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Fake chicken is hard to make delicious. Did Beyond Meat crack the code?

If you’ve ever had a Beyond Burger or Impossible Burger, you know that plant-based food companies figured out how to make fake beef that tastes pretty meaty. Their success is reflected in the fact that many gourmets now perceive their products not only to be tolerable but also to be trendy.

However, when it comes to chicken, plant-based meat companies are have really struggled to find a convincing replacement. That’s mainly because recreating the structure of chicken muscles – which is of a fibrous quality, with strands that pull art – is much more difficult than creating a ground beef-like look. Beyond Meat has tried to mimic chicken in the past and launched chicken strips in 2012 reviews were mixed, and the company withdrew the product a few years later.

Now Beyond Meat is ready to try again with a new product: Beyond Chicken Tenders. Hundreds of restaurants in the US – mostly small regional chains – have the product on their menus starting July 8th (you can go here Tracking device to see if it’s available in your area). And this time around, the company may have finally cracked the code.

Her team of 200 scientists studied various plant candidates – soybeans, peas, mung beans, fava beans and so on – to find out which plant best provides the protein in their offerings. They found that when isolating protein from fava beans, they could use heating, cooling, and pressure to convert it into a structure that mimicked chicken muscles.

Fava beans could also mimic the taste and even the smell of chicken. In the laboratory, the scientists used an “e-nose” – an electronic nose that sniffs out the flavor molecules that come from real chickens and then sniffs out the flavor molecules from different plants to find the right match.

The result: new faux chicken tenders that hardly differ from the original.

The breaded tenders work well on their own or as part of a sandwich or wr, which some restaurants serve. (You won’t find the tenders in grocery stores just yet, but Beyond says they will soon be rolled out to hotels, college campuses, and stadiums.)

And the taste is just one of the benefits. There are health benefits too: Beyond Chicken Tenders have 40 percent less saturated fat than a typical restaurant tender, they have no cholesterol and are made without antibiotics. (Although, like regular chicken tenders, Beyond is high in sodium.)

Also, if you choose chicken-free chicken, you know that you are reducing the demand for chickens raised in horrific conditions on factory farms. These huge, industrialized farms are also damaging the environment and increasing the risk of new pandemics and antibiotic resistance – so you can feel good knowing you aren’t supporting this system.

„We call it hedonistic altruism,” said Ethan Brown, the founder and CEO of Beyond Meat. „If we can give consumers a delicious sensory experience and they can really feel good about what they are doing for the earth – that’s a win.”

Fried vegetable based chicken in a basket with french fries and ranch dip

An insight into the Beyond Chicken Tender.

Courtesy Beyond Meat

Okay, but does it actually taste like real chicken?

Even though the tenders are mostly made from fava beans, I honestly wouldn’t have guessed they were from a plant if I hadn’t known before the bite. They tasted almost identical to real chicken, and the breading made them look convincingly chicken-like.

When I peeled off the breading to see what was under the hood, I found that the texture inside didn’t match 100 percent chicken (it was a little denser), although I’d say it was 90 percent of the Was the way there. It reproduced the texture of traditional chicken nuggets slightly better than top freezer competitors, like Gardein’s vegan tenders.

I actually tried pulling the delicate art from Beyond Chicken, and it had a bit of fiberiness that was reminiscent of the strands in chicken muscle. Again, not 100 percent lifelike, but I only noticed the difference because I surgically dissected my lunch. Usually the guests don’t – so I thought, who cares about these tiny differences, anyway?

I found that I was questioning the whole premise that an artificial chicken product must be just like chicken. If I have something that is 90 percent similar to what I like to eat and it’s much better for animals, the environment, and human health, why shouldn’t I go into that? Why should I be so fanatically fixated on his methysical chickiness? The only thing that matters to me is that it tastes good.

But I know some people care about eating something that tastes exactly like chicken, so I took Beyond Chicken Tender to the toughest food critic I know: my 87-year-old grandmother. She has cooked incredible chicken dishes for decades, and I wanted to see if she would sniff the difference if I didn’t tell her what she was being served wasn’t real chicken. So I just told her I had brought us a treat to share. After taking a few bites, she said it tasted „very good.”

Then I revealed to her that this wasn’t a real chicken; it was made from plants.

She stared at me for a second. Then she said, “I don’t mind as long as it tastes like chicken. And it does! It’s a little harder, but if you hadn’t said anything, I wouldn’t have noticed. ”

Is this the future of chicken consumption?

So far, Beyond Chicken Tenders are only available in around 400 restaurant locations. But if more restaurants add the tenders to their menus – and if KFC, afterwards Evaluation of the Beyond Fried Chicken test run 2020, go ahead with a national rollout – it could help us break away from our deeply troubled current system of raising real chickens.

over 99 percent all of the chickens we eat come from factory farms. These are not the idyllic farms that we imagine as children, with birds roaming free in the countryside. Instead, chickens are raised in huge, noisy, overcrowded warehouses with ammonia fumes. Due to genetic selection for larger size, they grow so fast that their legs cannot support their weight. After six weeks of misery, they are killed.

And as my colleague Kelsey Piper has explained, the average American eats about 23 chickens each year, compared to just over a tenth of a cow. That’s because chickens are much smaller and only produce a few pounds of meat. Chicken has also become very popular; Americans eat twice as much of it today as they did in the 1970s.

All of this bothers Brown, the CEO of Beyond Meat, very much.

„Animal welfare is a very important aspect,” he said. “Only in terms of the number of sentient beings – the sheer number of active beings – are chickens up there. It is certainly something different from beef. ”

But plant-based companies have not yet been able to mimic chicken in all of its forms. Making a breaded tender is one thing – the breading can act as a camouflage. Creating a compelling chicken breast is a whole different dream, and Brown suggested that we shouldn’t expect it to come true anytime soon.

“We have some projects that we consider holy grail, and Chicken Breast is one of them. It looks very individual, ”he said. „This will take a while.”

Meanwhile, the chicken tenders are a good start.