Why Quorn™ Products Are Not What I Thought They Were

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Intro

I’m really not too sure what I was expecting this product to be. I just thought to myself, “Well it’s basically just a modern derivative of a mushroom. Okay; I’m okay with that.” Even though I felt a bit strange about eating some science creation, I was convinced it was better for me, and better for the planet. While the planet argument may still be up for debate, the health argument should be officially squashed. . .

What It Is

Quorn is a UK-based company that specializes in meatless products, specifically beef and chicken. The company was initially ruled by Marlow foods, and is now owned by Monde Nissin Corporation. How they make this delicious meat substitute is a little complex, and it might make some of you meat lovers and new vegetarians a little wary. . .

Basically it is all derived from a microfungus, which is grown by fermentation that the company says is similar to beer. Researchers started studying how to make this type of product, one they call “single cell biomass,” in the 1960s because they predicted a shortage of protein rich foods. The studies were initially funded because they wanted to create a protein rich food for animals. Eventually this changed. To make the long story shorter, after a ten-year evaluation program, the Rank Hovis McDougall Research Centre was finally given the permission to sell mycoprotein for human consumption. This was back in 1985. Production then began under the name of Marlow Foods, which was a joint venture between Rank Hovis McDougall Research (RHM) and Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI)

imperial_chemical_industries

Photo of one of Imperial Chemical Industries’ factories

How it tastes

The beef tastes phenomenal and very close to the real thing. I normally would get the crumbles and they’re great in stir-frys. The chicken, on the other hand, tastes very good and (in my experiences) while most meat-eating people accept it as tasty, it doesn’t taste like chicken; however, I’ve found that if you use it in fajitas or a burrito or something like that, it’s pretty darn good. Both of these products are super good if you are just transitioning to a more veg lifestyle and you need something that really tastes like meat.

Is it healthy for you?

This opens up a rather large debate. My meat eating friends state that they would much rather eat something that is in it’s natural state than they would out of a laboratory. On the flip side, my non-meat eating friends and environmentalists alike, think that because lowering your animal consumption is healthier for you, more fiber is healthier for you, less bad fat is healthier for you, and eating less meat is healthier for the planet, meat substitutes are the way to go.

All this taken into account, though I firmly stand on the side of vegetarian on this argument in most cases, but I can no longer vouch for this product . . .

For one, I can’t eat the Quorn™ chicken anymore. It doesn’t make me “sick,” per se, but it does give me a less than desirable stool sample, if you know what I mean. After eating it for about a year and a half consistently, I finally said, “You know what? This just isn’t working for me.” I still love the taste and everything and, on paper, it looks like you’re doing your body some justice. After my personal experience and research, however, I’m not so sure that’s the case.

Though the chicken seems to upset me, for some reason the beef doesn’t. It does cause a bit of flatulence because of the increased amount of fiber, but other than that, very little side effects for me. If you’re wondering how it affects, say, your athletic performance, I lifted and played sports at a high level while in college (club and amateur soccer as well as heavy lifting) and I saw no drop-off in performance.

My uncertainty in this product turned out to be validated. It is not shocking to me that the company actually got into legal trouble in the UK for calling it a “mushroom-based product.” The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) said (in response to their description), “Quorn’s fungus is as closely related to mushrooms as humans are to jellyfish.” I am not a scientist so I can’t really say how accurate THAT is, but I found it funny and thought I should mention it in the article.

If you think it sounds bad, it gets worse. The CSPI article I linked to above states that there have been over 2,000 cases (that they know of) that involved adverse reactions to Quorn products. The article goes on to further explain that people had reactions to the product in the company’s own clinical trials! 

VWR Bottom Line

Pros

  • Tastes Good
  • Has a good amount of fiber
  • Vegetarian
  • Ample protein
  • Better for environment than eating cows

Cons

  • Made in a lab (not natural)
  • Causes abnormal reactions for some
  • Not tested long-term

The bottom line is this: it’s a tasty meat substitute you shouldn’t eat more than twice a week. While the benefits seem to outweigh the cons on paper, you have to ask yourself how important your health is and how much you trust a chemical company with making your food.

This is a tasty product to wow your vegetarian friends with when you make stir-fry, but I really wouldn’t eat it very often. I mean, I ate it about 3 times a week in college and was actually planning on recommending it in my book; but upon reading about how it came to be, it just seems like rolling the dice.

Note: I used Wikipedia as one of my sources. I realize that all their information is subject to change and is not a reliable resource for scholarly work, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary and CSPI (a reliable source) seemed to validate what they said. There also just wasn’t a lot of information available about their upbringing. If you find any of this information to be incorrect, please comment.

Sources

Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI): https://cspinet.org/eating-healthy/foods-avoid/quorn

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quorn

 

 

 

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