Veggie lovers are still a force to be reckoned with. An estimated 7.3 million Americans are vegetarian – and 1 million of those people are vegans, who consume no animal products at all. Sales of “fake meat” products have exploded in the last few years, and it’s easier than ever to find veggie options while dining out.

While vegan and vegetarian meat alternatives are certainly not new, several startup companies are now crafting artificial meat in laboratories using genetic engineering – and marketing those products as vegan-friendly. While the jury is still out on whether our vegan friends desire products that smell and “bleed” like meat, many consumers are curious as to how companies are manufacturing these products.

Some companies use heme, a deep-red iron-containing blood pigment obtained from hemoglobin. Heme is found in animal blood and muscle (as well as plants) and can be extracted from soybeans. However, large quantities of heme can be manufactured through genetic engineering by taking the soy leghemoglobin gene and transferring it to yeast strain.

Other companies grow animal cells in vitro on growth mediums such as fetal bovine serum, which is extracted from slaughtered animals. If you’re thinking that manufacturing “meatless” products using fetal bovine serum is a bit contradictory – you’re not alone! Many consumers are questioning whether these “vegan” products can truly be considered cruelty-free.

Are you looking for products that are genuinely vegan or vegetarian, and don’t involve genetic engineering? The Non-GMO Project boasts over 400 tofu, tempeh, and alternative meat products, as well as thousands of other vegetarian and vegan products that meet our rigorous Standard.

Our Marketing and Outreach Assistant and resident vegan, Alli Willis, was kind enough to share her favorite summer salad recipe! Her Tofurky Chik’N Salad is delicious as a salad or as a wrap. Throw the wraps on the grill for a few minutes and you have a real treat!

Tofurky Chik’N Salad:

– 1 pack Tofurky Slow Roasted Chick’Nthere are three Non-GMO Project Verified options to choose from!

– Handful of pecans

– Handful of pistachios

– 1/2 pint of blueberries

– 1/4 cup diced red onion

– 1 large carrot (grated or peeled into ribbons)

– Lots of your favorite greens: I like a mix of romaine, kale, spinach, and arugula

– Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

Follow Your Heart Parmesan Style Grated Cheese Alternative (to taste)


– 3/4 cup olive oil

– 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

– 1 tablespoon Dijon Mustard

– 2 teaspoons agave (optional)

– Dash of fresh ground black pepper

1. Pull apart the Tofurky Chick’N – delicious when pan toasted!
2. Toss salad ingredients together in a large bowl.
3.Prepare the vinaigrette or substitute your favorite dressing. Drizzle and toss.
4. Top with fresh pepper and your favorite vegan cheese.

Serves 4

Bon Appétit!


Alli Willis

Hi Jeff, I was curious too so I looked this up.

Looks like Gott’s just announced that they will be serving the “Impossible Burger”. According to the Impossible Burger website, they use genetic engineering to get their heme from yeast just like the process Erin described up above.

Here’s that announcement from Gott’s:

And here’s a link to Impossible Burger’s FAQ so you can read up on their GMO use if you like:

Hope that helps!

Alli Willis

Hi Bob,

Good question, and as these new “vegan meats” are showing us, it depends on who you ask!

As far as I’m concerned, if it requires animal products to make or process it, it’s not vegan. It’s just a few emerging technologies that we need to watch out for. The old standbys such as tofu, tempeh and seitan are not produced with heme or animal cells, so those are good to go.

Some of my personal favorite Non-GMO Project Verified vegan “meats” include:
Tofurky Chik’n (4 flavors), Deli Slices, and Chorizo Style Crumbles
Lightlife Smartground
Field Roast Apple Maple and Apple Sage Sausages
Gardein Veggie Burger
Yves Pepperoni


I’d love to see you also include the whole food plant based lifestyle since we are growing by leaps and bounds. We live a processed free lifestyle including oil free.


100% EWWWWW! No. Blood like properties means it’s NOT vegan or vegetarian! And grown in a lab is NOT healthy, so icksnay on the eganvay. It’s not JUST cruelty. Health is huge to most vegans & vegheads.

Do not give me fake blood made from products in real blood. I don’t want blood!

Please give us a list of companies doing this…growing Frankenburgers and using nasty things like heme. This is just wrong.

VT told us this day would come several years ago. I remember reading an article asking if you’d eat “meat” grown in a lab. Disgusted me then, too.


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