History of Meat Alternatives (960 CE to 2014)

William Shurtleff, Akiko AoyagiISBN: 978-1-928914-71-6

Publication Date: 2014 Dec. 17

Number of References in Bibliography: 3653

Earliest Reference: 960 CE

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What is a meat alternative? It is a meatless food that has approximately the same taste, appearance, and texture of a related food made from meat, poultry, fish or shellfish. Its nutritional value is, in general, approximately equal to (or sometimes greater than) that of the related food, including essential vitamin B-12. Its name often indicates the meat to which it is an alternative, and the label must indicate clearly that it is a meatless product. For example Tofurky is a meatless alternative to turkey. FriChik (or White-Chik) is an alternative to fried chicken. Choplets is an alternative to pork chops. Likewise there are Soyloin Steaks, Veja-Links (or Vegelinks), Vegetable Skallops, Bac*Os (or Stripples), Mock Chicken Tempeh Salad, a myriad of meatless burgers, etc.
      Traditionally a main ingredient in meat alternatives has been tofu (including fried and dried frozen tofu), wheat gluten, tempeh, yuba, and nuts (especially peanuts). Yet while these foods have been used for centuries to make meat alternatives, the Soyinfo Center does not include them in our definition of meat alternatives.
      More recently, soy protein isolates, concentrates, and modern textured soy protein products (such as spun soy protein fibers, TVP®, textured soy protein concentrates, etc.) have been added to the mix. Yet while these ingredients are increasingly used to make meat alternatives, we do not consider them to be meat alternatives. In the 1960s and 1970s they were often called “meat analogs/analogues.”
Meat alternatives serve many useful purposes:
● Most people who become vegetarians do so for reasons of health, protection of animals (not killing or exploiting them), and/or concern for the environment. They often keep their desire for the taste and texture of meat – at least for a while. Meat alternatives may make it easier for them to make the transition to, or to maintain, this new diet and lifestyle.
● Meat alternatives make it much easier for meat eaters to reduce or eliminate meat consumption – as, for example, when that is suggested by a cardiologist after (or just before) heart surgery. Many heavy consumers of meat cannot imagine life without it.
● They serve as an occasional “comfort food” for long-time vegetarians.
● A meatless turkey (such as Tofurky) makes it easier for vegetarians to “blend in” at Thanksgiving.
Brief Chronology of Meat Alternatives.
965 – The earliest known reference to tofu (worldwide) appears in China in the Anecdotes, Simple and Exotic (Qing yilu) by Tao Ku. It states: When Shi Ji was the magistrate of Qing Yang, he emphasized the virtue of frugality among the people, and discouraged the consumption of meat. Instead he promoted the sale of tofu. But rather than calling it doufu (the Chinese name for tofu), he referred to it as 'mock lamb chops' or 'the vice mayor's mutton.' (Translated by H.T. Huang, PhD, July 2002).
1301 – Meat alternatives are next mentioned, worldwide, in China. A recipe for mock lung sausage and one for mock eel (the main ingredient of each is mien-chin/wheat gluten) appears in the Essential Arts for Family Living (Jujia biyong shilei quanji), an encyclopedia.
1587 Jan. 24 – Yuba, called uba, is first mentioned worldwide; it appears in a Japanese diary.
1596 – Wheat gluten is again used in China to make meat alternatives in The Great Pharmacopoeia (Bencao gangmu) by Li Shizen. Yuba (doufu-pi) is first mentioned in China in the same work.
1621-1627 – At a banquet in Ming-dynasty China, a group of Buddhist nuns is reassured: "This is vegetarian food made to look like meat. It has come from the temple, and there can't possible be any harm in eating it." (Egerton’s 1939 translation of The Golden Lotus {Jin Ping Mei}, by Xioa-Xiao Sheng).
1790 – In the famous book Recipes from the Sui Garden (Suiyuan shidan) by Yuan Mei (Qing dynasty), Mock roast goose with yam wrapped in yuba (doufu pi) is mentioned. This is the earliest document seen that mentions a meat alternative resembling poultry.
1815 – Tempeh is first mentioned worldwide in the Serat Centini from Indonesia.
1852 Nov. 24 – Meat alternatives are first mentioned in the Western world. "We learn that a distinguished Grahamite has invented a vegetable sausage. It is composed mainly of red flannel and turnip tops, chopped fine. All heating spices are excluded. The vegetable sausage has long been a desideratum with the proprietors of vegetarian boarding-houses." (New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette {Concord}. “An important invention,” p. 3).
1876 – The term “substitute for meat” is first used (in English) in the official catalogue for Japan’s International Exhibition at Philadelphia. Tofu and miso, “afford the necessary nitrogenous substances, and to a certain extent form the substitute for meat;…” (p. 106).
1886 – The earliest known document to mention a meat alternative in Japan is A Japanese-English and English-Japanese Dictionary. 3rd ed., by James C. Hepburn. The entry states: “Hiriôzu: A kind of food made of tôfu fried in oil.” Hiriôzu (now usually spelled Hiryôzu) refers to Kyoto-style deep-fried tofu treasure balls.
1888 – The term “substitute for flesh meat” is first used (M. Holbrook, p. 117).
1892 March 16 – The word “meatless” is first used. The New York Times (p. 2) runs an article titled “A Meatless Feast. Banquet of the New-York Vegetarian Society.”
1893 Jan. 15 – The term “meat substitutes” first appears. In an article titled “Lectures on Cooking,” the New York Times (p. 17) states that Miss Maria Daniell of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will give a course of lectures on cooking for the sick. It “will include instructions for the... cooking of meats and meat substitutes.”
1895 Dec. 25 – Earliest known reference to a meatless turkey. In an article titled “No Meats on the Menu,” about the Chicago Vegetarian Society’s annual banquet, the Chicago Daily Tribune states that the twelve course menu included “vegetable turkey.”
1895-1899 – Charles Dabney interests Dr. John Harvey Kellogg in developing substitutes for meat. Dr. Kellogg first described this in 1923 in a book titled The Natural Diet of Man (p. 334-36): “By the combination of nuts and cereals, a product very closely resembling meat may be prepared. The process for doing this was discovered by the writer many years ago in a series of experiments undertaken for the purpose by the request of Professor Dabney, then assistant professor in the Department of Agriculture. Recognizing that the increase of population would ultimately lead to an increase in the price of foodstuffs and particularly of meats, and possibly a scarcity of meats, Professor Dabney requested the writer to solve the problem by the production of a vegetable substitute for meat. The result of the experiment undertaken was Protose, a nut-cereal preparation, which to a considerable degree resembles meat in appearance, taste and odor, having a slight fibre like potted meat.”
1896 July – Nuttose, the first commercial meat alternative in the Western world, is launched by the Battle Creek Sanitarium Bakery, renamed the Sanitas Nut Food Co. by Nov. 1896. The brainchild of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, it is the first of many Seventh-day Adventist meat alternatives and the world’s first canned meat alternative. Peanuts are the main ingredient. In Sept. 1896, Ella Kellogg, Dr. Kellogg’s wife, publishes six recipes for its use in the popular magazine Good Health (Battle Creek, Michigan). In a Nov. 1896 advertisement, Nuttose is said to have “somewhat the appearance and flavor of cold roast mutton.” By Dec. 1896 Nuttose is being sold as a “health food” in Los Angeles and advertised in the Los Angeles Times.
1896 July – The term “substitute for flesh food” first appears. It is used to describe Nuttose in an article by Dr. J.H. Kellogg in Good Health magazine.
1896 Sept. – The word “analogue” is first used in connection with meat. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg writes in the Modern Medicine and Bacteriological Review (Battle Creek, p. 220-23): "Nuts are unquestionably the vegetable analogue of meat and other animal foods, not only containing all the food elements to be found in animal products, but in finer and more digestible form, more delicately flavored, and wholly free from deleterious elements which abound in meat..."
1897 Jan. 1 – The term “vegetable meat” is first used. It appears in a New Zealand newspaper and refers to tofu.
1899 June 3 – The term “vegetable substitute for meat” is first used in U.S. Patent 670,283 titled “Vegetable-food compound,” by Dr. J.H. Kellogg. The application was filed on this date; the patent was issued on 19 March 1901. “The object of my invention is to furnish a vegetable substitute for meat which shall possess equal or greater nutritive value in equal or more available form.”
      The term “meat-like” (or “meat like”) first appears in the same patent. “By proper regulation of the temperature and proportions of the ingredients various meat-like flavors are developed, which give to the finished product very characteristic properties.”
1899 June – Protose, the 2nd commercial meat alternative in the Western world, is launched by the Sanitas Nut Food Co. Also the brainchild of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, it too is canned.
1899Guide to Nut Cookery, a vegan cookbook by Almeda Lambert, mentions many meat alternatives, including a recipe for meatless “peanut sausages.” This is the earliest document seen in the Western world that mentions a meatless sausage.
      The chapter titled Nutmeato (p. 91-127) contains many nut-based recipes for meat alternatives. The main ingredient is usually nut butter. The mixture is usually sealed in a can and steamed for 3-5 hours. Recipes include: Mock Nutmeato roast, Nutmeato steak, Nutgrano No. 1-10, (No. 1 and No. 8 use 1 cup raw peanut butter), Nutmeatose No. 1-7 (p. 97-98; No. 1 uses 2 cups peanut butter), Roast goose, (with full-page photo), Turkey legs, Chicken legs, Roast turkey (with photo), Nut lobster, Baked trout (with photo), Mock fish, baked, Sauce for baked fish (with photo), Mock turkey, Mock fish-balls, Vegetable nut roast, Mock salmon, Mock chicken croquettes, Mock fried oysters, Mock oyster patties, and Mock chip beef.
      This is the earliest English-language document seen that mentions a meatless turkey, or that uses the terms "Turkey legs," "Roast turkey," "Mock turkey” or "Vegetable turkey" to refer to meatless turkey.
1899A Friend in the Kitchen, by Mrs. Anna L. Colcord, a Seventh-day Adventist vegetarian cookbook, refers again and again to meat alternatives.
1904 – Japanese deep-fried tofu burgers (gammodoki; English: ganmodoki) are first mentioned in any language in a Japanese-French Dictionary by J.M. Lemaréchal; they are not mentioned in English until 1924.
1911 April 20 – Li Yu-ying, owner of a tofu company near Paris, France applies for French Patent No. 428,718 titled Charcuterie de soja [Cold cuts and meatlike products from soya]. He describes how to make vegetal meat (viande végétale), products like those from a pork-butcher’s shop. Including fresh sausages (les saucisses), large dry sausages or salami, (saucissons), etc. – from tofu.
1911 Dec. – The first commercial meat alternative is made by the Seventh-day Adventist Nashville Sanitarium – Food Factory in Nashville, Tennessee. “Nutfoda is the great vegetable meat, pure, wholesome, delicious, a perfect meat substitute at 10, 15 and 25¢. for ½ lb., 1 lb and 2¼ lb. cans.”
      Note: This organization is probably the same as that later known as Madison College; Madison was near Nashville, Tennessee.
1916 – The term “meat free” (regardless of hyphenation) is first used by M. Helen Keith in Scientific American. Reviewing animal studies, she states: "The general conclusion to be drawn from the scientific evidence is, therefore, that the meat-free diet is not as safe as the diet containing meat."
1919 – The term “meat alternatives” is first used by Armour and Company (the meat company) in an ad in the Baltimore Sun during World I when there were meat shortages in the United States. “Armour's oval label quality foods: Meat alternatives. Fish. Eggs. Cheese. Poultry. Peanut butter…”
1922 March – The first soy-based meat alternative is Soy Bean Meat, developed by Madison Foods in Madison (near Nashville), Tennessee. Thereafter the great majority of meat alternatives would use soy (or a combination of soy and wheat gluten) as their main ingredient.
1923 March – The word “meat like” (or “meatlike”) is used for the 2nd time to refer to a meat alternative by Piper & Morse in their classic The Soybean (p. 239). “Thousand folds (Chien Chang Tofu): This product is prepared by placing very thin layers of the bean curds on cloths, on top of one another, and subjecting them to considerable pressure and allowing them to dry for a short time. The layers of bean curd are then removed and rolled together like a jamroll… When allowed to mold for several days it is fried in sesame oil and has a meat like flavor.”
1923 Sept. – Jethro Kloss Health Food Co. in Brooke, Virginia, first announces that it makes commercial meat alternatives. "We manufacture a line of foods that most perfectly takes the place of meat, milk, eggs and butter. There are no animal products used in the manufacture of our foods.” The Kloss family are Seventh-day Adventists.
1929 Nov. – La Sierra Industries in La Sierra, California, owned and operated by T.A. Van Gundy and his family (Seventh-day Adventists) launch La Sierra Soy Gluten, their first meat alternative.
      Note: In 1921 this company had launched La Sierra Smoein, an innovative, meatless, bacon-flavored smoked soy powder seasoning, probably made of roasted soy flour (kinako). Although it is a seasoning and does not fit our definition of a meat alternative, it is clearly a step in that direction.
1930 Feb. 10 – The word “meatless” (regardless of hyphenation) is first used to describe a meat alternative by the Guardian (p. 7) in England. “Perhaps the meatless sausage or the fishless rissole have already begun to appear in our own teashops.”
      Note: This is also the earliest document seen that uses the word “meatlike,” but only to refer to a “meatlike taste” – not to a meat alternative.
1937 Oct. – Soy-Burger is launched by Madison Foods of Tennessee. It is the earliest known meatless burger made in the USA. Renamed Zoyburger in 1939.
1941 Oct. – Choplets (resembling pork chops), are launched by Special Foods, a company owned by Seventh-day Adventist laymen (renamed Worthington Foods, Inc. in Dec. 1945) in Worthington, Ohio. It is their first of many successful meat alternatives.
1943 Nov. – The term “soy meats” first appears in Soybean Digest (p. 8). Lauxsoy Soy Meats are made by I.F. Laucks, Inc.
1944 March 12 – The term “meatless meat” is first used by Clementine Paddleford in the Los Angeles Times (p. F14). “Beanburger is a meatless meat.”
1945 Feb. – Choplet-Burger is launched by Special Foods of Worthington, Ohio. It is the 2nd earliest known meatless burger made in the USA.
1946 June 30 – The term “meat alternates” is first used in the Madison Survey (published by a Seventh-day Adventist school in Madison, Tennessee). “Madison's food manufacturing plant, utilizing vegetable protein as meat alternates, is an attractive phase of the industrial program of the college.”
1947 – Robert Boyer, a young researcher inspired by Henry Ford and employed for many years by the Ford Motor Co., develops a textured edible soy protein fiber using a process similar to that for making textile fibers (Wilding 1970).
1952 May 6 –Boyer applies for U.S. patent No. 2,682,466 which describes the preparation of textured meatless foods from spun vegetable protein; this started the spinning of soy protein filaments/fibers used to create an entirely new type of meat alternative. The patent was issued on 29 June 1954.
      Earlier Boyer had developed a far-from-perfect synthetic wool for Ford. However the edible product resembled muscle fiber. Boyer's new materials did not lend themselves to processing under high temperatures normally used in canning. This led to the manufacture of frozen meatless products.
      The terms “synthetic meat,” “edible filaments,” “spinneret” and “tow” [of filaments] are first used in this patent.
1953 Feb. 2 – The terms “imitation meat” and “imitation meat products” are first used in U.S. Patent No. 2,730,448, applied for by Robert Boyer and Harold Saewert. The patent is issued on 10 Jan. 1956.
1954 May 14 – The terms “simulated meat” and “simulated meat products” are first used in U.S. Patent No. 2,813,025, applied for by Mortimer L. Anson and Morton Pader. The patent is issued on 12 Nov. 1957.
1960 – Robert Boyer begins work as a full-time consultant for Ralston Purina Co. Starting that year, Ralston Purina begins its first research on edible soy protein isolates. In about September 1962 Boyer was named technical director of protein product sales in the soybean division of the Ralston Purina Co.; he worked for Ralston until his retirement in 1971.
1962 July – Worthington Worthington launches White Chik, Beeflike, Prosage, Stripples, and Holiday Roast. They are the earliest  known frozen meat alternatives and the earliest meat alternatives containing Fibrotein or Textured Edi-Pro (spun soy protein fibers), made by Ralston Purina Co., as a basic ingredient.
1962 July – The trade name “Soyameat” is first mentioned in the Choplet Newsletter (Worthington Foods). All of these products contain Fibrotein (spun soy protein fibers) as a basic ingredient.
      This is also the earliest document seen that mentions Fibrotein.
1965 Dec. – Bac*O's (Meatless Fried Bacon Bits from Spun Soy Protein Fiber) are launched by General Mills of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
1968The Cooking of China, by Emily Hahn (Time-Life Books) states that Buddhist monks and nuns in China are strict vegetarians; special foods that simulate meat have been developed for them. These include vegetarian “duck made from crisp bean-curd skin, colored and shaped to look like the bird's flesh” and “chicken roll in hoisin sauce, the ‘chicken’ made of soft soybean curd” (p. 64, 67, 70).
      Note: The term “bean-curd skin” refers to yuba (doufu-pi in pinyin).
1960s and 1970s – There is a big increase in the number of vegetarians in the United States and Europe. Some of these in the USA are called “hippies.”
      Note: The word “hippy” was coined in about 1965.
1974 early – Miles Laboratories buys Worthington Foods and launches the new “Morningstar Farms” brand of frozen meat alternatives in mainstream supermarkets.
1975 Dec. – Meat alternatives made from yuba and shaped like their animal counterparts are first described in English in The Book of Tofu by Shurtleff and Aoyagi. “One of the obvious differences between the uses to which yuba is put in China as compared to Japan is the remarkable ingenuity and inventiveness employed by the Chinese in giving yuba the semblance of meat. Imagine walking by the display case of attractive restaurants or marketplace yuba shops and seeing perfect replicas of plucked hens, roosters, and ducks, light-brown fish (complete with fins, gills, eyes, and mouth), juicy hams, tripe, liver and rolled meats – all made from yuba (fig. 111). Rich red sausage links hang in rows and deep-fried drumsticks are handsomely arranged on a large platter – together with a life-sized pig's head.
      “Most of these imitation meat dishes are prepared by pressing fresh yuba into a hinged (wooden or aluminum) mold,” clamping the mold closed, then steaming it until the yuba's shape is fixed.
      “Served at su-tsai restaurants which specialize in Buddhist vegetarian cookery, each has its own well-known name: Buddha's Chicken (suchi), Buddha's Fish (suyu, sushi), Buddha's Duck (suya), Vegetarian Tripe (taoto) or Liver (sukan); Molded Pig's Head (tutao), Molded Ham (suhuo), Sausage Links (enchan), Buddha's Drumsticks (sutsai tsui), Deep-fried Duck (suya).” A full-page illustration (p. 258) shows these products.
1982 Oct. 15 – Worthington Foods Inc. is repurchased by a group of lay Seventh-day Adventist investors – many of them the previous owners.
1985 Feb. – Yves Tofu Wieners are launched by Yves Potvin of Yves Natural Foods (Vancouver, BC, Canada) – the first of the company’s many meat alternatives.
1995 Oct. – Tofurky, an alternative to turkey at Thanksgiving and Christmas is launched by Seth Tibbott of Turtle Foods, Inc., Hood River, Oregon. It soon becomes the best known meat alternative in the United States.
1996 Feb. – “Worthington Foods controls about 58% of the meat alternative category nationally,” and it had sales of $91 million in 1995, up 13% over 1994 (Plain Dealer {Cleveland, Ohio}, Feb. 25, p. 1-1, 3-1).
1999 Oct. 26 – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorizes a health claim stating that consumption of 6.25 grams of soy protein per serving, as a part of a healthy diet, low in saturated fats and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels. This claim soon appears on the front of many products that meet these requirements. It leads to the creation of many new soyfood products (including meat alternatives) and generates major public interest in soyfoods.
1999 Oct. – Worthington Foods, Inc. is purchased by The Kellogg Co. (the world’s leading maker of breakfast cereals, with yearly sales of $6.8 billion) for about $307 million (Natural Foods Merchandiser, Nov. p. 9). Meat alternatives hit the big time!
1995-1999 – The product category “Meat Alternatives” is created at the inception of SPINS Product Library; later it was split into Frozen vs. Refrigerated Meat Alternatives (Leahy 2014, personal communication).
2001 Jan. – Kraft Foods Inc. purchases Boca Burger (founded in 1993). Last year American consumers spent about $500 million on meat alternatives, about 75% of that on soy products. Boca Burger had revenues of $40 million last year, about double the previous year (Capital Times {Madison, Wisconsin}, Jan. 18).
2002 March 18 – Burger King is the first major U.S. fast food chain to put a veggie burger on its menu, at more than 8,000 outlets nationwide; soy is not an ingredient since allergies are a big concern (Abrahms 2002, p. 2). One smaller chain, Back Yard Burgers, with about 100 restaurants in 17 states, began offering Gardenburger meatless patties on its menu in about the year 2000 (Soybean Digest, April 2002, p. 31).
2014 – Current status of meat alternatives in the USA.
Total retail sales for the 12 months ending 1 Jan. 2014, both refrigerated and frozen, both Natural foods and mainstream supermarkets: $620 million, Source: SPINS and AC Neilsen (IRI).
The leading 5 brands (by dollar volume) across frozen and refrigerated meat alternatives are:
Morningstar Farms (owned by The Kellogg Co.) ….…… 52.0%
Gardein (owned by Pinnacle Foods) ………………...…… 7.5%
Boca Foods (owned by Kraft Foods) …………………….. 7.4%
Lightlife (owned by Brynwood Foods via ConAgra) ……. 6.9%
Tofurky (independent)……………………………………. 5.3%
Seth Tibbott of Tofurky estimates that the frozen category of meat alternatives is about 3 times the size of the refrigerated category.
Update on Tofurky:
Tofurky Company total sales in 2014: $31 million.
Total Tofurky roasts sold in 2014 projected): 360,000.
Total Tofurky roasts sold since 1995: 3.84 million.


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