Meat-free sausages and burgers

In this guide we investigate, score and rank the ethical and environmental record of 21 meat-free sausage brands.

We also look at soya, GM, shine a spotlight on the ethics of Hain Celestial 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.

What to buy

What to look for when buying meat-free sausages:

  • Is it organic? Made from petroleum, chemical pesticides threaten bee populations, contaminate water sources, and cause large-scale destruction of habitats. Look for organic to avoid bananas grown with these chemicals. 

  • Is it homemade? Veggie bean burgers or easy to make at home, and may have fewer ethical implications that 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

Our Best Buys are vegan companies with explicit environmental agendas:

Of the widely available brands, Quorn and Cauldron just beat the other main brand, Linda McCartney although Linda McCartney has more vegan varieties. 

What not to buy

What to avoid when buying veggie sausages:

  • 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.

  • Is it grown using pesticides? Made from petroleum, chemical pesticides threaten bee populations, contaminate water sources, and cause large-scale destruction of habitats. Look for organic to avoid ingredients grown with these chemicals. 

Companies to avoid

We would recommend avoiding own-brand products from the supermarkets at the bottom of our table. Not only do they score poorly, they all lost marks under Factory Farming and Animal Rights.

  • Asda
  • Tesco
  • Sainsbury's
  • Morrisons

Score table

Updated live from our research database

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

Veggies sausages and burgers [A, O]

Company Profile: Veggies
16.5

Dragonfly Beany and Soysage [A,O]

Company Profile: Dragonfly Foods
16

Fry's meat-free foods [A]

Company Profile: Fry Group Foods
14

Taifun meat-free foods [A,O]

Company Profile: Life Foods GmBH
14

VegiDeli meat alternatives [A]

Company Profile: VBites Foods Ltd
14

Goodlife meat alternatives

Company Profile: Goodlife Foods Ltd
13.5

Goodlife meat alternatives [A]

Company Profile: Goodlife Foods Ltd
13.5

Wicken Fen meat alternatives [A]

Company Profile: Weeks Foods Ltd
13.5

Wicken Fen meat alternatives

Company Profile: Weeks Foods Ltd
13

Granovita vegetable sausages

Company Profile: Granovita UK Ltd
12

Quorn Vegan meat alternatives [A]

Company Profile: Marlow Foods Ltd
9

Cauldron meat alternatives

Company Profile: Marlow Foods Ltd
8

Quorn meat alternatives

Company Profile: Marlow Foods Ltd
8

Linda McCartney meat alternatives [A]

Company Profile: Hain Celestial Group Inc
7

Linda McCartney meat alternatives

Company Profile: Hain Celestial Group Inc
6.5

Marks and Spencers veg. sausages and burgers

Company Profile: Marks & Spencer Group plc
5

Waitrose veg. sausages and burgers [A]

Company Profile: Waitrose Limited
4

Lidl veg. burgers [V]

Company Profile: Lidl UK GmbH
3.5

Sainsbury's veg. sausages and burgers [A]

Company Profile: J Sainsbury plc
3.5

Waitrose veg. sausages and burgers

Company Profile: Waitrose Limited
3.5

Aldi veg. sausages and burgers

Company Profile: ALDI SOUTH Group
3

Lidl veggie burgers & sausages

Company Profile: Lidl UK GmbH
3

Morrisons veg burgers and sausages [A]

Company Profile: Wm Morrison Supermarkets plc
2.5

Sainsbruy's veg. burgers and sausages

Company Profile: J Sainsbury plc
2.5

Morrisons veg burgers and sausages

Company Profile: Wm Morrison Supermarkets plc
2

Tivall meat alternatives

Company Profile: Tivall
2

Tesco veg. sausages and burgers

Company Profile: Tesco plc
1

Asda veg. sausages and burgers

Company Profile: Asda Group Ltd
0

Asda veg. sausages and burgers [A]

Company Profile: Asda Group Ltd
0

What is most important to you?

Animals
Environment
People
Politics
Product sustainability

Our Analysis

In this guide, we’ve covered ready-made vegetarian burgers and sausages that contain mycoprotein, soya, or other beans, and nuts. These are foods that might be considered alternatives to meat in that they are a source of protein. We haven’t covered the ones that are just vegetables in breadcrumbs, or dry packet mixes like Sosmix, although the companies in this guide may also make these and other meat-free products.

The ingredients

Quorn is the leading brand in the meat alternatives market in Britain. It is made of mycoprotein, which means protein from fungi (in this case based on a type of soil mould), grown in fermentation vats. Although the name ‘Quorn’ is trademarked, the patent on the mycoprotein itself expired a few years ago, so other companies can now make it under a different name if they wish. So far no one has wanted to.

As vegans will no doubt be aware, not all Quorn is vegan because egg white is used to bind the mycoprotein together. However, two vegan versions are now on sale in the UK, which use potato starch instead – frozen hot & spicy burgers and chicken style pieces.

In terms of ingredients across all brands, however, soya is still the number one choice. It is appealing because, unlike most other beans, it provides complete protein, containing all eight essential amino acids that we need. It has been eaten in Asia for thousands of years and was introduced to the rest of the world in the eighteenth and ninetieth centuries, but it didn’t catch on as a human food outside of Asia until much later. Read our feature 'Is Soya Sustainable?'

Strangely, none of the main types of meat alternatives were created for animal welfare reasons. Soya sausages were invented in Germany during the first world war as a way of dealing with meat shortages. Quorn was developed in the 1960s as part of a research drive to find new proteins, due to concerns about feeding the growing world population. 

The veggie sausages of the future

Some people are experimenting with making meat alternatives out of lupin beans, sometimes called “the soya bean of the north”. They are also very high in protein, and they can grow in cooler climates than soya, which makes them better suited to Europe.  

Image: lupin beans ethical alternative

Their aficionados claim that they are nutritionally and environmentally superior. At the moment lupin burgers are extremely niche and not included on the table, but can be bought online in places like boutique-vegan.com.

Which brands make vegan sausages and burgers?

  • Dragonfly - all products are vegan
  • Veggies - all products are vegan
  • Taifun - all products are vegan
  • Fry's - all products are vegan
  • Goodlife - Spicy Veg Beanburgers,Nut Burgers
  • VegiDeli - all products are vegan
  • Wicken Fen - Carrot & Coriander sausages, Tomato & Garlic sausages, Mushroom & Tarragon sausages
  • Quorn - Hot & Spicy frozen burgers
  • Linda McCartney - all sausages, plain burgers & quarter pound burgers
  • Waitrose
  • Sainsbury's
  • Lidl
  • Morrisons
  • ASDA

Vegan varieties are denoted by an [A] (for 'Animal Welfare') on the score table.

Which companies only sell vegan or veggie products?

Vegan companies: Veggies, Dragonfly, VBites (VegiDeli), Life Foods (Taifun) and Fry’s. 

Vegetarian companies: Goodlife and Weeks Foods (Wicken Fen). 

The other companies: Hain Celestial (Linda McCartney’s), Nestle (Tivall), Dr A. Stoffel Holding AG (Granovita), Monde Nissin (Quorn and Cauldron), and all the supermarkets, sell meat in addition to vegetarian and/or vegan options. 

We only included the supermarkets that do their own brand veggie burgers or sausages. (Co-op does not).

The ratings

Many of the companies on the table are small in terms of turnover. This means Ethical Consumer does not require them to have the type of well-developed environmental and supply-chain policies that we would expect of larger companies. They are also too small to do much tax avoidance, to be big political donors, or to pay their directors obscene sums of money. 

The big companies did not all fare so well, being marked down for, amongst other things: 

Likely use of tax avoidance strategies: Hain Celestial (Linda McCartney), Dr A Stoffel Holding (Granovita) & Nestle (Tivall)

Excessive directors pay: Hain Celestial & Nestle 

Political Donations: Hain Celestial (US Democrats) & Nestle (US Democrats and Republicans)

GM and Meat Substitutes

Soya is the most used GM crop around the world. However, replacing meat with soya-based alternatives would actually reduce your support for GM crops because the vast majority of GM soya is fed to livestock.

Consumer rejection has kept GM out of the vast majority of meat substitutes, and in the UK, food made with GM ingredients is legally required to say genetically modified on the label. But the use of GM animal feed does not have to appear on the label of the food it goes to produce. As a result, most non-organic meat, eggs and dairy products now come from animals reared on at least some GM feed.

This paragraph was written by Liz O'Neill from GM Freeze.

Company Behind the Brand

Hain Celestial produces the Linda McCartney brand. All Linda McCartney sausages and its plain burgers and 1/4 lb burgers are vegan.

Hain Celestial is a large American company that also produces a range of other food and healthcare products. 

It doesn’t do very well in our ratings. It is registered in Delaware, a tax haven, it uses some uncertified palm oil, and it has directors that earn over £1 million. We couldn’t get information on its soya sourcing.

Hain Celestial has just agreed a $7.5 million settlement to end an American class action lawsuit over it having allegedly falsely labelled products as organic. (Not its meat alternatives).[1]

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. 

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References

  1. Newsday, 23/9/2015, Hain Celestial settles mislabelling lawsuit for nearly $10 million.