Consumer Report — Quorn Brand Products

It looks like chicken and tastes similar to the white meat, but it’s actually made from fungi. Sounds appealing, doesn’t it?

Being an avid Quorn consumer myself, I find their products taste more like actual meat than most others. I’ve had Boca and Morningstar products among others and, while I enjoy all of them, Quorn products are the most satisfying. Their frozen foods range from Chik’n nuggets to meatballs to Turk’y roasts. My favorite product is the breaded Chik’n cutlets filled with cranberry and goat cheese. The cutlets resemble an actual breaded chicken breast and they have a similar flavor.

Evan Beemer found the Quorn meatballs to be surprisingly good, “I really didn’t think I’d like them, but they weren’t that bad. I’ve had much worse. They definitely don’t taste quite like meat, but they were pretty close,” he said. Beemer is not a vegetarian, but got used to meat-free meals growing up. His mom would experiment, primarily with stir-fry, and create veggie-heavy meals. Occasionally she’d even slip in some tofu.

While many might be skeptical of a meat-free alternative made from fungi, Quorn brand products have a wide array of health benefits according to the Mycoprotein website. The site boasts that Quorn products have fewer calories and less fat than most meats and are an easy way to make meals healthier. All of their products are frozen and can be reheated within a matter of minutes, making dinner nice and quick. All of the Mycoprotein-made meats are also a “cholesterol-free source of protein, fiber and essential amino acids.” The site also claims that studies involving Mycoprotein suggest that it may have the potential to lower cholesterol levels.

Quorn products are made from Mycoprotein, a proprietary technology created by the brand. Made by fermenting fusarium venenatum, a member of the fungi family, mycoprotein is meant to mimic “the taste and texture of meat.” Fusarium venenatum is a member of the Ascomycota phylum which also includes truffles and baker’s yeast.

The meat-like texture of all Quorn products comes from the harvested strands of the Mycoprotein which are similar in structure to animal muscle cells. Like animal cells, Mycoprotein strands are “filamentous with a high length/diameter ratio.” In simpler terms, the strands are longer than they are wide.

Though the brand likes to emphasize its health benefits, others are more critical. The University of California Berkley’s Wellness website said that some of the studies claiming to have found health benefits from Mycoprotein were often flawed and short. The Center for Science and Public Interest (CSPI) recently claimed that Quorn’s meat substitute “causes gastrointestinal distress and, in some cases, life-threatening anaphylactic reactions.” Several consumers came forward stating that they suffered from nausea and vomiting after eating Quorn products.

David Wilson, Quorn’s U.S. General Manager, addressed these concerns saying that “the sensitivity rates to Mycoproteins are much lower than those of other proteins such as soy, nuts, dairy and eggs.” Protein rich foods make up the majority of food allergies and Mycoprotein is no different. While some may experience symptoms of an allergic reaction, it may simply be due to Mycoprotein intolerance that consumers were unaware of.

Back in 2002, the CSPI urged the Food and Drug Administration to take Quorn off the market to no avail. Yet, CSPI continues to collect complaints about the product. They have received 500 complaints from the U.S. and 1,200 from Europe and Australia mentioning symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting and fainting. CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson urges consumers to buy other meat free alternatives that are “nutritious, safe and environmentally-friendly,” instead of eating the “vat-grown mold used to make the Quorn line of meat substitutes.”

While some have had side effects and allergic reaction to the Mycoprotein in Quorn products, others are able to enjoy the product without any issues. But a few things are certain. Quorn consumers are able to eat vegetarian foods that taste like meat, but don’t have the adverse effects on animals and the environment. Animals are not harmed in the making of Quorn products nor is the brand contributing to global deforestation.

Farms across the country continue to expand and destroy forests in the process. Science Daily said “agriculture is estimated to be the direct driver for around 80 percent of deforestation worldwide.”As farms grow, they require more grazing land for their animals, thus the deforestation. “The production of Quorn is more environmentally friendly than the production of meat, and it is much more efficient,” Tim Finnigan, Quorn’s Director of Research and Development said.

All Quorn products are meat-free, but many do contain small amounts of milk and egg white, so they won’t meet the needs of those following a vegan diet. However, the brand has recently expanded and now offers its first all-vegan burger. This new addition to their product line is part of their initiative to reduce cruelty toward egg-laying hens.

Quorn products were first distributed in the U.K in 1994, but didn’t become available in the U.S. until 2002. The brand is currently available in ten countries and is the the leading provider of “vegetarian ready meals,” in the U.K. In 2013, Quorn reported their strongest final quarter ever, “with the company recording a 20 percent increase in like-for-like sales on the previous year,” and gained 10.2 million more consumers than the previous year according to the U.K. Gazette. The brand also experienced double digit growth in Sweden and Australia. While there was growth abroad, Quorn saw their U.S. sales fall in 2013 due to lower-priced meat alternatives.

As Quorn continues to reduce animal cruelty in today’s world, the public may see more vegan products in the near future. While there is some controversy over the primary ingredient in their products, Quorn has continued to expand and improve their food quality. In 2010 they raked in more than $214 million. Quorn products can be purchased at local Target and Wegmans stores.


Animals Strive for Compassion in Today’s World

In 2005, not too far from Fairfax, Va. was a property that housed over 50 American Pit Bull Terriers. The blood-stained walls were a sign of previous victories. As two dogs get ready to fight, not a sound can be heard. There was no crying or barking. These robust animals had one job and that was to kill.

This was the scene at Michael Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels in Newport News, where onlookers would gamble on who they thought would win the deadly battle. Vick isn’t the only person who partakes in animal fighting, but being a public figure, he became a face for the crime. It probably surprised most people that something so gruesome was taking place so close to home, but that is the reality of today’s society. No city is immune to animal cruelty. As more stories of the brutality toward animals come to light, many are making changes and doing their part to help these creatures. This can entail animal rights activism, but also an altering of one’s diet to decrease consumption of animal products.

According to a 2008 poll conducted by the Harris Interactive Service Bureau on behalf of the Vegetarian Times, 3.2 percent of adults, or 7.3 million people, in the U.S. are vegetarian. Of that percentage, 0.5 percent, or 1 million people, are vegans. This means they consume no animal products such as dairy, eggs and gelatin. A more recent study conducted by Harris found that 2.5 percent of Americans in 2012 identify as vegans. The number of those turning to vegan and vegetarian lifestyles is also increasing. Paul Shapiro, the vice president of farm animal protection at the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) said 16 percent of Americans are following a flexitarian diet, where they eat more vegetarian meals but still occasionally eat meat. That’s about 50 million people. The reasoning behind these changes varies, but the majority of participants cited animal welfare and health improvement.


Upon entering the Whole Foods in Fairfax, grocers are met with walls of fresh vegetables and fruit. Whole Foods carries many varieties of meat-free alternatives for vegetarians, vegans and flexitarians alike. Photo/Kaitlyn Reitz

Americans have a desire to help the animals who are unable to help themselves, giving a voice to the pain and suffering that these creatures go through each day. Vick’s arrest brought attention to the world of animal fighting, but that is just one of the many animal-related issues that exists today. Factory farming has become a horrific and painful experience for the animals involved.

For starters, animals are kept in the equivalent of jail cells, albeit smaller, dirtier and just all around more miserable than human cells. Wayne Pacelle, the president and CEO of the HSUS said in his book The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them, “The confinement system is only a symptom of the larger problem of agribusiness controlling every aspect of the animals’ lives and treating them like objects and commodities.”

The majority of the farming industry has become so profit hungry that money comes above the wellbeing of the animals. Many farm animals are now genetically modified to produce more. More eggs, more milk, more meat. Turkeys have been engineered with fatter and heavier bodies that make it almost impossible for them to walk or stand. This is a struggle for a bird that, in the wild, would spend half of its day searching for food. Wild turkeys can run up to 25 mph and fly at speeds over 50 mph. The genetically modified turkeys are “caricatures of the wild turkeys,” Pacelle said.

Chickens are also becoming bigger and in less time. “They now reach ‘market weight’ in half the time they used to,” Pacelle said.  According to researchers at the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, “If you grew as fast as a chicken, you’d weigh 349 pounds at age 2.”

As the public gains more insight into factory farming and exactly how their food gets to their plates, the demand for animal products may go down. New York Times writer Mark Bittman wrote that beef consumption has been in decline for almost 20 years. Between 2007 and 2012 meat intake dropped 12.2 percent. The switch to a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle may seem difficult to some at first, but there are a wide variety of animal-free products in the market today. It’s not strictly tofu and lettuce. There are many meat-free alternatives from sausage to chicken to shrimp. There are also a larger number of vegetarian and vegan restaurants popping up with food that’ll make you forget there’s no meat or dairy in it. There are many options for vegetarians in the Fairfax area, including Sunflower Restaurant and the Loving Hut.