By Eben van Tonder
24 August 2020
Meat products fall in the following three categories.
Pure Meat Products is where every ingredient except the spices come from an animal carcass.
Meat Analogues are starches and soy, grains and cereals which are made so that it tastes like meat but contains no part of an animal carcass. The question comes up as to why would a vegan, for example, who does not want to eat meat, buy a product disguised as meat, but which, in reality, contains no meat? Pure meat and meat analogues are therefore two opposing and extreme ends of the spectrum.
Meat Hybrids is the middle of the two and combines meat and plant-based protein, essential for the purpose of achieving a cheaper product. There is something deceptive about this class of products since it is often designed to mislead as to the real nature of the products (I say this, despite the label declaration, which is often still enigmatic to consumers). They think it’s meat, but it contains a percentage of non-meat fillers. This is almost always done to reduce the price of the product, which, in a country like South Africa, is not necessarily a bad thing. Affordable food, where “affordable” is relative to the income level of the consumer, is a very important consideration. It must also be stated that for the most part, large producers of this kind of products do not add as fillers and extenders, anything except high quality, acceptable and healthy products such as soy in the meat to extend it.
My personal preference is clear. I prefer pure meat products mainly based on taste and, to a lesser extent, on matters such as allergy which relate to health in that some of the fillers may be allergens. Taste of pure meat products can, in my personal opinion, not be matched in taste, firmness, mouthfeel, or any other organoleptic characteristics (the aspects of the end-product that create an individual experience via the senses—including taste, sight and smell).
Meat Hybrids I can understand, living in Africa where there is a long tradition of honouring every scrap of meat. My main issue is with meat analogues.
It was with this background that I was intrigued by Denny Mushroom’s range of meat substitute products they recently launched. When I saw it being advertised at our local Spar I immediately went looking for it, but due to its popularity, only the mince was left. My wife and I decided to compare it to soy mince.
In order to do any evaluation worth its salt, we find it best to pare it against a competitor. Here is our evaluation:
We chose the same basic method of preparation and ingredients.
Denny Beef Style Mince
Mushrooms (75%), Oats, Onion, Seasoning (Yeast Extract [Garlic, Sugar], Salt, Dextrose, Caramel colour, Silicon dioxide, Herbs & spices), Maize, Vegetable fat (Sunflower seed, Palm kernel, THBQ, Sodium alginate, Calcium sulphate, Dextrose, Phosphate, Modified Starch), Psyllium husk, Beetroot, Ascorbic acid, Flavouring, Guar gum, Potassium sorbate.
Phrases like “meat alternative” and “100% Vegan Superfood” removes all doubt – it contains no meat.
The product looks like mince and it is obvious where the name comes from. I have a bit of an issue with the “Beef Style” part of the name since it creates an expectation that it will taste like beef. The ingredients list makes it clear that there is no beef in the product.
At first, I am disappointed by the “Beef Style Mince” when I realise that it does not taste like meat at all. My problem with it was, however short-lived when I took my second bite! The taste is “refreshing!” It is unlike anything I had before and is delicious! It stands on its own as a well-formulated product! Sure, it tastes nothing like mince, but it still is exceptional!
Minette and I both noticed that it binds well, meaning that it mushes into a meatball (well, not a meatball 🙈🙈🙈 but you get my point) 🤣 This characteristic opens up a world of possibilities for the chef and is also distinctly different from minced meat.
The manager at Spar told me that the mince is not selling as well as the rest of the range. In my personal opinion it will be a pity if, for commercial reasons, the line is killed.
I understand why they would never go there, but is ripe for inclusion in a food hybrid formulation. A thought for the future as a different brand name with a unique positioning will do well with it. It scores a well deserved 8 out of 10 for a refreshing taste, its originality and the overall product formulation! Hats off to the development team!
Veggie Mince of Frey’s
The product comes in an inner pack with gravy, but right from the start, one can see that it looks far less appealing than Denny’s product. The ingredients are:
Vegetable Protein (Soya, Wheat (Gluten)), Flavourings (Onion, Pepper, Maize Starch, Anti-caking Agent (E551), Savory Flavour), Vegetable Oil (Sunflower Seed), Wheat (Gluten) Flour, Potato Starch, Plant Fibre, Maize Starch, Thickener (Methyl Cellulose), Ground Coriander (Sulphites), Salt, Onion, Mustard, Colourant: Caramel IV
Similarly to Denny’s, it positions itself squarely for the vegetarian market with no meat. The taste was unfortunately such that I could not take a second bite. We threw it all into a bag and in the dustbin. It scores a disappointing 2 out of 10.
In contrast to this, I got up at 2:00 a.m. this morning and sneaked into the kitchen to finish the leftovers of the Denny product!
I understand why marketers link non-meat products to meat. They believe a meat point of reference will aid them in selling the product. Life may very well prove them right. Still, it is a pity, particularly in the case of Denny who produced a unique and exceptional product which should be able to stand on its own two feet, apart from the simile to meat. Why not call it Mushroom Style Mince? or Denny Style Mince? Whatever you call it, it is a brilliant product!
– Frey’s is a well-respected producer and there are many of its products which I love and regularly buy. The Mince is only one of them which I will rather give a miss.
– The views expressed are purely my own. The products were prepared in an unscientific way and no blind test or other evaluation was performed besides merely my first impressions upon tasting it. I advise consumers to be their own judge if they agree with me or not.
– I refer to myself as doing the evaluations for the sake of not making my amazing wife complicit in my comparisons! 🙂 Reality is that I am a very poor cook and she is in a league of her own. Her sister and she practice cooking as an art and not a way to get food in one’s stomach! Minette, therefore, prepares all the meals – exceptionally well. I only enjoy and judge them with her!
Please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org for comments or suggestions. Feel free to comment at the bottom of this blog post!