In an Australian first, Woolworths is now selling Minced; a 100% plant-based vegan mince on the shelves beside the animal products. Funky Fields have created it using soy protein, wheat gluten, coconut oil, almonds, tomatoes and porcini mushrooms, and given it that distinctive red colour using beetroots. I was sceptical at first, but I had to try it for myself.
Trying to find it on the shelves was a little off-putting to begin with, and had I not seen the hype online it’s a product I don’t think I would have ever found – the meat section is one I avoid, for obvious reasons. Straying from the usual aisles, I headed first to the beef section with no luck before spotting a separate fridge labelled ‘Mince.’ There, sat in-between the pork and the beef was Minced, looking almost identical to it’s animal counterparts.
In the US, Beyond Meat has seen great success selling Beyond Burgers alongside the beef, and in some stores it has even outsold beef. Beyond Meat have subsequently doubled their production to keep up with demand. Just as venturing out to the meat aisles can be daunting for me, trying something new in the ‘free-from’ aisle can be off-putting to a meat eater – the more convenient veganism becomes, the less excuse there is for someone not to give it a try.
Of course, challenging conventional ideas doesn’t come without controversy. Beef farmers are up in arms over the use of the word ‘mince,’ as if it’s exclusively used to describe meat. Never mind the minced garlic we can readily buy on the shelves, or god forbid, mince pies. It feels like deja vu; we’ve seen dairy farmers have this argument with plant-milk producers in recent years, claiming that using the word milk is deceptive to consumers; now we’re splitting hairs over the word minced, despite the fact it’s a preparation technique used in cooking, and it’s not exclusive to animal products.
Vegan ranting aside – let’s talk about the product.
When opening the packaging, the mince didn’t have a strong smell. The texture was definitely firmer than that of minced meat which is great for making burgers or meatballs – no additional binders are needed, just the seasonings of your choice. I chose to make mine into meatballs (plantballs?) to put into a sauce, seasoned simply with salt, pepper and garlic, and the pack made about 12 small balls. This is by far the most convenient mince replacement I’ve ever used, and can be prepared in the exact same way as meat would be.
To cook the balls, I preheated some oil in a large frying pan and fried them until they had an even brown crust on the outside, for about 10-15 minutes. There was a definite meaty smell as they cooked, and the caramelisation on the outside of the meatballs gave an authentic chargrilled aroma. I was excited to try these.
The outside caramelised beautifully, giving the meatballs a crisp outer crust, while the inside remained juicy and tender, from the fat in the coconut oil. This is the only plant-protein I’ve tried which I’ve found equally as satisfying and believable as the Beyond Burger. The taste was deep and meaty; umami-rich rom the mushrooms and slightly smoky from the char that comes with frying, while the texture was eerily similar to minced beef – the combination of soy protein and wheat gluten creates the perfect level of bite. I was so impressed with the way the meatballs turned out, and they held up perfectly in the sauce when served.
I would recommend everyone, vegan or not, to try this product and I’m excited to see what else Funky Fields comes out with in the future. Minced is a game changer. Admittedly, the convincing appearance and taste, and it’s location on supermarket shelves could be a big turn off for people who have already switched to a plant-based or vegan diet, but I think it’s a great idea to get meat eaters to consider an alternative protein. It’s also amazing to see the steps a large supermarket like Woolworths are taking to accommodate their vegan customers and respond to the growing demand – keep it up, Woolies.
Have you tried Minced?