This paper reviews the ingredients and nutrient contents of several plant-based meat alternatives (made from soy, other legumes, mycoprotein and cereals) and compares them to traditional meat products. It finds that no broad conclusions can be drawn about whether meat analogues or traditional meat products are healthier, with their composition varying between products.
The meat analogues investigated by the paper include the Beyond burger, the Impossible burger, and Quorn nuggets. These are compared to meat products including ground beef, a McDonald’s beef patty, and chicken nuggets.
The nutritional characteristics studied by the paper are energy content, protein, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, carbohydrate, dietary fibre, sodium and iron. The graphs below show the spread of values for energy and protein content per 100g of product. Full nutritional details are in Table 2 of Bohrer et al.
Figures: Energy (above) and protein (below) content of meat analogues (green) and traditional meat products (orange). From left to right, the columns are: (1) Beyond burger, (2) Impossible burger, (3) MorningStar farms grillers original burger, (4) Boca all American veggie burger, (5) Gardein meatless meat balls, (6) Tofurky ham roast with glaze, (7) Quorn brand chik’n nuggets, (8) Ground beef (93% lean, 7% fat), uncooked/raw, (9) Ground beef (93% lean, 7% fat), cooked, pan-fried, (10) McDonald’s beef patty, (11) Tyson fully cooked homestyle beef meatballs, (12) Hormel cure 81 classic boneless ham, and (13) Tyson fully cooked chicken nuggets.
Meat analogues, or plant-based products that simulate the properties of traditional meat products, have secured a position in the conversation of protein foods. Rapid growth of the meat analogue industry is occurring in the global food marketplace in both the retail and food service sectors. The purpose of this review was to investigate the ingredients used in the formulation of modern meat analogues, evaluate the nutrient specifications of modern meat analogue products, and then form a comparison with traditional meat products. Based on this investigation, it was determined – firstly, the ingredients used in the formulation of modern meat analogue products make these products fit under the classification of ultra-processed foods; and secondly, the nutrient specifications of popular meat analogue products can effectively simulate the nutrient specifications of the meat products they are attempting to simulate. Therefore, based on these findings, modern meat analogue products can offer roughly the same composition of nutrients as traditional meat products, albeit with many different ingredients and a high level of further processing.
Bohrer, B.M., 2019. An investigation of the formulation and nutritional composition of modern meat analogue products. Food Science and Human Wellness, 8(4), pp.320-329.
Read the full paper here. See also the Foodsource building block What is ultra-processed food? And why do people disagree about its utility as a concept?