Plant-based meat substitutes are rapidly gaining popularity. The Vegan Society charity found the number of vegans in the United Kingdom quadrupled between 2014 and 2019. Meanwhile, the number of vegetarians has risen to include over 11% of the UK population by the end of 2020, according to Finder.
Plant-based meat companies like Impossible Foods and Heck have been creating foods from vegetables that really look and taste like meat, using ingredients like soy and pea proteins. Now we can add Taco Bell to the list, as the company has officially debuted its Pulled Oats taco filling.
Said to be "deliciously healthy and packed with iron and fibre, Pulled Oats plant-based protein is made from a unique combination of oats and legumes and has a succulent texture that absorbs flavour and seasoning".
The filling is designed to replace seasoned beef or grilled chicken as the main protein in a Taco Bell's tacos, quesadillas and more. It's adding to the fast food chain's pre-existing veggie options, which includes Mexican-style black beans.
Taco Bell is filling a growing demand for vegan options, but it's not just strict vegans taking advantage of "fake meats". Part-time vegetarianism, which is known as "flexitarianism", is growing thanks to online movements like "Meat-Free Mondays" as people reduce their meat intake due to health or environmental concerns.
Researchers from Erasmuc MC Rotterdam in the Netherlands analysed different degrees of plant-based diets in almost 10,000 adults, looking at body mass index (BMI), waist circumference and other metrics from 2002 to 2016.
The population study found people who ate more plant-based meals were less likely to suffer from obesity and cardiovascular disease in later life. Concerns like these are fuelling the rise in flexitarianism (and the sale of the best vegan cookbooks).
The commercial farming industry is also one of the biggest polluters and causes of deforestation. Reducing your meat intake could benefit the environment in addition to lengthening your life.