Alternatives to red meat

The first headlines announcing “mad cow” disease in the nation opened an unofficial hunting season for red meat alternatives. Folks in southern Arkansas zeroed in on venison as a ‘safe meat’, but the menu options across the nation extend beyond Bambi’s relatives.
For starters, try the Hunch Back of Cattle-dum, the bison, a truly healthy alternative. “Bison is lower in fat, calories and cholesterol than beef, pork or skinless chicken,” according to Sam Albrecht, executive director of National Bison Association. In Europe, where there is a growing fear of “mad cow” disease, bison meat is increasingly popular. Overall, according to the UPI bison story, the bison industry grows about 20 percent a year.
Also increasingly popular in Europe is the equine specialty: steak of horse. Although it does not comply with the ancient biblical standards for kosher food, the horse is another red meat alternative. The rising interest in horse meat is a hidden fallout from “mad cow” and other cattle disease outbreaks overseas according to a report on Tonight’s Eye on America.
“Growing numbers of American horses, deemed to be past their prime, have become prime cuts at dinner tables in Europe and elsewhere. Worldwide demand for horse meat is up 62 percent to 100 percent, depending on the country. The world’s leading supplier of horses for slaughter is believed to be the United States,” according to Wyatt Andrews on Tonight’s Eye.
In American, however, a barbecued horse is not the most popular dish, but many might consider a third, less exotic, more traditional red meat alternative: the goat. Already the primary source of animal protein in many North African and Middle Eastern nations , goat meat plays an important role in the diet in many developing countries around the world. Plus, bite for bite goat is lower in calories than pork, meat, chicken or horse and almost the lowest in cholesterol of all meats, according to the handbook for the United States Department of Agriculture.
If the thought of any meat dish from any four-legged critter churns your stomach, take a deep breath, sit back and consider a two-legged, red meat alternative – the ostrich or the emu. Although they look like Big Bird minus the smiley face, blonde rinse and perm, both qualify to be the red meat of the future – just don’t try taking one out back with a hatchet like you would a chicken. These birds can wallop a mean kick with either of foot.
Of course, there are those who simply will never be able to stomach any kind of land roving creature now that “mad cow” has touched their lives. These folks can just go straight to the meat substitutes favored by vegetarians: tofu, seitan, tempeh, etc. True vegetarians swear by them. Their friends and relatives just swear every time they are invited for dinner.
Most folks have heard about tofu. This bland soybean curd made from soy milk comes in soft, firm or extra firm– not unlike the gradations for pillows and mattress – which it resembles – and is compatible in many dishes because it absorbs the flavors of other ingredients.
Or, ferment a few soybeans and grains, press that all into a cake and you get an Indonesian protein dish called tempeh. It is said to have a yeasty, nutty flavor. Just add a few fresh vegetables for a completely healthy, nutritious meal.
The last alternative, seitan, originates from a flour-and-water dough which is rinsed to remove the starch components. The residue is an edible, high-protein gluten – an ingredient gluten sensitive persons fear more than “mad cow” disease.
So there you have it, the shoppers guide to red meat/protein alternatives – all coming soon to a produce or meat department near you. Enjoy.