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 didnít 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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Photo by joefutrelle/Flickr


Jim Ven
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks for sharing.

Dave C.
David Cabout a year ago

never understand what is the "beef over bacon" itself

Colin Wright
Past Member 4 years ago

For my part, I am now completely Vegan but I eat the "fake meat" products not because they remind me of eating meat, but simply for the taste of the actual products themselves. They could make them in the shape of a wheel and colored purple and I would eat them just as often. For instance, I love barbecue sauce (Vegan) and regularly eat Vegan fake barbecue products. But also, if I don't have any of that on hand I will dip raw veggies in barbecue sauce like a dip.

I also love many other "fake meat" type items that taste like chicken or beef but as with even real meat, often the taste of one item is really not the different from the taste of another item, except for the spices used to flavor it.For instance, people who eat things like snake often compare the taste to chicken. This is because those meats taste very similar to begin with, and are usually just flavored and prepared differently. How many different cuts of steak are going to taste radically different BEFORE being seasoned or cooked in vastly different ways?

Anything salty and nutty tasting (similar to actual meat or cheese) is always going to appeal to human taste buds simply because we have that craving for a wide variety of tastes. That doesn't mean we have to torture animals to death to get that.

Past Member
Past Member 4 years ago

Though I don't feel any deep yearning for meat-flavored chips, I AM concerned about this development, simply because it shrinks the pool of vegetarian-edible foods even further. I swear it's as if the food manufacturers are purposely trying to make life difficult for us by sprinkling tiny amounts of dead animal through everything. And if grocery shopping is difficult, social gatherings at which unthinking omnivores are contributing most of the food are even worse. Give us a break; meat does not need to be in chips.

Christina B.
Christina B4 years ago

@Anne Some very good mock meat brands are Tofurky sandwich slices (they even have Italian Deli flavor which tastes just like pastrami to me), Morningstar, Boca (Tomato Basil Patties, didn't care for the veggie burger flavor personally but it's very popular with others) and Lightlife. I hope this helps you some as you eat veggie!

Anne H.
Anne H4 years ago

@ Cheyenne, yes they can say they are. Being vegetarian has to do with eating not speaking. I understand you are speaking of the lifestyle but I would not fault anyone who is doing what they can even if this means they don't consume animals but wear leather.

I don't seek meat flavored items and sometimes get freaked out by the fake meats. Whole Foods nuggets as an example. I look for the consistancy/nutrition of the item.

Ncl L.
Ncl L4 years ago

Thanks for the info

Debbie Hartman
DEBORAH Hartman4 years ago

great info thanks

Kelly Bossinade
Past Member 4 years ago

It really depends on what I eat. For example, as a child I loved to eat 'saucijzenbroodjes' - a Dutch meat filled pastry - and still like them, in the vegetarian version. That's nostalgic to me. But for other foods I usually prefer the ones without a meaty taste.

Joan Mcallister
4 years ago

Thanks for sharing.