Quorn

Fake meat?

Processed food?

Junk food?

High protein meat-free ready meal?

Fresh from the laboratory?

All of those, and more.

Or as the website says, a wonder food.

Well, not quite, in my opinion.

What is Quorn? It’s made from mycoprotein, and according to the packaging, this is a ‘nutritious member of the fungi family and is naturally low in fat (less than 3%) and high in protein and fibre’.

It’s based on a fermentation process, which is hardly innovative as tempeh has been made from soya beans using fermentation for some hundreds of years.

Apparently it seems that in the 1960s there were predictions that in twenty years time there would be a shortage of protein-rich foods. Because remember, the most important part of your diet is protein and we all need lots of it.

[And no doubt people realised back then that the population was increasing and there wasn’t enough land, or enough animals to kill, to feed us all, and there still isn’t….]

This protein obsession was clearly a post-war fallacy. I remember my mother chanting the five protein foods – meat, fish, cheese, eggs and milk (I think, from the depths of my dusty 50+ year old memory). We all needed to shovel in as much of those as possible. Nothing to do with the influence of the Meat and Livestock Commission, of course. Now we are all exhorted to eat our five daily fruit/veg. I wonder what the next five will be.

Anyway back to Quorn. Scientists were messing around trying to make some cheap animal food from a fermentation process (because you wouldn’t want animals to eat naturally would you? – this was before it became a good idea to feed sheeps’ brains to cows….) but it wasn’t economically viable, which is all we are ever interested in, right?

So given this big scare about not enough protein-rich food to go round, they turned their talented (sheepish?) brains to cooking up some human food.

ICI and Rank Hovis McDougall (RHM) worked together on developing this product and it was finally approved in 1985, when fortunately the (western) world still hadn’t run out of conventional protein-based foods. Who cares about the rest of the world anyway?

Quorn was produced by Marlow Foods (still is) named after the RHM headquarters in Bucks, and called Quorn after the Leicestershire village.

It was introduced into UK shops in the 1990s and I gave it a wide berth. Apart from anything else it didn’t use free-range eggs and I had an extremely good local shop that sold tempeh, seitan and tofu, so I really didn’t need this sci-fi product.

What I didn’t know at the time was that ICI flogged Marlow Foods to Astra Zeneca, a nasty pharmaceutical company (not that ICI was any better). Anyone interested in ethical shopping will try and avoid companies that are subsidiaries of pharmaceutical giants.

After ten years, AZ sold it to a private equity firm for seventy mill. Two years later, that firm sold it on to Premier Foods for £172M. Nice profit there over two years methinks. Last year it was bought by two other equity firms for £205M, not such a good profit for Premier. I wonder how much Exponent Private Equity and Intermediate Capital Group will sell it on for?

Quorn is now available in the following countries:

Sweden, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Republic of Ireland, United States, Australia, New Zealand and the UK. [The Quorn website can’t seem to decide whether it is available in Germany or not].

Introducing it into America was more of a problem than elsewhere as there were a few objections. Yawn – protectionism rears its American head yet again. One of the objectors to Quorn was Gardenburger, a firm making vegetarian/meat-free burgers and other products, and interestingly using mushrooms as a key ingredient. [Quorn was originally described as being a mushroom product].

Also interestingly, a Quorn vegan burger has been introduced into the US market, although there are – to date – no vegan products in the UK. From 2004 all Quorn products used only free-range eggs, and they are now looking at reducing their use of eggs.

The only product I have at the moment is some chicken style slices. Ingredients are mycoprotein (71%), rehydrated free range egg white, milk proteins, water. Flavouring is pea fibre (??!!) and the preservative is potassium sorbate. They are tolerable, as are the turkey ones. The ham is a vile pink and the peppered beef is pretty tasteless.

Other products – the sausages taste like rubber. The peppered steaks are ok once in a blue moon, I cook them in a home-made pepper sauce, the lamb steaks are ok in an even rarer blue moon and the cheese and broccoli escalopes are ok if you like crunchy breadcrumbed things – also best cooked in the oven and served with lashings of lemon juice. The garlic and herb fillets are not ok.

They also do an ocean pie of which the greater part is potato, spinach and cheese sauce, with only 12% being the Quorn fishy pieces. The helping for two is tiny and serves more as a garnish, I served it with a lot more mashed potato and loads of peas. I object to buying mashed potato anyway and think they should sell fishy pieces without potato.

My problem is I can’t get tempeh at all in Gib, seitan only occasionally, although tofu is usually available. I would really really like to be able to buy the other two. I would also like to buy Redwood VegiDeli slices but Morrison’s stocks those as and when. So, Quorn does get bought from time to time. But it’s not my fave.

Checking out their website, I thought it was a bit naughty.

SUPER FOOD OR SUPERFOOD?

Explore the world of Quorn and find out how you can have all of your favourite meals a lot healthier. Forget fad diets, forget giving up or cutting out your favourite foods –
just make one simple change to Quorn and eat normally!

Quorn is many things to many people.

To the food-lover it’s a simple way to make all your favourite meals, healthier.

To the weight-watcher it’s a way of dramatically reducing fat and calorie intake without trying to survive on soup and salad.

To the healthy eater it’s a cholesterol-free source of protein and fibre and essential amino acids.

To the vegetarian it’s an important source of protein – without hurting a hair of any animal’s head.

To all of them it’s a way of eating less meat without reducing or giving up taste and choice. No wonder some people are calling Quorn ‘a wonder food’!

Whoa!! I would disagree with all of those apart from the healthy eating one.

Eat normally?? How discriminating and derogatory.

It is not a simple way to make favourite meals healthier. Making favourite meals healthier means cutting down on protein and increasing legume/vegetable/fruit intake, eating fresh food and ensuring your diet is balanced.

And what is wrong with surviving on soup and salad might I ask? Nothing at all.

It’s not an important source of protein at all, there are plenty of others out there (I like the way vegetarian is last on the list….). And as for whether it hurts a hair of any animal’s head, hard to say, depends on your perspective of the dairy industry. Vegans would say yes and so would I.

Giving up meat doesn’t mean giving up taste and choice, it means choosing differently. Quorn doesn’t taste like meat, any more than tofu does. It does have a chewy type texture which is the nearest resemblance. Otherwise I think those claims are extremely disingenuous.

What else from their website?

Quorn Foods’ vision is to help consumers eat more healthily and so create the world’s first $1billion meat-alternative business.

Think they have the order wrong there. We all know what their vision is. $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Launched nationally in 1995, Quorn is now the UK’s 35th biggest food brand, bigger than Heinz Tomato Ketchup, Doritos and Innocent (AC Nielsen Brand Sales Index 2011). The brand offers a wide range of meat-alternative products, made using the proprietary technology of Mycoprotein that uniquely delivers the taste and texture of meat to the increasing number of people who have chosen to reduce, replace or cut out their meat consumption and who still want to eat a normal, healthy diet.

Who gets to say what a normal diet is?? There is nothing abnormal about mine. Eating Quorn does not improve my diet. Or make it ‘normal’. I’m surprised there isn’t a reference to Paleo Quorn.

Quorn products are often significantly lower in saturated fat and calories than many meat equivalents and are a good source of protein and fibre too, making Quorn the ideal food for anyone choosing to eat more healthily.

I doubt they are lower in saturated fat and calories than tempeh, seitan, tofu.

Today, Quorn Foods is an independent company focused on creating the world’s leading meat-alternative business. In 2010 Quorn Foods’ turnover was £128.8 million, our headquarters are in Stokesley, North Yorkshire and we employ around 600 people across three UK sites.
Unlike other non-meat protein sources, such as soya bean and its derivatives, Quorn has an ability to replicate the taste and texture of meat exceptionally well.

That is totally subjective. For me, both seitan and tempeh have interesting texture, and depending on how you cook them, they can resemble meat – if that’s what you want. Certainly tempeh rashers knock spots off Quorn ones. So, no to that one too.

Let’s be honest about this. This is not a business aimed at looking after your health, a bit like big pharmaceutical companies. This aims to make money out of promoting a meat-free alternative and with rather dodgy claims at that.

By all means buy it. But if you really want any healthy meat-free alternatives, you should be looking at organic tofu, seitan, tempeh, products from Redwood and Cauldron, or even TVP once in a while. It’s not difficult to soak pulses and cook them. These are better and cheaper meat-free alternatives.

This myth about the need for protein-rich food is crazy. Look up protein-rich diets in the western world and you get a fascinating range of sites. Here, is a particularly good article about protein and it’s a good site in general, with some great info.

I’m limited for choice in Gib. My local health food shop in Spain started selling Redwood and then stopped. So, I take what vegetarian products I can get in whatever country I happen to be in.

And, to be honest, a Quorn product for a sandwich, suits me better than sickly cheese from the nasty dairy industry.

With which I will go and make a chicken style slice sandwich. But I wish tempeh and seitan, Redwood and Cauldron, were more widely available. Marlow Foods wouldn’t want that though.

Sources: Wiki and the Quorn UK web site which I am sure you can all look up.

And an interesting article from Wired.

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About roughseasinthemed

I write about my life as an English person living in Spain and Gibraltar, on Roughseas, subjects range from politics and current developments in Gib to book reviews, cooking and getting on with life. My views and thoughts on a variety of topics - depending on my mood of the day - can be found over on Clouds. A few pix are over on Everypic - although it is not a photoblog. And of course my dog had his own blog, but most of you knew that anyway. Pippadogblog etc
This entry was posted in animal rights, consumerism, environmentalism, food, health, vegan, vegetarian, vegetarianism and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Quorn

  1. Vicky says:

    I’d not heard of tempeh, so just done a search to see what it was.
    There is a link to make your own, sounds just the sort of thing I can see you doing.

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    • A bit like making tofu, one of the things I have never done. But tempeh is excellent. Don’t know if D eats it, but if not, I do recommend it, and try it out yourself. Tempeh rashers, as said above are also brill, I just tend to buy my own tempeh, lace it with tamari, and then cook. Which I am living on for breakfast this week having paid six euros for 500 grams in Spain which isn’t cheap but beats paying £17.50 for a tiny leg of lamb which I saw the other day at Morries!!

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  2. Even though I am from Leicetershire I didn’t know the Quorn name story. I always thought it was just an odd name for a wierd product! I am going to use that fact the next time I set a pub quiz!

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  3. EllaDee says:

    Interesting post. I also wondered where the Quorn name came form. Non-meat food alternatives are great but I’m sceptical of anything big corporation and not a fan of messed with food – I wish it wasn’t pharma co’s & PE firms behind it. That said I’m not a vegetarian and humbly bow to your preferences, expertise and obvious research – thanks for informing me once again.

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    • Thanks ED, I don’t think people know much about it – I didn’t either. I was reading in an old mag about it being owned by AZ, so I resolved to look it up and found it had changed hands a few times. Totally agree with all your comments too regarding ownership and messed about food. It’s a convenience food basically, and a bit of last resort. Partner eats it more than I do. There are some interesting complaints about allergies and bad reactions in the US, my main gripe is that I think it is too protein-rich and they are focusing on that as a Good Thing. It’s going to be a jolt to the system if you start shovelling in protein rich food when you aren’t used to it. Anyway, there endeth the Quorn lecture.

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  4. Pingback: Domestics | roughseasinthemed

  5. reb says:

    Very interesting. Had not heard the word before, and there were other words too, new to me.
    I eat meat [except from animals with paws]. It’s a personal choice. I’ve never had as much vegan food as during the trip with David. One couple we visited with in Kent, served a thing, looking almost like a roast, but I think it was made with almonds and nuts ‘n stuff … in any event; it was really GOOD!

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    • I don’t think it is in Canada although it has made it to America despite the protests. It appears to be in Sweden.

      I thought the background of how and why it was invented was interesting, and also the marketing aspects. With it being a Brit thing I’ve been aware of it since it came out.

      Nuts are superb. They are pretty high protein (and fat) though, so when I cook with them I don’t use too many. Ground almonds in curries sometimes, or often hazelnuts in other dishes. My mother (not vegetarian) did a wonderful nut stuffing which tasted so meaty it was unbelievable! And like your visit to Kent, one of my friends cooked a Beef Wellington style dish with chestnuts I think that was truly delicious. Nuts def beat Quorn!!

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  6. Pingback: Introducing The Family To Vegetarianism… « Mother Nature's Snuggery

  7. organiclassie says:

    Thanks for a very interesting post and also for that useful article! Where I live, Quorn or Tofu is pretty much the only meat subs that are sold. I don’t think this is helped by the fact that I live in a small fish, sheep & cow killing community! Probably only 10% of our population (21,000) are veggie & I’ve only met one vegan… Anyway, as I was saying they are pretty much the only choices and the Quorn selection is rubbish to start with. Tesco have more on their shelves from their own brand (surprise surprise), including pies and pastry twists. I tend to keep Quorn chicken style pieces in the fridge for moments of desperation (mainly as I know other family members will also eat it) and have used the mince on occasion for a pasta bolognese sub. I agree though that Quorn’s ethics leave little to be desired! I also find that mushrooms & courgettes are good textures for meat subs, but that could just be my own personal taste. For protein I much prefer Quinoa, chickpeas, nuts, beans, & lentils etc. Therefore I’d rather make my own burgers / patty’s etc! While we’re on the subject what do you wreckon to Linda McCartney’s range? I have to admit I like her sausages on occasion when I’m stuck 🙂

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    • I used to quite like the little sausage rolls years ago. My partner eats the actual sausages when there is no cauldron in Morrisons, but you can only eat them a few times before getting sick of them. But he eats a huge breakfast whereas I prefer fruit salad 😀

      I don’t really like bought products apart from when inspiration has totally disappeared and I can’t think of anything to cook, or am feeling too bone idle. Otherwise like you, I prefer to make something. I can imagine your choice is difficult on one of the scottish islands, although last time I was that way (back in the 90s) we did manage to feed ourselves ok.

      Thanks for the visit and the comment (s).

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  8. Simon Beck says:

    Well, my wife just received some goods from the Rosemary Conley Dieting organisation, and guess where they are based – Quorn House, Meeting Street, Quorn, Leicestershire!

    We had previously noticed that the vegetarian recipes in the diet plan seemed to rely a lot on Quorn products (no tofu or other non-branded protein products), and I am guessing that it is no coincindence, and that the Rosemary Conley organisation has its fingers deeply buried in a Quorn pie. Just a suspicion, and I have found nothing else to reinforce this hunch, but it is a bit odd.

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