Plant-based “meat” going strong, but not everyone is cheering

Photo: Barbora Kladivová / Czech Radio

Plant-based “meat” is gaining popularity the world over and it is not just vegetarians who are jumping on the bandwagon. Chicken strips, patties, burgers or sausages made from plant substitutes are now widely available in the Czech Republic and despite the high price many are willing to give them a try.

Photo: Barbora Kladivová / Czech Radio
It is not so long since vegetarian and vegan bars and restaurants were few and far between in Prague and practically non-existent outside the big cities. But now Czechs who wish to abstain from eating meat can have their pick, both when shopping and eating out. Products by the Californian company Beyond Meat, which uses pea protein as a convincing meat substitute, are now available at a number of big stores.

One of them is the Koší online food store, which has been selling burgers from Beyond Meat for several months. Despite the high price, about 800 crowns per kilogram, Beyond Meat products are selling exceedingly well. And according to Koší spokesman František Brož it is not just vegetarians who are forking out more money for plant-based patties, burgers and sausages. An increasing number of people have embraced the flexitarian diet, he told Czech Radio.

A flexitarian or semi-vegetarian diet is one that is plant-based with the occasional inclusion of meat and many people feel it is a good compromise between what their taste buds crave and healthy eating.

This is a long-term trend in Germany, for example, and it is catching on in the Czech Republic as well, where the sale of vegetable-based products resembling meat has been on the rise. Vegetarian and vegan foods have become increasingly popular in general. The Rohlí e-shop says that sales of these products have increased eightfold since the end of April and interest in new brands confirms this trend is not about to go away.

However not everyone is cheering. Nutrition experts are warning of the risks of excluding meat totally from one’s diet and arguing in favour of a more balanced approach. Their arguments are echoed by environmentalists, who say that promoting vegetable substitutes for meat in large quantities would lead to monoculture agriculture which would harm the landscape. And finally, some vegetarians are turning up their noses at substitutes, saying that if they are buying a veggie burger they want a delicious burger made from veggies, which tastes totally different from a burger made from meat.

Marketa, who has been a vegetarian for nine years, was disenchanted by the Beyond Meat burger she was asked to sample. “It tastes just like meat, like having a tartare steak. It’s not a taste I like. If I did, then I would probably eat the real thing” she told a Czech Radio reporter.