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Meat-free Sausages and Burgers

In this guide we investigate, score and rank the ethical and environmental record of 32 brands of meat alternatives.

We also look at soya's link to deforestation in Brazil, palm oil, shine a spotlight on the ethics of Beyond Meat and give our recommended buys.

About Ethical Consumer

This is a product guide from Ethical Consumer, the UK's leading alternative consumer organisation. Since 1989 we've been researching and recording the social and environmental records of companies, and making the results available to you in a simple format.

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What to buy

What to look for when buying meat-free products:

  • Is it low salt? Find lower salt versions if you are worried about your salt intake.

  • Is it homemade? Veggie bean burgers are easy to make at home, and may have fewer ethical implications than an ingredient like soya that has been linked to issues like deforestation and GMOs.

  • Is it vegan? Veggie sausages and burgers may still contain dairy or other animal products, which may have been produced through factory farming and lead to high emissions. Opt for vegan to reduce your carbon footprint and protect animal rights.

Best Buys

Recommended buys

Al our recommended brands are not soya or soya from outside Brazil. They are Fry’s, Upton Naturals and Tofurky which are all vegan companies, followed by Goodlife. All these brands are palm oil free.

Of the more widely available brands, Quorn and Cauldron are good options. They are not vegan companies, although some products are. 

NB: Though Dragonfly came top of the table we had no information about where its soya came from. 

What not to buy

What to avoid when buying meat substitutes:

  • Does it contain GMOs? Genetically modified seeds and crops bind growers to powerful multinationals producing agricultural chemicals. These companies have been criticised for seriously exploiting small-scale farmers. Look for organic to be sure that you are avoiding GMOs, particularly for soya-based products.

  • Is the company making meat products? Choosing a vegan or veggie product may be easier than finding a vegan or veggie company. If you want to make sure that you are not funding meat or dairy production at all, opt for a vegan or veggie company.

  • Does it contain Brazilian soya? At the moment, it is best to avoid Brazilian soya if possible, as there is a major danger that it will be encouraging deforestation.

Companies to avoid

We recommend avoiding Tivall, a company owned by Nestlé. Nestlé has long been criticised over its policies in many areas, including baby milk and water. 

  • Tivall (Nestlé)

Score table

Updated live from our research database

← Swipe left / right to view table contents →
Brand Score(out of 20) Ratings Categories Positive Scores

Dragonfly Beany and Soysage [A,O]

Company Profile: Dragonfly Foods

Taifun meat-free foods [S,A,O]

Company Profile: Taifun-Tofu Gmbh

Fry's meat-free foods [S,A]

Company Profile: Fry Group Foods

Upton Naturals meat alternatives [S,A]

Company Profile: Upton's Naturals

Cheatin' meat alternatives [A]

Company Profile: VBites Foods Ltd

Goodlife meat alternatives [S,A]

Company Profile: Goodlife Foods Ltd

Tofurky meat substitutes [S,A]

Company Profile: The Tofurky Company Inc

VBites meat alternatives [A]

Company Profile: VBites Foods Ltd

VegiDeli meat alternatives [A]

Company Profile: VBites Foods Ltd

Goodlife meat alternatives [S]

Company Profile: Goodlife Foods Ltd

Oumph! meat alternatives [S,A]

Company Profile: Food for Progress Scandinavia AB

Biona burgers [O, A, S]

Company Profile: Windmill Organics Ltd

Beyond Meat [A]

Company Profile: Beyond Meat Inc

Wicken Fen meat alternatives

Company Profile: Weeks Foods Ltd

Vivera meat free products [A]

Company Profile: Vivera BV

Cauldron vegan meat alternatives [S,A]

Company Profile: Cauldron Foods Ltd

Quorn Vegan meat alternatives [S,A]

Company Profile: Quorn Foods Ltd

Cauldron meat alternatives [S]

Company Profile: Cauldron Foods Ltd

Quorn meat alternatives [S]

Company Profile: Quorn Foods Ltd

Sojade seitan

Company Profile: Triballat Noyal

Linda McCartney meat alternatives [A]

Company Profile: Hain Celestial Group Inc

Naked Glory meat alternatives

Company Profile: Kerry Foods Ltd

Waitrose vegan meat-free [A]

Company Profile: Waitrose Limited

Richmond meat free sausages

Company Profile: Kerry Foods Ltd

Waitrose meat-free

Company Profile: Waitrose Limited

Co-op meat-free

Company Profile: Co-operative Group Ltd

Lidl vegan meat-free [A]

Company Profile: Lidl UK GmbH

Aldi veg. sausages and burgers

Company Profile: ALDI SOUTH Group

Lidl meat-free

Company Profile: Lidl UK GmbH

Morrisons veg burgers and sausages [A]

Company Profile: Wm Morrison Supermarkets plc

No Bull/Chick/Porkies

Company Profile: Iceland Foods Ltd

Marks and Spencers veg. sausages and burgers

Company Profile: Marks & Spencer Group plc

Morrisons veg burgers and sausages

Company Profile: Wm Morrison Supermarkets plc

Asda veg. sausages and burgers

Company Profile: Asda Group Ltd

The Vegetarian Butcher vegan meat-free [A]

Company Profile: The Vegetarian Butcher

The Vegetarian Butcher meat-free

Company Profile: The Vegetarian Butcher

Sainsbury's meat free

Company Profile: J Sainsbury plc

Tesco veg. sausages and burgers

Company Profile: Tesco plc

Tivall meat alternatives

Company Profile: Tivall

What is most important to you?

Product sustainability

Our Analysis

Recent surveys suggest that one in three people in the UK are trying to reduce their meat consumption. About 1.2 million people are now vegetarian, around half of these are vegan. The number of UK vegans has quadrupled in the last four years.

Although it is hard to get reliable figures for many countries, this does not appear to be just a UK phenomenon. The European meat alternatives market grew by 451% in the four years to February 2018. The US meat alternatives market grew by 8.1% in the 12 months to August 2017, compared to 0.2% growth for all foods.

Image: Beyond Meat
Beyond Meat burger

In an effort to feed this hungry rabble, many new brands have leapt onto the scene. We couldn’t cover all of them, so we’ve tried to cover those that are more widely available, and some which sell interesting new fake meats including jackfruit and pea protein. 

Sainsbury’s has recently started placing meat alternatives in the meat section. Some vegans are pleased as they think that it may encourage switching, although the evidence isn’t in. 


Sustainability of meat-free alternatives

Soya sustainability

Rating soya sustainability is difficult. However, given how dangerous Bolsonaro is making the situation look at the moment, we decided to give a Product Sustainability mark ([S] on the table above) to any product that is non-soya based, or made by a company that states that it sources its soya from outside Brazil. A company must have this mark to be a Best Buy or Recommended buy.

Company Does not use soya
Goodlife No soya. Based on non-soya beans and vegetables.
Quorn No soya. Based on mycoprotein.
Upton's Naturals Based on gluten. The only soya ingredient is soya sauce.
Biona Burgers do not use soya.


Company Soya sourced from outside Brazil
Cauldron Cauldron says, “Our suppliers have long-term agreements with growers in Canada, China and Europe, sourced from strict sustainable areas where the beans must be grown in ways that are organically, ecologically and ethically good.”
Taifun Taifun says “100% of our soybeans come from the heart of Europe. 99% organically grown
Vivera Vivera says “We only make use of GMO-free soy from North America
Tofurky Tofurky says “We source only organic and domestically grown [USA] soy beans

Oumph! says “The soya used to make Oumph! is grown in Europe, in the Danube region to be precise ... We don’t buy any soya from South America, in order to ensure that we don’t contribute to the deforestation of the rain forest.”

Fry’s Company stated in private communication that its soya is sourced from India.


Company Assumed to contain soya from Brazil
The Vegetarian Butcher The Vegetarian Butcher says, “The soy we use in some of our vegetarian meat products is GMO-free and originates from smallscale cultivation, for which no forests are chopped down (South America outside the Amazon, Midwest US, Canada and parts of Asia).
All the supermarkets

The supermarkets all source large quantities of soya. All of them, other than Aldi and Iceland, have public statements on sustainable sourcing. But, apart from Asda which states that most of its soya is from South America, they do not address where it is from.

We think that, if they weren’t sourcing from Brazil, they would be saying so, thus it can be assumed that they are.


Company Uncertain
Beyond Meat No information, but primarily based on peas, not soya. However, also sells a number of soya products.
VBites, VegiDeli, Cheatin’, Making Waves No information. Based on soya.
Dragonfly No information. Based on soya.
Linda McCartney No information. Based on soya.
Tivall No information. Based on soya.
Wicken Fen No information. Based on soya.


See our feature 'Is Soya Sustainable?' for more information on soya and deforestation. 


Palm oil 

All those who got our best rating for palm oil are palm oil-free. They either state it, or list the ingredients of their products on their websites, allowing us to check for any palm oil or anything that looked like a palm derivative. 

No supermarkets are palm oil-free, although Iceland is working towards it with regard to their own-brand products. 

What are meat alternatives made of?

Gone are the drab days when nearly all veggie burgers were made of soya. 


With the explosion in gluten-free foods and gluten-free restaurants, some people have commented that gluten is starting to be thought of as Satan. But this is wrong: gluten is not Satan, gluten is seitan. 

Seitan is made by washing wheat flour dough with water until all the starch granules have been removed, leaving just the protein. Seitan-based products can be bought from Upton’s Naturals and Sojade. 

Nutritionally, the drawback with seitan is that the protein isn’t ‘complete’ – it doesn’t contain the full range of essential amino acids.

Lupin beans

Lupin or lupine beans are sometimes called the ‘soya bean of the north’. They contain a similar amount of protein to soya, with the full range of essential amino acids. But, unlike soya, they grow in cool climates. Vivera and the Vegetarian Butcher both make some meat-free products out of lupin beans. 


Jackfruit are a new big thing in meat substitutes. They are enormous fruit that grow on trees in India and surrounding regions. They contain very little protein, so they aren’t really nutritionally a meat substitute, but when they are unripe they have a chewy texture that is somewhat like pulled pork, and they absorb flavour very well.

Jackfruit-based meat substitutes can be bought from Upton’s Naturals. Jackfruit has fans in scientific institutions who call it “miracle fruit”, “drought resistant”, and other terms of endearment.  

Image: Jackfruit


Mycoprotein means ‘protein from fungi’. It is the basis of Quorn, which is a type of soil mould that is grown in fermentation vats. It was invented deliberately in a drive to find new proteins to feed the world’s growing population in the mid-eighties. 

Although the patent on it has now expired, Quorn Foods is still the only company that makes it.

Other ingredients 

The Beyond Burger is made from protein extracted from peas, dyed red with beetroot. The beetroot makes it ‘bleed’ somewhat like meat, which has been talked about a lot in the press, although the company says that that wasn’t deliberate.  

Goodlife Food’s burgers are made from other beans, and vegetables. 


Too much salt in processed meat alternatives

Action on Salt has raised concerns about the amount of salt in some meat substitutes. 

It surveyed meat-free products in 2018 and found that 28% had missed the voluntary maximum salt target set by Public Health England for the end of 2017. It also found that meat-free burgers on average contain somewhat more salt than meat burgers (0.89g per serving v 0.75g per serving). 

There is, however, a wide variation in the products. Two of the saltiest were Tofurky’s Hickory Smoked Deli Slices and Tesco’s Meat Free Bacon Style Rashers, with 3.5 and 3.2 grams per 100g respectively.

In comparison, Quorn vegetarian ham and bacon only contained 0.9g and 1.2g per 100g. And Tesco meat-free mince only contains 0.2g/100grams. 

Action on Salt also point out that 20% of products have no front of pack colour-coded labelling, including Linda McCartney’s entire product range.

If you are concerned about your salt intake, it is worth checking the full list from Action on Salt to get an idea of what products to look for. 


The environmental impact of soya versus meat production

If choosing between meat and soya, it is important to keep the environmental impacts of soya in perspective. Analyses nearly always suggest that meat is substantially worse in environmental terms than the alternatives. 

Not eating soya directly does not mean that you are not eating soya at all. Per 100 grams, animal products contain the following amounts of embedded soya, from the soya used in feed:

  • Chicken – about 109 grams (more than the weight of the actual meat) 
  • Farmed salmon – about 60 grams.
  • Eggs – about 64 grams 
  • Pork or beef – about 50 grams
  • Cheese – about 25 grams
  • It wasn’t possible to find figures for sheep, although they may also be fed soya. 


Climate impacts of meat and meat alternatives:

  Kg CO2 eq per kg product
Beef 9-129
Pork 4-11
Chicken 2-6
Quorn 2-6
Soya 1-2

These figures are best estimates based on a review of all of the life-cycle assessments out there. The huge variation in the figures is because it depends how production is done. 

One study by Center for Industrial Ecology, Department of Mechanical Engineering suggested that, if deforestation happens for soya, the numbers can be significantly higher, Its estimates were 0.1 kg CO2 eq/kg if soya is produced sustainably, to 16.5 kg CO2 eq/ kg if produced on deforested land in the Amazon. 

However, the overall consensus is that meat, particularly red meat, should be assumed to be worse for the climate. 


About the companies producing meat-free sausages and burgers

Tax avoidance

Many of the companies in this area are too small to have subsidiaries in tax havens.

However, the following companies were given our worst rating for likely use of tax-avoidance strategies: Hain Celestial (Linda McCartney), Nestlé (Tivall), Unilever (the Vegetarian Butcher), Beyond Meat, Tesco, Sainsbury, Asda, Lidl, Waitrose, Morrison and Marks & Spencer

The following got our middle rating: Iceland (No Bull) and Aldi

Vegan and vegetarian companies

The following companies get a positive Company Ethos mark for being entirely vegan: Taifun, Tofurky, Upton Naturals, VBites, Dragonfly, Beyond Meat and Fry’s.

The following are entirely vegetarian, and so avoid getting marked down for selling meat: Vivera, Wicken Fen, and Sojade.

Vegan brands are marked with [Vg] on our score table.

Those that are marketed as vegan get an extra half mark in the Product Sustainability column whilst those certified as vegan by the Vegan Society get an extra whole mark.

Meat companies cash in on the vegan pound

In the plant milk and vegan cheese shopping guides we highlight the brands that are owned by non-vegan companies. Now two new meat-alternative brands have come onto the market that are owned by major meat companies.


The Green Butcher

The Green Butcher brand of plant-based pork-like slices is owned by Tulip Ltd, the UK’s largest pig producer which has received continuous petitioning and protesting from animal rights activists over the years due to its inhumane practices.

Tulip’s sister company Moy Park supplies more than a quarter of the chicken eaten in the UK and has itself been fined for inhumane practices.

Tulip and Moy Park are both owned by Brazilian meat company JBS, which has been repeatedly linked to the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. The world's largest meatpacker, JBS has a history of buying cattle from farms that were illegally deforested. In 2017, JBS was fined nearly US$8 million for doing just that.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that in 2018 JBS slaughtered over 13 million animals every single day and had an annual revenue of $50bn. It has been linked to allegations of high-level corruption, modern-day “slave labour” practices, illegal deforestation, animal welfare violations and major hygiene breaches. In 2017 its holding company agreed to pay $3.2bn, one of the biggest fines in global corporate history, after admitting bribing hundreds of politicians.

Friends of the Earth recently traced corned beef on sale in Co-op, Morrisons, Waitrose, Iceland and Lidl back to JBS slaughterhouses in Brazil. At the same time, research group Earthsight said it found Sainsbury’s and Asda still stocked JBS products. In January, Extinction Rebellion activists in Cornwall set up ‘crime scenes’ in local supermarkets selling JBS corned beef.


Richmond meat-free sausages

Richmond is best known for its meat-based sausages but recently launched meat-free ones. Richmond is owned by Kerry Foods, a meat and dairy company which also owns the Naked Glory range of meat-free alternatives.

Company Behind the Brand

Beyond Meat is a US company that has got a lot of publicity for its ‘bleeding’ veggie burgers which are supposed to taste convincingly like meat. It is vegan, and palm oil- and GM-free.

In 2016, Tyson Foods, the biggest American meat company, invested a 5% stake in the company. It gets our worst rating for likely use of tax avoidance strategies as it is registered in Delaware, which we consider a tax haven, but has its correspondence address in California. 

Want to know more? If you want to find out detailed information about a company and more about its ethical rating, then click on a brand name in the Score table.  This information is reserved for subscribers only. Don't miss out, become a subscriber today.