This weekend, the New York Times' food-policy opinionator and recipe columnist Mark Bittman, a longtime opponent of processed foods, came out in favor of faux chicken. He's found a chicken substitute so, uh, lifelike in its texture that it fooled him in several taste tests.
Ever since his 2009 book Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating, Bittman has advocated that Americans reduce their meat consumption from 8 ounces a day to, say, 3 ounces a day, which is the global average; he also claims to eat a vegan diet until sunset. As USA Today reported this weekend, the country seems to be agreeing with him: We're seeing a significant drop in meat consumption -- 12 percent over the past five years -- driven by both the recession and health concerns.
Bittman's point: Rather than treating animals like machines, why don't we treat machines like machines, and reduce the drain on the environment that the meat industry exerts as well as our overuse of antibiotics? That's fair enough. SFoodie, though, agrees with Bittman on the faux-flesh front for one additional reason: No one should eat commercially produced chicken breast.
Not only is the way factory farms raise chickens far more cruel than foie gras production, industrial chicken breast meat is the most tasteless, un-meat-like meat substance out there. Restaurants choose it because it's inoffensive and relatively low-cost. Many meat eaters who buy breasts are looking for "lean protein," taste be damned, and SFoodie knows more than a few chicken-breast lovers who eat it because they're spooked by the sight of chicken bones.
So if you're looking for the tofu of meat, why not eat tofu? Or soy, pea, amaranth, and carrot flours, which Bittman's new favorite breast substitute is made of. And when you're hungry for real meat, you can spend your money on chicken that tastes like actual animal flesh. In the case of chickens, the better the animal is raised, the better it tastes. Always.