We need a broader definition for words like “meat” and “milk”  – veggie burgers and soy milk are just as real as beef burgers and cow’s milk.

The vegetarian meat of the matter

Vegetarian meats are typically referred to as mock, fake, faux or imitation. Yet the bulk of them are real food, without artificial additives and flavours. By callng them fake, we imply that we need animal meat. The actual definition of ‘meat’ means “solid food” (Merriam-Websters dictionary), as in nut meat, the meat of the coconut, etc.

Ironically, many meat products contain more unsavory and mysterious ingredients than veggie meats. I.e: animal-based wieners, hot dogs and baloney.

One company in the US writes:

“By not labelling ourselves fake meat, and instead calling ourselves “grain meat”, we at Field Roast are trying to reclaim a word, assosciation and lifestyle. We know that the very term itself [meat] is a highly charged one, and that’s why we like to use it. We like to challenge the idea that our proteins can only come from an animal source. If we to label our foods “fake” bacon, turkey, beef etc. then we are really just buying into the idea that we need to consume those animals in our diets in some form or another.“

Also avoid the terms: “analog,” “alternative,” and “replacement.” Instead say: vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, or call them by what they’re based on: soy, wheat, nut, veggie. As in veggie burger, soy meat, vegan deli slices, etc.

Beyond cow’s milk

The dairy industry does not own the word, “milk”. There are many kinds of animal milks. And there are plant milks including soy milk, rice milk, almond milk and coconut milk. The same would be true for the words: cheese, cream and ice cream.


The word “egg“ is by definition a bird’s egg. So what do you call vegan replacements for eggs?  Instead of the term: “egg substitutes“ (which implies second rate) say binder or say nothing. There is often no need to call attention to the absence of eggs in a dish. Or you could refer to a dish as being egg-free or eggless. By the way, tofu scramble is a delicious replacement for scrambled eggs. See our page on how to modify recipes that call for eggs.

Colleen Patrick-Goud

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau of Compassionate Cooks has an excellent 10-minute podcast on language titled: “The words we use to refer to the animals we eat reveals a lot about how we feel about eating once-living creatures.“ Words like beef and pork hide the fact that people are eating animals. Even for “chicken”, she points out that the addition of just one letter “s” can make people very uncomfortable. As in: “Did you eat chickens for lunch?”

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