A meat analogue, also called a meat alternative, meat substitute, mock meat, faux meat, imitation meat, vegetarian meat, fake meat, or vegan meat, approximates certain aesthetic qualities (such as texture, flavor, appearance) or chemical characteristics of specific types of meat. Generally, meat analogue means a food made from vegetarian ingredients, and sometimes without animal products such as dairy. Many analogues are soy-based (e.g. tofu, tempeh) or gluten-based, but now may also be made from pea protein.
The target market for meat analogues includes vegetarians, vegans, non-vegetarians seeking to reduce their meat consumption, and people following religious dietary laws in Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism. Increasingly the global demand for sustainable diets in response to the outsized role animal products play in global warming and other environmental impacts has seen an increase in industries focused on finding substitutes similar to meat.
Meat substitution has a long history. Tofu, a popular meat analogue made from soybeans, was known in China during the period of the Western Han dynasty (206 BCE – 9 CE). A document written by Tao Gu (903–970) describes how tofu was called "small mutton" and valued as an imitation meat. Meat analogues such as tofu and wheat gluten are associated with Buddhist cuisine in China and other parts of East Asia. In Medieval Europe, meat analogues were popular during the Christian observance of Lent, when the consumption of meat from warm-blooded animals is forbidden.
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