ElI5: How do they make vegan food that comes so close to tasting like meat or cheese?

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ElI5: How do they make vegan food that comes so close to tasting like meat or cheese?

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The chemicals that give cheese or meat its taste are just that – chemicals. They make the same chemicals in the lab, then add it to food (often otherwise bland food). Some of the chemicals are big enough that they are the food.

Plain observatory science. They break down the compounds in meat to identify them to get a firm grasp of what constitutes “meat”, and then they find ways to either mimic or recreate these compounds from those found in plants.

Animals and plant share a lot of the same biology. We don’t looks or behave the same but we share many of the core compounds to varying degrees. Plants aren’t complete aliens, they still have a lot of the same biology we have, just at very different degrees. If you shred the plants you can start extracting meaningful amounts of what you’re looking for, especially if you start to breed them to produce whatever specific compound you need.

Currently most of it is just approximation and not actual real reproduction to any degree. The Beyond Meat burger for example doesn’t actually reproduce animal oils, it uses either coconut or olive oil or one of those as a substitute. That’s not going to taste the same, but if you know how much oil is in a certain type of meat you can add in the exact amount and have an approximation. It gets more complicated with the other ingredients, but you get the point.