September 19, 2017: An article on National Public Radio’s website titled The Rise Of Mock Meat: How Its Story Reflects America’s Ever-Changing Values, has traced the roots of meat replacements to late 19th century Adventism.
In the article by freelance journalist, Deena Prichep, Battle Creek Sanitarium is pinpointed as the source of the first commercial mock meat. The Adventist facility is described as “one of the most famous destinations for personal health of that era.”
As the the director of the sanitarium, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg advocated for vegetarianism.
His nutritional counsel grew in popularity with several of the day’s elite due to the indigestion from which many suffered at the time.
The famous cereal inventor’s “clean eating” gained popularity in wider culture with even celebrities of the day eating the unusual food.
The sanitarium used nut-based mock meats. Historian Howard Markel is quoted as saying that early experiments with the mock meats were not entirely successful
“It didn’t hold together, or there wasn’t enough gluten, or they found boiling them at too high a temperature made them taste acrid or sour. Sometimes they even measured barometric pressure,” said Markel.
John Harvey Kellogg and his brother Will Keith eventually found a solution for mock meat that worked employing nuts and gluten. The first commercial success was a product called Protose which the brothers claimed “resembles potted veal or chicken.”
They said that Protose “has a distinctly meaty odor and flavor. When a bit is torn off and chewed, it shows a distinct fiber. It is of such consistency that it may be masticated like tender meat and when cooked retains its form as does meat.”
Prichep claims that this description was generous and that the mock meat instead tasted like peanuts.
Nevertheless, the product was a commercial success as it was “protein-filled (or, to use the parlance of the time, blood-building), palatable, and, most importantly, had a monopoly in the mock-meat market.”
From there, other Adventist-originated vegetarian meats followed including veggie hot dogs, “skallops” and mock duck.
Prichep said that during this early period, Adventist corporations dominated the mock meat market.
It wasn’t until the 1970’s and the countercultural movement that a second wave of vegetarian innovation hit with products like Gardenburger and Boca Burger gaining popularity.
Prichep said that a third wave of veggie burgers has recently hit and that these products resemble meat more than anything that has come before. Some of these come out of Silicon Valley with consumers looking for a “disruption” of the meat industry.
Although the Kellogg brothers’ Protose products were in production for about a century, they are now history.
Nevertheless, Prichep says that “thanks to those pioneers, the modern-day bearers of the mock-meat torch can be found at pretty much any neighborhood grocery store.”