Meat but not animal: Veggie steaksteemCreated with Sketch.

in vegetarian •  5 months ago

Meat but not animal is a concept that I’ve really got into lately. I spent the first 30 or so years of my life as a meat eater, and I did love me a good steak every now and then. So when I saw this product in my local Tescos I just had to try it out.

At the beginning of 2017 I decided to reduce my meat consumption to zero. I won’t go into the reasons why I decided to make this change in the first place, which were personal to me and likely not of interest to you. Although what I would like to do is occasionally talk a little about the ways in which a good understanding of human psychology can make the changing process in general a whole lot easier. No matter what you’re looking to change in your life.

We’ll check back in with the veggie steak a little later on.

Identity and meat consumption

Today I’d like to talk about identity.

Some of the best life advice I’ve ever received has been to store my beliefs separate from my sense of self worth. That way my beliefs can change as I learn more about the world, and my place in it, without the change completely destroying any identity that I might use to define myself.

It is important to me that I am a person that changes and not a person that’s just a bunch of labels set in stone.

As a wise internet man once said

“If you always want to be right, you need to always be prepared to change your mind”

And if you know me in real life I’m sure you can attest, being right about things is deeply, deeply important to me!

It’s firmer than a raw steak that’s for sure. Feels dense, like a thick yoga mat (boy do I know how to make things sound delicious)

Over the course of my life I’d heard a lot of arguments against meat eating. I was often able to bat most of these arguments away with some arguments of my own. At the time the arguments that I used always felt logical and reasonable but the more I brought them into the discussion the more I could see the hole in them, even if my non-meat eating friends could not (or were too exhausted by the conversation to point them out).

In 2016 I was starting to find it difficult to remain in the right and continue to eat meat. I felt that I had to make some sort of change.

In her book Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism Dr. Melanie Joy talks about the hidden ideology that the normal, everyday meat eating diet can often hold within it. We don’t perhaps feel as if we’re following an ideology while we eat but if we examine which animals are socially acceptable to eat and which animals are not, it quickly becomes apparent that the normal does have a structure to it that perhaps isn’t as strictly logical as we’d like to think.

The trouble with identity in my experience all lies in the social aspect. To build a sense of identity it’s important to look to others to see how they perform it. To maintain an identity you have a strong incentive to show others the right way to perform it because if there’s consensus then that’s validation. If you fail to live up to an identity or are new and get bits of it wrong it can feel emotionally painful.

Altogether these parts form a feedback loop where everyone is kept in line with a shared sense of who they are and what they are supposed do.

I thought I’d keep it simple (and lazy) just cooking it with some potatoes (in the oven) and some peppers. I keep wanting to touch test it like I would with a dead cow steak but this has no give to it. How do I know when it’s medium rare?

Breaking out of an identity therefore can feel like a threat to those others who are still within it and lonely for the individuals that leave. Meaning that it’s often easier to just stay with the status quo.

I was thinking about this a lot in 2016 when I was considering becoming a vegetarian. I worried about the identity aspect. What if I told people that I had become a vegetarian only to then not be able to maintain the behavioural aspect and relapse back into being a meat eater? What if I became a vegetarian and tried to maintain my identity by arguing with my meat eating friends in the aggressive way that I’d seen some vegetarian/vegans do in the past?

I didn't want either of these options so in the end I settled on defining the change with a focus on the behaviour rather than the identity.

And so, as I mentioned up top, at the start of 2017 I decided to reduce my meat consumption to zero.

Over time I became more comfortable with the label of vegetarian. Mainly because it was easier than having the following interaction each time it cropped up in conversation:

Friend: You’re a vegetarian now aren’t you Richard?

Me: sigh Hang on a sec, let me just get the flipchart…

I’m still surprised how often I get push back on the choice I now find myself at but I’ve become much better at finding a way to talk about it that doesn't piss literally everyone off.

Ok food’s cooked now, lets see how steak-like this veggie steak is

It looks impressive, I’ll give it that.

More like a medium rare burger than a steak. This is made from soy by the way. Insane, right?

The finished meal

The review (I guess that's what I'm doing here??)

Well it’s not a steak but it’s impressive whatever it is. It falls apart like meat, similar in the way that pulled pork would. If I close my eyes and really concentrate it does have the texture of a steak, somewhere between medium rare and medium but completely uniform all the way through (i.e. no pockets of lovely fatty bits). The taste is still in the uncanny valley, close but not close enough for it not to be a bit of a weird experience. It was a little dry so I ended up having it with some mayo in the end. Needs blood, or maybe a peppercorn sauce.

The best thing about this is how incredibly not healthy it tastes (in a good way), it’s small but its dense and satisfying.

I wouldn't recommend this if you still eat meat, it’s not a converter that’s for sure. This was designed with someone like me in mind, an ex-meat eater that wants the taste of seared dead cow meat but without all that pesky suffering it causes.

About me

My name is Richard, I blog under the name of @nonzerosum. I’m a PhD student at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. I write mostly on Global Health, Effective Altruism and The Psychology of Vaccine Hesitancy. If you’d like to read more on these topics in the future follow me here on steemit or on twitter @RichClarkePsy.

P.s. This whole post was a lie, I wrote it over, like, two days. Writing is dangerous when you’re trying to fry a veggie steak, I cannot in good conscience let you leave here thinking it’s a good idea!

All images included in post are my own.

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You got a 23.89% upvote from @mitsuko courtesy of @socialbutterfly! .

I haven't yet found any truly satisfying meat substitute, supposedly some like beyond meat are pretty good, but they don't seem to be available here.


Yes i'm still to see any beyond meat in the wild (so to speak) yet too. That and the impossible burger.


Its good to see you by the way. The 30 day drop off appears to be a thing, up until this point its hard to find the effort to write after this point its hard to find enough time to write all the things you want to write! That was my experience at least.


Hehe, I haven't yet given up steemit completely, I still check in now and then. After the initial (over-)excitement wore off I noticed how extrinsic motivation for writing doesn't do me a lot of good, and somehow I'm not that inclined to write something just for the purpose of writing it (that's high enough quality to publish here anyway).


Ah yes, I know that feeling!

I keep waiting for this to be a little better and more mainstream.

Friend: You’re a vegetarian now aren’t you Richard?
Me: sigh Hang on a sec, let me just get the flipchart…

As someone who doesn't eat anything I consider 'too smart to eat' or too environmentally destructive to raise, I understand that struggle all too well.


They're getting there. I'm impressed by some of the quorn products lately.

I had a similar don't eat anything with a limbic system rule for a while. If it can't feel fear the it must be ok to eat!


I've enjoyed quorn in the past, so I can believe that.

Not sure if cephalopods have limbic systems. Pretty sure turkeys do, but I'm ok with eating them if humanely raised. (please don't tell me they can feel fear, eating fowl is one of the things that is keeping peace in my household ;) )


Ok, I wont tell you :D


I appreciate my ignorance, sometimes ;)

Sorry about all the bots in the comments guys!

I gave some spare change to @socialbutterfly and am starting to regret it now.

It looks like the technology for lab grown meats will eventually be upon us (my opinion). This will be another one of those major disruptive social events.

The ethics of eating meat for vegans will then be removed I suppose. My guess is that many vegans etc will quietly start eating lab grown meat without letting others know about it (it will still be a stigma in those circles).

Eventually more and more vegans will be eating lab grown meat that the only ones still vegan will be doing so for health reasons.


Also in, local UK news, Pigs are going to suffer because I cant kill them quick enough: BBC. Not really sure what to do with that information but there it is, that's a thing that's happening. Weird world.


Yes you might be right with that take. My hope is that vegans will welcome this change, from what I can tell the animal rights movement has grown up a lot in the last decade or so. Most people still have PETA in mind but the movement as a whole either rejects them entirely, or are trying to make them change their approach (because its pissing people off), and instead go for more pragmatic attempts to reduce suffering.

The latest goal is 50by40: reduce the production of animal products internationally by 50% by the year 2040. A solid target in my opinion.

I'm pretty certain that eventually technology is going to give us something that tastes and looks almost exactly like a steak, but that didn’t come from anything strictly ‘alive’(I think we might end up doing something like producing a huge ball of meat without a brain in a lab, or something like that). What I just typed doesn’t sound too appetizing but I guess we will get used to it!


Sure, there are two streams that are working towards a dead animal meat free world, both of which I’m very happy to see making some good progress lately. First is the plant based protein (i.e. this posts steak) and the second is what is known as clean meat. This is meat grown without a nervous system. If you think about the mass production of chicken right now, that’s basically what they’re trying to do only with it involving a huge amount of suffering, it wouldn’t take much to strip the consciousness part away from meat production. If that happens then I’m back on the meat train for sure!

Perception is a massive issue, like you say it doesn’t sound appetizing. It doesn’t sound natural is the other view the crops up a lot. I’m a big fan for economics solving the problem here, it’s surprising how quickly people change their minds when they start seeing they can achieve the same results for less money.

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yummy that looks fantastic

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