Food Forever at Kew Gardens: Sophie Medlin’s reflection

Written by Sophie Medlin, Consultant Dietitian and Founder of CityDietitians

As someone who was a vegetarian for many years from an early age, I have always been a big fan of Quorn products. As a child, they brought some essential variety to my diet, as well as very much needed convenience to my Mum, who was preparing different meals for me, as the rest of the family were meat eaters.

Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting the Foods of the Future exhibition at Kew Gardens which was sponsored by Quorn. It was amazing to understand more about how minimal the environmental impact of certain proteins can be. Unlike plant-based protein alternatives, Quorn is produced from the fungus Fusarium venenatum. Just a couple of spores of this microscopic fungus are added into tanks and encouraged to reproduce and grow in a process called fermentation. After a few days a fungal biomass is formed/created, which then undergoes centrifugation to separate and dry the protein from the culture medium. The result is mycoprotein (it looks a bit like bread dough) which is then used to make the Quorn products that we see on the shelves. One of the things that is important to me is that Quorn is cultured and produced in the UK which keeps the environmental impact even lower.

If we compare this to the process of rearing and producing chicken products, which uses more water, more plants and more land, we can see how much the environmental impact differs.

The carbon footprint of Quorn Mince is 95% lower than beef mince which is really something to think about. I use Quorn Mince for cooking at home because I also find it really convenient. Instead of having to think ahead and defrost beef mince or buy fresh, I can just add some Quorn Mince directly from the freezer into my pasta sauces and I have a high protein meal in minutes.

Through the exhibition at Kew Gardens, Quorn showed its commitment to funding research on sustainable healthy proteins and being part of sustainable food systems for the future. In order to secure sustainable food systems, we need to support individuals to make more sustainable food choices as well as partner with public health bodies to discuss and consider how sustainability can be built into policy. In the current economic climate, most food choices on an individual level will be made based on cost. This means relying on the government to put policies in place that make sustainable eating more accessible. The exhibition at Kew got me thinking about the environmental benefits we would receive if we were able to persuade more people to consume Quorn in place of chicken or other meat products. Do we think the general public are ready to see Quorn on the menu at local chicken shops? I’d like to think so!

As a dietitian, I see my patients open to exploring different alternative protein sources which is inspiring. One of the things that there needs to be greater awareness of is how available the proteins are in different meat alternatives. Quorn Mycoprotein is easily digested and absorbed. In fact, research has shown that the protein from Quorn is as bioavailable as animal proteins. Protein is important for growth and repair of tissues as well as keeping us full between meals. This makes Quorn a really viable meat alternative from a nutrition, environmental and ethical perspective.

These days there are loads of meat alternatives, but we do need to keep an eye on their nutritional and environmental credentials when we’re making a decision on which to include. Quorn definitely ticks these boxes for me and the more I have learnt about it, the happier I am that it has been a staple part of my diet for so long!

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