Many people ask me about Quorn™ and whether I think it’s healthy or not. The first time I heard about it, I had no idea what the person was talking about and had to do some research. Once I looked into it, and started asking around, I realized it is much more popular than I had imagined, and it kind of made me feel like I was living under a rock. I was a little shocked at all the controversy here in the US over this mycoprotein meat substitute though.
What is Quorn™?
Quorn™ is a meat substitute that is a mycoprotein (which merely means it’s a protein from a fungus: think mushrooms). These mycoproteins were first cultivated in the 1950’s-60’s for animal and human feeding, in case there was a shortage of protein availability (I have no idea why this was a huge concern, but apparently it was in some circles.) Thus, the process was created, and proteins were derived from fungus, but it is a created biomass, so it isn’t actually grown in nature, it is created in a lab. The fungus that Quorn™ is made form is not actually a mushroom per say, but it is of the same genus, and it is fermented through a patented technique, and Quorn™ is made. Quorn™ is a high protein, low-fat, low-calorie, and high fiber alternative to meat, that supposedly has the same texture, and similar taste to meat (I haven’t eaten it, but all meats taste differently, so I’m not too sure about that claim.) The Quorn™ product was first sold in the UK in the early 1990’s, the rest of the EU in the late 1990’s, and came to the US in the early 2000’s. Currently you can buy Quorn™ in specialty made food items, or just frozen as itself in which you can add it to your own meals in place of meat.
What is the controversy?
There were three main issues that came to pass when Quorn™ hit the market: it was claiming to be “a mushroom based product”, it was also claiming to be vegetarian but used non-free range eggs (AKA battery eggs) in processing, and there were fears it would cause allergic reactions. The mushroom base allegations, were legitimate in that the proteins are created from a fungus that is not a mushroom, technically, but who wants to read “this is a fungus based product” on their food? I wouldn’t reach for that first, I will be honest with you. But, Quorn™ changed it’s labeling to remove that statement altogether, and it is not described anywhere on the Quorn™ website what it is actually created from (which is in no way a negative, just an interesting side note.) The Quorn™ company worked with the Vegetarian Society to start using free-range eggs, and obtain their seal of vegetarian approval, so while it is not vegan (some products also contain milk), it is considered a vegetarian product. The final claim about allergies, was truly unfounded; there was one asthma attack related to the product, but there are many other products on the market with a much higher allergic reaction rate, such as soy, wheat, etc. Besides the Vegetarian Society, the other claims were made by a competitor in the market, so while they may have had some merit, it was more to give negative press to the product.
I have never eaten Quorn™, but I do know many people who do, as an alternative to meat and to decrease their fat and calories in meals. Personally, I stick to lean meats and vegetarian meals, I don’t usually even add tofu to meals because I get protein in other ways, but I think that it is a viable alternative for vegetarians looking to add more protein and for those looking to cut calories. I try to eat a clean diet that is minimally processed, and Quorn™ is clearly a lab created processed food, however, this is something that can be very effective to help with calorie reduction in dieting or for adding lean proteins on the go (if you don’t have time to prepare meals, the high protein pre-packaged ones seem pretty easy.) While I don’t consider it an option or me, I think it is a “healthier” alternative for those who eat a high fat, high cholesterol diet and are looking to decrease fat and calorie intake. If you eat Quorn™ as a staple, give some feedback for the rest of the readers!
Yours in Good Health