Plant-based meat alternatives:

Why use them and what options are available?

Plant based meat alternatives

Overview

The team at allmanhall take a look at whether we should be eating more plant-based meat alternatives, to reduce ruminants in our diet.

There has been an exponential rise in the demand of plant-based alternatives, and subsequently their development and  availability. The number of these products grew by almost 700% between 2015 and 2021, accounting for 12% of launches in 2021.

Here, allmanhall’s Registered Dietitian, Tess Warnes and Sustainability Manager, Theo Kuehn discuss the explosive growth of plant-based alternatives to meat. Breaking down the options available, Theo and Tess look at the topic from the angles of both nutrition
and from one of sustainability. 

They are exploring:

  • Why we need to move to plant based meat alternatives.
  • Are they nutritionally a good switch?
  • What plant proteins are available?
  • How can we increase their update?
  • How to use them in dishes and some recipe ideas.

Why the need?

From a sustainability perspective, food is 26% of global emissions, with 14% of this is directly related to the production of animal proteins. According to the Eat Lancet report, to meet the planetary targets of the Paris treaty (1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels), we need to limit food-related emissions to less than 1.85kg co2e per Kg of food. When beef can have an impact of almost 100kg co2e per kg produced, it’s clear to reach these targets we need to shift our diets.

On almost all planetary metrics, these alternatives are far more beneficial. Take, for example, this breakdown of a beef-based burger patty vs a Beyond Meat alternative (available from Bidfood). The Beyond Meat  burger is, in our opinion, delicious. It also uses fewer resources and causes less impact. The choice is seemingly simple!

Are plant-based alternatives nutritionally a good switch?

Including more plant-based foods has been shown to be beneficial for our health. There is a wide variety to choose from, and they do vary in their nutritional composition. 

Key take outs regarding plant-based alternatives:

  • Tend to be higher in fibre due to the natural composition of the food.
  • Lowers in saturated fats.
  • Some brands are fortified with Iron, B12 (meat is high in these nutrients)
  • Some are high in salt, use plain mycoprotein (Quorn), soya mince / pieces and tofu wherever possible, as these are less processed and lower in salt.
  • Protein may be lower than the meat equivalent, but most alternatives provide sufficient protein for those eating healthy balanced diets.
  • Beans and lentils are nutritionally dense, high in protein/ fibre and packed full of other micronutrients.
  • Try to vary the range of plant-based dishes on the menu.

What plant proteins are available?

There are now a wide range of plant proteins and brands to choose from. The majority use myoprotein, soya or pea protein.

Quorn is a mycoprotein, high in protein and fibre, made by fermentation of a nutritious fungus. Sometimes egg is used as a binder but they also have a vegan range.

Soya protein is one of the original protein substitutes, made from isolated protein in soya beans, soya is very high in protein. Many products contain soya protein including Moving Mountains range and Redefine Meat. Tofu is also made from soya beans.

Pea protein is now used in several products, it is derived and extracted from yellow and green split peas, high in protein and contains other vitamins and minerals, useful for those with soya allergies. Products using pea protein include Devil’s Kitchen and Beyond Meat.

Jackfruit is relatively new to the UK but eaten for decades in South and Southeast Asia. Jackfruit is used for its meaty like texture, whilst it is high in fibre it has lower protein content so works well in combination with meat, halving the meat in a dish and replacing with jackfruit, for example, in dishes such as chilis and curries.

Pulses such as beans and lentils are a great source of nutrition, and great addition to any meat dish or served on their own, they are also cheap so will help cut down on costs. You may have seen our Procurement and Sustainability Director, Mike Meek shout out to ‘the humble bean’ in his recent ITN interview about positive change in the UK food supply!

If not, you can watch it here…

How can we use and improve uptake of plant-based proteins?

We know the shift can be difficult, so here are some tips to gently nudge better menu choices!

Positioning of plant-based dishes: A study from Cambridge University found placing plant-based foods first but also with a metre distance from the meat dish increased the uptake in by between 25-40%.

Re-name plant-based dishes: It’s all about marketing! Rather than calling a dish a vegan burger, or vegan curry, name it something that will capture the imagination of all and make it sound as delicious as it is, rather than pigeon-holing it as something only suitable for vegetarians or vegans or making it sound like a compromise. The rise of flexitarianism makes this shift in approach so important. For example: a sweet potato and spinach curry or a Beyond cheese burger.

Ditch the meat-free phase: Swap meat-free for another phrase… having a meat-free day is great and proven to lower catering emissions. However, naming this something like ‘Save the planet Tuesday’, or ‘Green Wednesday’ is more emotive and will help engagement. It’s not a sacrifice, it’s an opportunity to do something good for yourself and for the planet. And why does it have to be just one day?!

Combination dishes: 50/50 recipes are a great way to start, rather than scrapping meat completely from a dish. They can help reduce the quantity of meat used and the carbon emissions of the ingredients, as well as bolstering the dish with pulses or non- meat alternatives can be a great way of reducing costs and planetary impact in one move. And our experience shows diners are often actually none the wiser! Of course clearly you do need to flag and be mindful of allergens when amending recipes.

Take Action – 6 things you can start doing now:

  • Reducing meat intake and shifting to plant-based alternatives, with benefits for our health and the environment.
  • Aiming to choose less processed alternatives such as plain mycoprotein (Quorn), soya mince / pieces and tofu wherever possible. They are both less processed and lower in salt.
  • Try a Save the Planet Tuesday and / or Green Wednesday instead of a meat-free day.
  • Rename plant-based dishes so they sound more appealing. You don’t need to say vegetarian or vegan, people are more flexible now!
  • Use 50/50 in dishes – try half meat half pulses, or plant-based mince. You may like to test this and see what the feedback is!
  • Try out Footsteps to see the impact your changes are making on the carbon footprint.

Contact allmanhall today and ask for details and about your free 5 recipe trial.

Plant based recipes inspiration: A comparison!

Beef Burger

vs

Devil’s Kitchen Plant burger

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