Timeline: A Short and Sweet History of Fake Meat

How we became obsessed with the quest for the perfect faux animal protein.


1896:

John Harvey Kellogg, a member of the mostly vegetarian Seventh-day Adventists, creates a peanut-based “meatless meat,” Nuttose, which becomes popular at sanitariums. He goes on to popularize cereal as an alternative to egg- and meat-heavy breakfasts.

jorn harvey kellogg

Corbis

1931:

In his essay “Fifty Years Hence,” Winston Churchill writes, “We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium.”

1933:

Seventh-day Adventists found Loma Linda Foods, which makes some of the first commercially available soy- and wheat-based fake meats.

loma linda foods

Loma Linda Foods

1967:

British scientists discover Fusarium venenatum, a high-protein fungus.

1981:

Oregon restaurateur Paul Wenner shapes leftover vegetables and rice pilaf into patties and sells them as Gardenburgers.

1994:

UK-based Quorn introduces fake meat made of Fusarium venenatum.

1995:

A struggling vegetarian food manufacturer called Turtle Island Foods sells 500 Tofurky Roasts. By 2012, 3 million have been sold.

1998:

Gardenburger sees sales surge after it airs a 30-second, $1.5 million animated commercial featuring the voice of Samuel L. Jackson during the Seinfeld finale.

1999:

Boca Burger ratchets up ad spending from $500,000 to $4 million; Worthington Foods (which acquired Loma Linda) pours $5 million to promote its FriPats and Choplets. Gardenburger boosts spending to $18.2 million.

2002:

Burger King introduces the BK Veggie Burger. McDonald’s, which sold nonmeat burgers in the United Kingdom, Netherlands, and India throughout the ’90s, launches a US version the following year.

Quorn hits US shelves. The American Mushroom Institute complains that fusarium is not in fact a mushroom. Quorn later removes the phrase “mushroom in origin” from its packaging.

2008:

PETA offers a $1 million reward to the first laboratory to create a commercially viable in vitro “chicken” product by 2012.

2009:

The Cornucopia Institute finds that most nonorganic veggie burgers on the market are made with hexane, an air pollutant and neurotoxin.

2011:

A report that Japanese scientists were working on turning human feces into steak turns out to be, well, bullshit.

2011:

The New York Times claims the veggie burger has become “a bellwether for the American appetite.” Today, a patty of hickory-smoked quinoa and lentils costs $14 at New York City’s Blue Smoke restaurant.

2012:

PETA extends its lab-grown meat contest deadline to 2014.

Market research firm Mintel reports that although only 7 percent of consumers call themselves vegetarian, 36 percent report using fake meat.

July 2013:

Fast-food chain Chipotle introduces tofu “sofritas.”

sofritas

Chipotle

August 2013:

Dutch scientists make the world’s first lab-grown burger from cow muscle cells, fetal calf blood, and antibiotics. In a live-streamed tasting, the patties are pronounced “close to meat” but “not that juicy.”

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