Since The New Omnivore is all about innovation and the betterment of meat, dairy and eggs, it’s only fitting that we use new, different terms to describe these non-traditionally produced foods . In the case of meat, “new meat” is a term I came up with that clearly and respectfully describes meat products created from plants or cultured meat methods, as opposed to other, less appealing names commonly attached to animal-free meats like fake meat, mock meat, meatless meat, faux meat, etc.
High-quality meats made from plants and, eventually, cultured tissue methods can be very delicious foods that stand on their own as culinary achievements of imagination, creativity, and skill. They deserve a name that properly elevates them next to conventional animal meat in taste, texture and overall quality. On the contrary, terms like “fake meat” unnecessarily and unfairly degrade them as inferior substitutes.
And it is important to note that even though these innovations are mostly animal-free, I actively avoid using the term “vegan” to describe them.This is because I’ve found that “vegan” as a word generally does more harm than good when trying to encourage non-vegans to try animal-free foods and products.
Here’s a quick overview of some of the problems with the “v” word, and why I encourage anyone who believes in new omnivorism to refrain from using it as well:
Veganism has a major image problem.
In my experience, when most people hear the word “vegan” they already have a pre-formed opinion of vegan people and vegan food that is pretty negative. Vegans tend to be viewed as an separate group of people who carry a holier-than-thou attitude toward the rest humanity because of their diet choices. And a majority of people believe vegan food is utterly bland, boring, strange, under-nourishing, and/or unsatisfying . Unfortunately, there are far more bad vegan images and examples of vegan food out there than the opposite, and fair or not, this has caused irreparable harm to the idea of veganism for most people.
Labeling something “vegan” creates the idea that it is not normal.
Placing “vegan” into a discrete category outside the mainstream isn’t a great idea when you’re trying to make non-traditional, animal-free foods more appealing to everyone. By labeling certain foods “vegan”, we imply they are separate from the norm, and as a result are an alternative that people can perceive as strange or inferior. It doesn’t help that most foods labeled “vegan” usually are inferior in taste and quality to the animal-based versions, i.e. most plant-based meats and cheeses currently on the market. The majority of people would prefer to go with what is already normal, familiar, and satisfying, not new, foreign, and yucky.
Veganism has an identity crisis.
Most non-vegans believe a vegan diet is the opposite of an omnivorous one, in that it eliminates meat, dairy and eggs in favor of whole fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains and other purely plant-based foods. A vegan, in theory, is not supposed to seek to make traditional animal foods out of plants, because eating animal foods would defeat the whole purpose of going vegan.
Yet, you need only witness the alternative meats section at Whole Foods or a site like FakeMeats.com to realize that vegans (and vegetarians) in fact do like meat and other animal foods… a lot. To outsiders, this consumption of animal-free meats by vegans creates a confusion. How can some vegans claim to hate meat but buy products that closely resemble beef, pork, chicken and seafood? It seems to be a strange contradiction and vegans themselves usually can’t fully articulate why it is they went vegan but still seek out non-vegan foods.
Actually, there is a simple explanation for it, and that is this: “meat” as a food product and “animals” as living creatures from where meat originates are two completely different things, cognitively speaking. Vegans and vegetarians are people who’ve made the connection between “meat” the inanimate product and “animals” the living, feeling creatures, and decide to renounce the former based on what they know about the latter. But they still very much crave meat as a food product completely separate from the living animal, like most of the rest of the population. And thus, you get the market for “vegan meats.”
But therein lies a problem. If a “vegan” in our common language is supposed to be the antithesis of a “carnivore”, how can we sensibly call something “vegan meat”? It’s at best an oxymoron and at worst nonsensical, confusing and just plain weird.
I created the term “new omnivore” in part to help clear up this confusion about animal-free meat, as well as to distinguish between vegans who love living on vegetables and those who don’t.
The truth is the word “vegan” does not properly describe those of its followers who actually have no problem with eating meat. There are actually many vegans who do enjoy the taste of meat, cheese, eggs and other animal products but staunchly object, on moral grounds, to the industries that produce them.
It means that, like almost everyone else, we want to eat meat and other animal foods, but in a different, better way. And that’s what new omnivorism is all about. And why “vegan” just doesn’t apply here.