As people become more aware of the health and environmental risks of red meat, a growing number of Canadians are looking to curb the amount of meat in their diets. Some are adopting a more plant-based diet; others are giving up meat altogether (roughly 4% of the population is currently vegetarian).

The most popular alternative protein sources? Nuts, legumes, insects (!) and fake meat. Fake meat — also known as meat alternative, meat substitute, mock meat, faux meat, imitation meat, vegetarian meat, or vegan meat — is a more recent food trend that’s also being increasingly seen as a sensible option: On average, it takes 10 times less CO2 to produce fake meat than beef.

Growing options

There’s no denying that the first imitation meat products to arrive on store shelves left a lot to be desired — mostly because imitating the mix of proteins and fat found in meat was extremely difficult to do at the time. But today’s vegetable-based meats do a much better job of mimicking the look, smell, taste and even the sound of grilled meat, to the point that many carnivores would be mistaken.

Imitation meat is gaining ground not only among vegetarians and vegans, but also with anyone looking for alternatives to animal products. Fortunately, there are now plenty of options to choose from. You can now find meat substitute products made from tofu, tempeh, textured vegetable protein, quorn, seitan, soy, wheat or mycoprotein.

Between now and 2022, the meatless meat market is expected to grow globally by 6.6% a year.

Is imitation meat really better for your health?

Replacing animal meat with vegetable protein is good for both the environment and the wallet. There is a small catch, however. Faux meat products tend to be heavily processed and high in additives, salt and/or sugar. In other words, they aren’t necessarily “healthy.” Nor do they always contain a sufficient amount of protein.

Vegetarian meat is therefore a good option if you’re looking to reduce your consumption of animal products as part of a healthy and varied diet.