How to beat your meat urges this Lenten season (not)

I know that some people don’t care about fasting during Lent. Some will try for a few weeks, others might make it all the way through to Easter eve following the dietary rules set down by the church.

This post was going to be directed to those who need help sticking to the meatless lenten dietary requirements. Since I began writing the post about Fytro® brand Soya Kababs, I’ve changed my mind.

The Fytro brand always seemed to me a brand offering hard to find, healthful, possibly organic products like bulgar wheat, brown rice, and soy products. Why possibly organic? Must have been the earthy green and brown packaging and the claim “100% vegetable product” (100% φυτικό προϊόν). Meaning no animal fat involved in the manufacturing process nor in the product. To my eye the packaging almost screamed “Organic”. Wrong.

These chunks are made from soy beans, and when prepared by a skilled hand, can actually have a taste. It is the “mouth profile” of the “Textured Vegetable Protein®” which approaches what I remember chicken kabab to have been. Kinda chewy. A close family member subtly suggested that “it’s like dog food!”, but how would she know? Yet “Textured Vegetable Protein” is also featured in some animal feed. Maybe my close family member is on to something!

The provenance of the stuff is a bit mysterious. Soy beans are known to have high protein content and vegetarians need protein as much as anyone else. In Tofu, another soy product, the milk of cooked, ground and crushed soybeans is turned into a semi-solid with the addition of a coagulant. The Chinese coagulate with gypsum, in Japan it is a magnesium chloride coagulant made from boiling seawater for a few hours. But that’s Tofu and not this stuff.

“Textured Vegetable Protein – (TVP)” is processed either directly from the bean or is processed from what’s left over after the “milk” has been extracted. I guess.

Here what a suspected industry spokesperson “wikipedied” (link) regarding the manufacturing process of Textured Vegetable Protein like “Soya Kababs” and (gulp) cattle feed.

“TVP is usually made from high (50%) soy protein soy flour or concentrate, but can also be made from cotton seeds, wheat, and oats. It is extruded into various shapes (chunks, flakes, nuggets, grains, and strips) and sizes, exiting the nozzle while still hot and expanding as it does so. The defatted thermoplastic proteins are heated to 150–200°C, which denatures them into a fibrous, insoluble, porous network that can soak up as much as three times its weight in liquids. As the pressurized molten protein mixture exits the extruder, the sudden drop in pressure causes rapid expansion into a puffy solid that is then dried. As much as 50% protein when dry, TVP can be rehydrated at a 2:1 ratio, which drops the percentage of protein to an approximation of ground meat at 16%. TVP is primarily used as a meat substitute due to its very low cost at less than a third the price of ground beef, and when cooked together will help retain more weight from the meat by absorbing juices normally lost.

Many TVP producers use hexane to separate soy fat from soy protein, and trace amounts of the solvent are left after manufacturing. But the few rodent studies that have been done suggest it would be almost impossible to get enough hexane from TVP to cause harm. Measured levels of residual hexane in TVP are around 20 parts per million; and rodent studies suggest that a dosage of 5g/kg is the minimum level where adverse effects were observed. As such, one would have to consume around 250 kilograms of TVP per kilogram of body weight to reach a toxic dose.”

Also, many eaters of food wish to avoid the genetically modified (GM) variety. Soy beans are one of many crops grown almost exclusively from GM seed. Good or bad, if the product is not listed as “Organic” chances are extremely high that it is made from GM crops.

So will Soya Kebabs stifle your meat urge this Lent? It’s up to you.


3 thoughts on “How to beat your meat urges this Lenten season (not)

  1. Foods made from GM’d crops are so prevalent that they are hard to avoid. Like it or not we all have unknowingly eaten such food or food products and do so regularly. There are restrictions to imported GM products though some EU member countries “grow their own” – Spain being the largest producer of GM corn (Maize) in Europe.

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