Can you distinguish a soy food from meat? We had ten blindfolded people try it

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Can you distinguish a soy food from meat? We had ten blindfolded people try it

Plant based foods are alternatives that try to imitate the taste, appearance and properties of meat and fish. We blindfolded ten people to see if plant-based foods can really replace animal proteins.

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“Mix the breadcrumbs with eggs, lemon juice and walnuts, then add a green bean and cream soup,” explains Henrietta Latham Dwight in her cookbook Golden Age Cook-Book. It's 1898 and this is the recipe for ” Mock Chicken “. It's nothing new to try to replace meat or fish with plant foods that resemble shape and flavor. In the Middle Ages, during Lent, minced meat was replaced with a mixture of walnuts and grapes , and in the third century AD, Athenaeus , in his work Deipnosophistae described the preparation of a fake anchovy . It should not be surprising to find “smoked salmon fillets” but made with lentils in supermarkets in the 21st century.

Plant-based foods are alternatives that try to imitate the flavor, appearance and properties of meat and fish. However, they are composed of vegetable proteins, such as legumes, tofu, or wheat gluten, to which vegetable oils and flavorings are added. They are not only designed for vegetarians or vegans, but also for those who want to reduce their meat consumption without completely eliminating it from their diet. The global demand for sustainable diets has in fact increased over the years, also to reduce the environmental impact of intensive farming. So we decided to do an experiment to understand if plant-based foods can really be an alternative. All we needed was a few pots, a black blindfold and ten tasters.

The Fanpage.it experiment

The underlying idea is that of a tasting in the dark , a sort of blind test. First we bought the food in a specialized shop . Among them: salmon sashimi, prawns, squid rings, sausages and a 3D printed fillet. Obviously all are plant-based, as specified on the label. We spent a total of 60 euros , not a little, but the portions are generous and by making an estimate the price would not have been lower if we had bought the same quantity of meat and fish.

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We cooked plant based foods in different ways. The prawns were fried , the battered squid rings were seasoned with parsley oil, the sausages were cooked in beer , and the meat was treated like a roast . We tried to create real dishes. Only the sashimi was served without any preparation, simply accompanied by soy sauce and wasabi.

Once the dishes have been prepared, it's time for the blind test. We asked ten Fanpage.it journalists to taste them, blindfolded , to understand if they were meat and fish or plant-based foods. In reality all the dishes were based on vegetable proteins , but they only discovered this when the experiment was finished. The reactions were varied, there were those who immediately understood that they had tasted a plant-based food, and those who instead mistook it for a slice of dog or a fish fillet. It also changes based on the dish tasted. For example, the salmon sashimi was credible, other dishes, such as sausage, managed to restore flavour, but not texture. Find all the results in the highlighted video.

How plant based foods are made

Plant based foods are made by extracting proteins from plant foods , often peas, soy, wheat proteins and mushrooms. Additives and oils are needed to restore the flavor and texture of meat and fish. For example coconut oil and palm oil to imitate the softness of meat. Coloring agents are also often added, such as red beet extracts, used for example in Beyond Meat's “raw” burger to mimic the color change that occurs when the meat is cooked.

Not all plant-based products are created equal. Therefore it is difficult to establish whether they are healthier than animal proteins, also because it depends on the meat (for example whether or not it is produced on an intensive farm). And in fact, according to a study published in the scientific journal Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, the saturated fat content of plant-based burgers varies from 0.2 to 8.5 grams per 100 grams.

Is fake meat more sustainable?

Companies that produce plant-based foods claim to use 99% less water, 93% less land and produce 90% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than a traditional cut of beef. A study published in The Lancet Planetary Health showed that switching to plant-based products would reduce the carbon footprint of US food production by 2.5-13.5%, and the number of animals needed for beef production would decrease , from 2 to 12 million. There are still studies underway to understand the impact on an environmental level, and at the moment plant-based foods can be a good alternative to combat intensive farming and reduce carbon emissions.

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