Life Table Talk

Saturday 23 August 2014

Bill Gates' faux chicken will never be for me

Patricia Murphy

Published 28/04/2014 | 17:24

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Free range chickens on farm
Free range chickens on farm

Bill Gates and Co have had their aprons on, whipping up a new meat substitute that has tricked taste testers into believing they are munching on the real deal.

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The strips, which are made of modified pea protein, are said to ‘taste just like chicken’ and have the same texture as our favourite Sunday roast staple.

On top of this the new company Beyond Meat reckons that the faux ingredient has the potential to reduce climate change and positively impact on the planet’s animal welfare,  all while keeping the inches for pinching at bay with its low fat and high protein components.

Veggies may be rejoicing at the news of Gates’ foray into food production but the idea of the peas passing themselves off as juicy birds worries me. On the one hand, I want my descendants to experience the same beautiful planet that I have been fortunate enough to but on the other, I can’t think of anything I’d like to tuck into less in the present than a modified pea burger of a Friday night.

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With all the terrible quality meat readily available for our consumption I do understand where Bill is coming from. When a chicken is €3 you really have to question its origins, or at least as a food lover I do. However, I can’t help but stand on the side of all the wonderful meat producers throughout Ireland who have worked so hard to rear stunning produce and I would much rather support them than the fake chicken strips already cooked for our convenience.

For me, rituals like roasting and basting that huge bird come Christmas time and carving that knife into the golden brown side of him is stuff of great beauty. Imagine for a moment, a Christmas dinner where instead of enjoying a delicious turkey, born, fed and reared in Ireland and roasted lovingly for hours, you were to rip open a plastic package of the modified pea strips and serve them up after the faux prawn cocktail, because I’m sure soon enough they’ll have invented one of them too. I know I’m being sensational but great quality meat and poultry is a huge part of our food culture and it is my art.

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Save the planet types won’t be happy to hear of the happiness a trip to the butchers brings out in me. I think he knows I’m also not of the modified pea loving variety because I revel in conversations about where my chicken has come from, how to get the most out of my pork shoulder and how best to cook that beautiful leg of Spring lamb.

I do know that to survive as a planet we must lower our consumption of meat but I would much make dinner using beautiful Irish vegetables every other night that to introduce a product that is made in a huge factory in another continent into my life. It is not something I would feel good about feeding to my friends. I would rather my money in the pocket of an Irish food producer creating something special than Bill Gates’ any day.

Ultimately, I feel that there is so much more soul in the hearts of great producers than a supermarket shelf lined with peas dressed as lamb.

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