Slacker’s Syllabus: Fake Meat


Fake meat may seem modern, but it’s actually not. The first known plant-based meat product, called Nuttose, dropped in 1896. Kellogg wanted Americans to stop eating so many heavy foods, so they made a “meatless meat” out of peanuts — which was described as a “cheesy mass” that could be sliced, stewed, and hashed.

There wasn’t a lot of innovation in the fake meat market until the 1980s, when Oregon chef Paul Wenner ground up some leftover vegetables and turned them into a “Gardenburger.”

It was so popular that Wenner quit the restaurant biz and started selling Gardenburgers out of a van.


By the 1990s, other companies wanted in on the increasingly lucrative fake meat industry. They made products out of soy, rice, wheat, and mushrooms. Most of them looked and tasted like salty cardboard. Capitalism persisted.

$140 Billion

The expected worth of the meatless meat market by 2029

According to researchers at Barclay's

Smith Collection/Gado/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Proponents of fake meat claim that it’s better for your body.

Most experts agree, because most meat alternative have fewer calories than animal products — but they’re also highly processed and contain absurd amounts of sodium.

In the past decade, companies have been racing to make the bloodiest, meatiest product. “Bleeding” faux meats, like Impossible Burger, are made of genetically modified soy proteins. A lot of people wonder if these highly processed products are actually better for people or the planet.

So, is eating fake meat good for the environment?

99% less water

Producing a Beyond Burger, for example, uses 99% less water, 90% fewer greenhouse gasses, and 46% less energy than making a beef burger.

University of Michigan Center for Sustainable Systems


Still, anything that comes in a shiny package also comes with a carbon footprint, and the reality is that fake meat has always been more of a marketing gimmick than a nutritional plan.

Most experts think the best thing for your bodyand the planet — is to eat a plant-based diet high in whole foods and low in processed foods, including fake meat.

I don’t know who still needs to hear this, but we were literally born onto a planet that grows food.

If you want to know more about the recent history of fake meat, here’s a handy timeline and some context on the ancient origins of meat alternatives.

If you want to learn more about what scientists think of fake meat, check out this research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, “Can Plant-Based Meat Alternatives Be Part of a Healthy and Sustainable Diet?”

If you want to know more about how your food choices impact your health and the health of the planet, there’s a growing movement to create a Planetary Health Diet (PHD). If you’re keen to join this movement, check out their resources and watch this video to learn more.


Thanks for reading,
head home for more!