What’s the Beef Over Meatless Bacon Chips?
Smoky Bacon, Roast Chicken: despite their “meaty” names, these flavors of crisps (chips, if you’re in the U.S.) made by Walker’s Snack Foods are, or rather were, vegetarian. The U.K.-based Walker’s has announced that, as of February 2013, meat is now being used as an ingredient in the snacks. The rationale for the company changing the ingredients is, apparently, that using actual meat means that natural flavorings can be used.
Noting that there had been few complaints about the taste of the Smoky Bacon and Roast Chicken chips, people have asked why Walker’s decided to change the ingredients and have started a petition.
Walker’s products comprise about 47 percent of the market for such snacks in the U.K.. So if you do not eat meat but you still want the taste of it in your chips, the new ingredients means that you must seek meat-flavored vegetarian snacks elsewhere.
Why Are Vegetarians Eating Meat-flavored Food?
All this uproar about crispy snacks may sound like a tempest in a plastic bag. Why might vegetarians who’ve sworn off meat want to eat meat-flavored foods at all?
I’m a long-time vegetarian and, personally, I do not care for the taste of meat of any sort. I am not inclined to eat foods that are vegetarian or vegan but resemble meat, such as “burgers” made from beans or grains or “tofurkey” instead of a roasted turkey at Thanksgiving (bad memories of platters of Tofu Parmesan in my college dormitory cafeteria may have something to do with this).
Nonetheless, there are plenty of people who, choosing to be vegetarian or vegan for ethical and environmental reasons, may still like the taste of some kinds of meat, while definitely wishing to forego actually eating animals. As environmentalists point out, too many resources (water and arable land) are squandered to produce meat. Some experts predict future “catastrophic” food shortages unless most people switch to a vegetarian diet.
Accordingly, using other substances to flavor the Smoky Bacon and Roast Chicken chips is simply less wasteful. As the petition asking Walker’s to keep the chips vegetarian says, “killing yet more animals to promote a product that didn’t need any changes in the first place is unnecessary and pointless.”
Walker’s Smoky Bacon and Roast Chicken chips are just one snack, made by one manufacturer. But the decision to use real meat to flavor previously vegetarian foods touches on some pressing issues about our food supply. In the not-too-distant future, we may have no choice but to all be vegetarians or at least to eat a lot less meat. As a result, meat substitutes may be more in demand than ever. No one would (pardon the expression) have any beef about meat flavoring in chips as there may not be enough meat available.
If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, would you eat meat-flavored foods, provided that actual meat was not an ingredient in them?
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