raven + crow studio have been dedicated vegans for a long time now. So long that I feel fairly confident in saying that we’ve fielded the gamut of questions that people tend to ask those who chose to avoid animal products: Where do you get your protein? Don’t you miss cheese/bacon/steak/eggs/all that stuff? Would you drink milk if you raised your own cow and were totally besties and nice to it? If we’re not supposed to eat meat, why do we have these two semi-sharp teeth? How’s it cruel to shave sheep—they get hot, man? Do you have bird-like bones that break under the weight of our planet’s harsh gravity? What are vegan shoes—can you eat those? Can you still lift things? Don’t plants have feelings too?

And one key question addressed by Peace Advocacy Network Co-Founder, Ed Coffin over at the Huffington Post this week: “Why Do Vegans Eat ‘Fake’ Meat?” Coffin’s answer seems obvious to us this far down the road but may not be obvious to everyone, that being, essentially, because it tastes good + doesn’t result in animals unnecessarily dying and/or living a life of pain + servitude. Easy.

Ethical off-roads aside,  we’ve drastically decreased the amount of “fake” meat we personally consume (and, by “fake” meat, we just mean processed vegetable-based protein—soy, seitan, et cetera—meant to resemble animal protein). It’s been less of a pre-meditated, planned-out thing for us and more an effect of the larger cultural movement of late toward whole foods and us simply realizing that we feel healthier the fewer overly processed foods we consume.

That said, this writer does get the occasional/frequent craving for some faux wings or a crazy loaded vegan sausage, so I’m happy to have more easily accessible options on that front than ever before.

A recent, much-anticipated offering in that realm are the vegan chicken-like protein strips from California-based company, Beyond Meat. Part of the reason the company’s products were so hyped well in advance of their actual release is the “mainstream” backing of Twitter co-founders, Evan Williams + Biz Stone. But the more significant reason for all the excitement  is the company’s savvy marketing approach akin that of vegan cheese company, Daiya. Like Daiya, Beyond Meat smartly put a lot of effort into social media + audience-building prior to release. They also focused not only on the individual consumer market, but also on the restaurant market and on a strong partnership with Whole Foods, both of which have strengthened their overall presence + impact cross-market.

But, beyond showing some good business sense, how’s the company’s actual product?

First off, as designers, we have to say—we abhor the chicken-made-up-of-vegetables imagery on the packaging. That’s just weird, man. And not very appetizing. It for real pained us to put that photo on this blog.

But that’s beside the main point, which is—yes, Beyond Meat has succeeded in creating a very chicken-like chicken alternative. The texture, in my opinion, is spot-on. Raw it’s not great, but I don’t remember eating a whole lot of raw chicken in my meat-eating days. Sauté it with a little oil though, and it’s gives a great, basic ‘protein-y’ taste that, like chicken, provides a fairly neutral palette to build from.

We opted to go with the least pre-seasoned version—”Grilled” as opposed to “Lightly Season” or “Southwest”—so we could control the end product better, sautéing lighting in olive oil with a little salt, and then setting half aside for later use. The other half we mixed with some sliced onions + a nice vegan mole sauce for tacos as part of a vegetable-based Mexican meal. The strips held up well, worked great as part of the larger flavor, and retained their texture like champs. Overall, thumbs-up! We stored the other pre-cooked half of the strips and then, later in the week, worked them up in a food processor with chopped up apple, some Vegenaise, and some fresh herbs + spices to make a great chicken-like salad.

In the end, we think this is a great meat alternative, especially for those working to slowly introduce animal-freindly proteins into their diet or give the whole vegan thing a try. And any product that makes it easier for us all to lessen the impact we make on animal’s lives, the environment, and our larger societal health, we’re 100% behind, especially when it seems to be from a company that’s so well-run. You know. Minus that whole packaging thing.

Below, our Beyond Meat chicken-less salad wrap and a packaging choice the company made that we can support.