Timeline: A Short and Sweet History of Fake Meat

How we became obsessed with the quest for the perfect faux animal protein.


John Harvey Kellogg, a member of the mostly vegetarian Seventh-day Adventists, creates a peanut-based “meatless meat,” Nuttose, which becomes popular at sanitariums. He goes on to popularize cereal as an alternative to egg- and meat-heavy breakfasts.

jorn harvey kellogg



In his essay “Fifty Years Hence,” Winston Churchill writes, “We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium.”


Seventh-day Adventists found Loma Linda Foods, which makes some of the first commercially available soy- and wheat-based fake meats.

loma linda foods

Loma Linda Foods


British scientists discover Fusarium venenatum, a high-protein fungus.


Oregon restaurateur Paul Wenner shapes leftover vegetables and rice pilaf into patties and sells them as Gardenburgers.


UK-based Quorn introduces fake meat made of Fusarium venenatum.


A struggling vegetarian food manufacturer called Turtle Island Foods sells 500 Tofurky Roasts. By 2012, 3 million have been sold.


Gardenburger sees sales surge after it airs a 30-second, $1.5 million animated commercial featuring the voice of Samuel L. Jackson during the Seinfeld finale.


Boca Burger ratchets up ad spending from $500,000 to $4 million; Worthington Foods (which acquired Loma Linda) pours $5 million to promote its FriPats and Choplets. Gardenburger boosts spending to $18.2 million.


Burger King introduces the BK Veggie Burger. McDonald’s, which sold nonmeat burgers in the United Kingdom, Netherlands, and India throughout the ’90s, launches a US version the following year.

Quorn hits US shelves. The American Mushroom Institute complains that fusarium is not in fact a mushroom. Quorn later removes the phrase “mushroom in origin” from its packaging.


PETA offers a $1 million reward to the first laboratory to create a commercially viable in vitro “chicken” product by 2012.


The Cornucopia Institute finds that most nonorganic veggie burgers on the market are made with hexane, an air pollutant and neurotoxin.


A report that Japanese scientists were working on turning human feces into steak turns out to be, well, bullshit.


The New York Times claims the veggie burger has become “a bellwether for the American appetite.” Today, a patty of hickory-smoked quinoa and lentils costs $14 at New York City’s Blue Smoke restaurant.


PETA extends its lab-grown meat contest deadline to 2014.

Market research firm Mintel reports that although only 7 percent of consumers call themselves vegetarian, 36 percent report using fake meat.

July 2013:

Fast-food chain Chipotle introduces tofu “sofritas.”



August 2013:

Dutch scientists make the world’s first lab-grown burger from cow muscle cells, fetal calf blood, and antibiotics. In a live-streamed tasting, the patties are pronounced “close to meat” but “not that juicy.”


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