Fake meat is a pretty controversial topic in the vegan community. I've been known to throw a jab or two in its general direction in my day, but truthfully I'm a fence-sitter when it comes to meat analogs.
1) Depending on the brand, their ingredients lists can be quite terrifying and they often contain a lot of the very items that scared some of us into veganism in the first place.
2) They can be expensive and the better ones are always more money than the creepy knock-offs. This is often because the independent companies try and include organic, non-gmo ingredients if they can. That costs money.
3) Some might argue that while they themselves are cruelty-free, vegan versions of non-vegan items do nothing short of glorifying meat, promoting the existence of the real thing. These folks are also opposed to the faux furs and faux leathers many of us vegans (myself included) wear/carry. Furthermore, a lot of times these fake meat brands are owned by parent companies that do scary things to animals. I see the point and the giant can of ethical worms that it opens (all alive and happy, I promise).
Now let's talk about the pros.
1) Sometimes you drink a lot and then you get a hankering for chicken strips at 3am. I went vegetarian before their mass availability here in southwestern Ontario and had a craving hit back then I would have kept being vegetarian anyway. But what if there was someone out there that wouldn't have?
We can argue their ethics until we're blue in the face but it doesn't change the fact that we lose tons of vegan hopefuls every single day because they think veganism is too difficult or too restrictive. Just because I personally have never found veganism to be too demanding of me doesn't mean that others have had the same experience. Since my ultimate goal is preserving the rights of animals to exist for their own purposes, having the most alternatives available to people, regardless of their tastes and incomes, is what is important to me. As more of these items flood the market, veganism becomes more present in the mainstream and with that, prices of these items come down, making them more accessible to the masses, in turn making veganism all that more appealing. With time I have faith that these people will someday rip into a collard wrap with the same zeal they once reserved for chicken wings. Until that day I will defend their right to faux meats in all their glory.
Also, if you can keep a secret, today I defend them a little bit for me too, because I've found a faux meat company I am a little bit bonkers over - Gardein.
Gardein is to the faux meats what Daiya is to the faux dairy. It's a game changer. All over Oprah and Martha Stewart, Gardein is quite the vegan superstar.
This is mostly because it is alarmingly meat-like. I must have reached some new level of veganism recently because sometimes I come across vegan products that I have trouble eating because they are too much like real meat.
Exception is made for the chicken strips pictured above because they are just too good. And let's be honest, actual chicken strips taste absolutely nothing like chicken anyway so you get the authenticity without too much "meatiness". Growing up I always liked my strips/nuggets with honey, which I'm told is weird. The good news is that if you are also a weirdo, these Gardein strips go awesomely with agave nectar and taste very much like the weeknight dinners of my childhood!
You know what else is good?
I haven't bought veggie burgers in years. We usually just throw whole portobello mushroom heads on the grill and treat those as burgers. But a few weeks ago when we were at Kindfood in Burlington I saw these magical little circles in their freezer and knew I had to try them, at least once.
You know what they kind of remind me of? McDonald's hamburgers. For real. I don't at all mean this in a derogatory way because in my day I loved McDonald's. And they are so much like the thin patties you get in McDonald's hamburgers, just not gross. They are begging for a Big Mac veganization, let me tell you. If you are grossed out by this then I'd steer clear of these burgers. But if you are one of our fine Club Vegan membership holders that went vegan not because you hated the taste of meat, but because you no longer wanted to support a violent industry - these are for you. These are so for you.
Plants and whole grains always have been and always will be the foundation of my veganism. But because veganism is not a diet and is instead an all-encompassing lifestyle that I've chosen for myself, there is room for treats now and again. Life is short - eat a fake chicken strip now and again if you want to. Just not at the sake of your broccoli.