Just Eat the Damn Chicken


So don’t get me wrong, I have no beef against vegetarians (pun intended).  I respect their life choices as I hope they respect mine.  That said, I do have a few questions.  Why, if you wouldn’t eat a chicken would you want to eat “fake chicken”?  I mean, honestly…quorn??  It contains “mycoprotein” which supposedly makes the fake chicken as nutritious as real chicken!  It’s not soy, it’s not TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein, mmm, that sounds yummy too!) so what the heck is it?  It’s claimed to be mushroom, but if you look closer…it’s not what you think.  Here’s an excerpt from the quorn website (www.quorn.com)


“The mycoprotein organism that is used in all Quorn™ products does grow naturally, but we simply grow it under controlled conditions so that we can bring you a large variety of high-quality Quorn products”.  Hmmm…so rather than keeping it natural, we want to (once again) try to control Mother Nature (sorry, folks…always a bad idea!) 


And another excerpt, “Only Quorn™ products contain this special vegetarian protein ingredient, and our expert chefs have many years of experience in using mycoprotein as an ingredient and turning it into our deliciously tasty and convenient line of ingredient products, grillable items and classic chicken-style products that we’ve become famous for.”  So, nobody else is using this ingredient…why?  And what the heck is a “chicken-style product”? 


And one last quote from the quorn website, “How We Manufacture Quorn Products: The benefits of mycoprotein as a major ingredient in meat alternative products derive from the shape and size of the hyphae. It is not via any solution properties, since mycoprotein is not soluble nor does it give rise to any soluble components. This is the result of the heat treatment experienced during the RNA reduction process, which renders the protein component insoluble.

Because the harvested hyphae have a similar morphology to animal muscle cells-(i.e., they are filamentous with a high length/diameter ratio) the manufacturing process seeks to reproduce the structural organization which exists in natural meats. In meats, muscle cells are “held together” by connective tissue; to establish a similar product texture with mycoprotein, the hyphae are mixed with binders, flavorings, and other ingredients depending on final product format, formed into the required shape and size by the appropriate processing equipment, and then heated, which causes the protein binder to gel and thereby “bind” the hyphae together. This process is illustrated on this page. The resulting structures are similar to those in meat products, and they also break down in the mouth during chewing in a manner similar to meat products, which accounts for their similar textural properties.” 


OK, for starters, the title “How We Manufacture…”.  Ummm…manufactured food???  That sounds really vegetarian and healthy to me…NOT!  And did you understand any of that, other than the fact that whatever quorn is, it feels like chicken when you’re chewing it. 


Again, I ask the question, if you choose to be a vegetarian, why pretend that you’re not?  Why not just learn how to cook with vegetables, fruits, legumes, and grains rather than pretending to eat something that you’re not really eating?   Two of the most elusive nutrients in a vegetarian diet are protein and calcium, but you may be surprised where you will find them and how easy it is to keep a well-rounded diet without the manufactured stuff.  And don’t get me started on processed foods!  That’s a whole other rant, but not for today.


Looking for protein?  Try kidney beans, lentils, as well as a variety of other beans and legumes.  How about some grain sources of protein like barley, brown rice, oatmeal or wheat germ?  Did you know you could get protein from fruit?  Apples, bananas, melons, and strawberries are just a few that contain protein.  And of course, nuts are famous for their protein content. Looking for calcium?  How about those leafy greens and crucifers (ok, that’s like spinach and broccoli for the uninitiated).   Dried fruits, especially figs, are high in calcium as are many whole grains and legumes.  Four dried figs have 168 mg of calcium! And of course, dairy products (unless you’re vegan).  Are you seeing the pattern here?  Eating whole, natural foods gives you well rounded nutrition without supplements or (gasp!) manufactured nutrients.  A small portion of stir-fried kale and fermented tofu provides about 250 mg of calcium (about 25% of your daily need) as well as over 10 g of protein.


So, if you’re going to eat tofu, eat tofu.  If you’re going to eat mushrooms, eat mushrooms.  Don’t make them look or taste like chicken.  They’re not.  If you want to taste chicken, then suck it up and eat a real, grain-fed, free-range chicken and enjoy every juicy morsel of it.



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