental or health reasons, but simply because they love fury animals so much that they cannot bring themselves to eat them.
And what about the so-called pescatarians? To start with, I am of the opinion that anyone who labels his or herself as a pescatarian should be limited to a diet of only fish and seafood. They should not be allowed to eat fruit and vegetables unless they drop the silly label and just say that they do not eat meat.
In fact, the whole labelling thing has gotten ridiculously out of hand. A friend of mine recently told me that he had become a vegetarian, apart from the occasional steak as a treat.
The most stupid label of all, however, has to be the flexitarian; someone who aims to eat a mostly plant-based diet with reduced consumption of meat and fish.
If we look at the world around us today and take stock of the damage mass production of meat and overfishing are doing to the environment, the eating habits of the so-called flexitarians are an example we should all consider following, but rather than labelling ourselves, why not just say that we are eating less meat and fish?
Now, coming back to my sausage, this is where I see the market for plant-based high-tech “meat”; people who can comfortably afford to eat a nice steak for dinner but, for reasons of sustainability and with their own health in mind, will happily pay the same price or more for an artificial burger or sausage that satisfies their craving for meat.
On Saturday, Apolónia Supermarkets here in the Algarve were offering free tasters and it was with some trepidation that I placed the first ever morsel of meat substitute into my mouth, and I was very pleasantly surprised. It did actually taste like meat, much tastier in fact than a cheap processed sausage but also not as satisfying as a real sausage from a good butcher.
I found the texture to be slightly spongy in the mouth, not unlike that of a processed English breakfast sausage, but otherwise it was very tasty. I took a pack home, along with some lamb chops and steaks from the butcher, for a family BBQ, grilling them over charcoal for around six minutes, as per the instructions on the packet. There were mixed opinions at my table, but everyone agreed that it did actually taste like meat. Bill Gates and his fellow investors are no doubt onto a winner.