This isn't streaky bacon - but the vegan alternative still makes a pretty good bacon butty
Think you could never find something to replace bacon? This Isn't Streaky Bacon, but it might bake you think again
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Ah bacon. The rich, salty comfort food seems to top an awfully high number of people's favourite food lists - and is all too often the reason they claim they could never ditch meat.
I don't recall ever having eating bacon in its popular rasher form before giving up meat at age 12 (although I do remember it from the likes of bacon and egg pie, which I was not a fan of), so I guess I don't really know what I'm missing out on. But from working in hospitality for many years as a student, I do know that frying bacon has a uniquely excellent smell. And if it tastes even half as good as as it smells, I guess I can understand why people are so reluctant to cut it out of their diets.
When I saw some of the most realistic looking bacon I'd ever seen in the meat-free aisle at my local Sainsbury's - emblazoned with the words, 'This Isn't Vegan Bacon' - I knew I had to give it a go, and hopefully see for myself what all of the fuss is about.
So, for my latest Animal Bye-Products review - where my partner and I have so far tried out vegan alternatives to buffalo chicken and tuna mayo sandwiches - I decided to put This bacon to the test in true British fashion, by whipping up some bacon butties.
The taste test
As mentioned before, I've done a few of these taste tests now. Plus I've tried vegan bacon alternatives in the past. But I have to say, this one really blew me away. I can honestly say it's the best I've had yet.
Not only was this product delicious, with a delicate, smoky flavour seamlessly woven throughout, but it crisped up in the pan gorgeously. It even retained its meat-like bite and own distinct taste when slapped into a sandwich with plant butter and tomato sauce.
I think the secret, in this case, was the fact that This is striped with thick bands of fat. As the company says on its website, "fat makes animal-based meat taste lush... So we invented FAT 2.0 [trademarked and patented, as it turns out] from olive oil".
The completely plant-based fat bubbles and crisps up in the pan perfectly, with the whole rashers holding together much better than I expected. It crisps up, "adds succulence" and was well worth the several million pounds and food scientists' salaries it took to develop, in my opinion.
The best part was, my meat-eating partner loved it too. He gave it a 7 out of 10, saying while it was "not quite as rich as bacon, it was a pretty solid attempt". I gave it an 8.5 - something I'd definitely have again.
The cost at the till
One pack of This Isn't Streaky Bacon, which contained nine rashers, set me back £3.50 at Sainsbury's. With nine rashers in the pack, that averaged out to 39p per rasher. To compare a similar product from Sainsbury's, its own-brand smoked streaky bacon rashers cost £2.75 a packet, for 14 rashers - just under 20p per rasher.
Smoked streaky bacon rashers from Taste the Difference, Sainsbury's premium product range, also cost £3.50 for a 14-rasher pack - averaging our to 25p a rasher. This made the vegan alternative nearly twice as expensive per rasher as the cheaper of the Sainsbury's alternatives.
The cost to your body
Bacon is not exactly a health food. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) has classified processed meats including bacon, ham and salami as Group 1 carcinogens - meaning there was strong evidence they cause cancer.
This is believed to be largely linked to preservatives used in their creation called nitrates or nitrites - and This range of pork alternatives contain no nitrates. However, eating pig bacon does have some positives. It has plenty of protein, contains a wide array of B vitamins, and is rich in choline - a compound which is important for brain function.
This-brand vegan bacon does offer quite a few advantages, health-wise. The company says that their imitation pork and bacon products are high in plant-based proteins (higher than other popular vegetarian options like tofu, tempeh, seitan and lentils), and have 83% less saturated fat than their meat alternatives. However, it's worth noting that preparing the product as recommended involves frying it in oil, which would increase the fat content somewhat.
A serving, or two rashers of This bacon contains 0.7g of fat, 0.1g of it saturated, as well as 0.6g of salt - roughly 10% of the recommended daily intake (RDI). To compare, two rashers of Sainsbury's own-brand bacon (grilled) have 5.8g of fat, 2.4g of it saturated, and 1g of salt - about 17% of the RDI.
This rashers also have added iron and vitamin B12, both essential nutrients vegetarian diets are frequently lacking in - one less thing you have to worry about switching out meat for a plant-based alternative.
The cost to the planet
Wanting to protect the planet is a big driver for people opting to go vegan or vegetarian, with a major University of Oxford study finding a completely plant-based diet produced 75% less greenhouse gas emissions than a high-meat diet.
This bacon seems to follow that trend, with the company reporting This products create an average of 2.58kg of carbon dioxide per 1kg of food. While this might seem high, data This has from the My Emissions carbon labelling system says pork creates 9.3kg, and beef a whopping 33.8kg. Chicken is somewhat better at 5.4kg of carbon - but this is still more than double the carbon emissions of This.
Some of the biggest environmental problems with the pork farming industry in the UK relate to animal feed - reportedly making up as much as 75-80% of its carbon footprint - including corn and soy meal grown in South America, where it is heavily linked to deforestation in the Amazon. While This products are also soy-based, the company says it does not use soybeans from Brazil - instead importing them from the US.
This products are designed to have a longer shelf-life in a bid to reduce the amount of unused food ending up as waste - a significant environment issue - and it is also a certified B Corp, meaning the company itself has had to meet a rigorous set of standards relating to social and environmental responsibility.
This Isn't Streaky Bacon - but even my meat-loving partner agreed it's a pretty good imitation with a lot to love. It's evident immediately that a lot of love, money, and work has gone into developing this product - they way I wish it was for all vegetarian substitutes - and it really pays off in its taste and texture.
By the rasher, This is a tad more expensive that buying meat-based bacon. And during a cost of living crisis, sometimes every penny makes a difference - especially when you have an entire family to feed. But if you don't need to stretch your bacon quite so far, a single pack of This Isn't Streaky Bacon costs about the same as Sainsbury's premium range products, so could be a viable alternative for having a few slices with your full English breakfast.
In terms of health, the vegan option is the clear winner, with less sodium and saturated fat than their porky alternative - plus you'd be dodging the increased risk of bowel cancer that comes with eating processed meats, as described by the WHO.
This also has a pretty solid environmental pedigree, so if that's something that worries you about eating meat, why not give it a go? I bet you'll be just as impressed with the results as I was.
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