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Referring to Meat as Protein


Has anybody posted about this before? Nothing came up in my quick scan of recent searches, but I might've missed something.

I imagine this practice has origins in back-of-the-house restaurant lingo (like "chix" instead of chicken) and now has filtered down to use amongst foodies.

I don't think it gives proper respect to the animal from whence the "protein" came. To get technical about it, there are lots more nutrients in a piece of meat than just protein. And protein is a macronutrient found in many foods, not just animals.

In Top Chef, Episode 8, the contestants had to cook a meal featuring meat from pigs, lambs, and chickens raised at Stone Barns. Two teams were criticized for taking the meat off the bones and removing much of its fat, robbing it of potential flavor and richness. Tom Collichio went on to say that they were not "honoring the protein."

I do not think it honors an animal to come up with a sterile euphemism for its flesh, either.

Mmk, done ranting. What's everybody else's take on this one?

  1. Agree. Another issure along the same line is when people say they dont eat meat but then order the Snapper!?WTF? since when does fish(or any animal) not count as meat? MEAT IS MEAT IS MEAT! I can never figure out if they are trying to assuage their guilt or playing phsycological games with themselves. If you dont eat "red" meat just say so, but by god dont order BlueFIn tuna or Yellowtail!(two warm blooded, red fleshed fish. the flesh is red for the same reason cows are). The hypocrisy drives me nuts.

    as does refering to a beautiful piece of beef or chicken as Protein! If you're going to eat it at least admit and respect what you're about to do. Alright, now IM done ranting!:-)

    42 Replies
    1. re: nkeane

      fish is not "meat". it's fish. just like beef isn't fish. however both are mostly protein and animal-derived, so i'll agree the snapper-eater shouldn't call himself a vegetarian.

      most american restaurant dinner plates have a protein, a vegetable and a starch. they are components, not political statements. as a restaurant professional, referring to the focus of most plates as "the protein" means no disrespect to the animal. i dare say most of us have a higher reverence for the animals we eat than does the average joe (or bumbling blockhead on top chef). it doesn't arrive pre-cut and shrink-wrapped to most of the better kitchens, ya know? as mentioned by the op, it simply is short-hand, and covers your base if an item runs out. in other words, the halibut might be 86'ed, but the monkfish or rabbit can be plated with the same accompaniments, so the *protein* is interchangeable.

      oh, and btw, nobody calls it "chix". that's just written shorthand on an order pad.

      1. re: hotoynoodle

        Websters Unabridged: Meat (met),n. 1. the flesh of animals as used for food.

        unless you are arguing that fish arent animals.........

        1. re: nkeane

          without the pedantry of an on-line dictionary, i clearly indicated i agree they are all animals. i prefer i finer distinction in my semantics, and most consider "meat" to be from mammals.

          1. re: hotoynoodle

            As in dark meat and white meat?

            1. re: DeppityDawg

              From Dictionary.com:

              3. this substance or tissue in animals, viewed as an article of food, usually excluding fish and sometimes fowl; meat.

              1. re: JohnE O

                6. A boxer or fighter of noteworthyness only for his sheer size or physical prowess.

                whats the point again? if we all just start calling carrots meat, how long til that is included in the dictionary? I used the first definition(ie: the most often used.) of MEAT. I wasnt aware we were going to debate what an animal or what constitutes flesh? heck, I didnt know there was much room to debate those to begin with........

        2. re: hotoynoodle


          As a pro in the business, do you have any idea of when/where the noted references to "protein," came into being. Not being in the business, it *seems* to have been fairly recent, but then maybe I only picked up on an old usage via TV. It would seem that it could go back decades, or even centuries. Just curious.


          1. re: Bill Hunt

            i don't have centuries of experience, but my chefs have referred to that component on a plate as "protein" for as long as i can recall, and i have been in fine dining 20 years.

            and sorry, nkeane, i've never seen a menu that has snapper listed under the meat category. never. nobody is debating they are animals, we're just making a finer distinction. it's simple really. why do you find it an outrage?

            1. re: hotoynoodle

              I dont know if it rises to the level of outrage with me. What I can say is that it is a bit disengenuous to refer to an animal as "not meat". You dishonor it a bit. What I mean is it makes it easier for some(not all, and more then likely not the people here, or on food forums in gerneral) people to think less of the creature they are consuming.

              Make as myopic distinctions as you wish, just dont deny that its MEAT.

              lastly, I dont recall the last menu I saw with a "meat" category on it to begin with!?

              1. re: nkeane

                Often, Italian restaurants have a menu category labeled "carne," including pork and beef dishes, but not poultry or fish.

                1. re: nkeane

                  I will deny that it is meat right here and now. Because it is fish. Fish is not meat. Behold, a menu with a meat category. And a fish category. Separate!


                  1. re: small h

                    alright, there's a menu that has it seperated sufficiently to prove that point.

                    now, it strikes me as flat-earth thinking to say "fish isnt meat". just stupid.
                    all fish is meat, but all meat isnt fish. that is my point, meat is broader then fish, mammal, crustacean, etc..... why on earth cant you see that?(fwiw, I understand what your point is, I just cant wrap my mind around the idea that you think a fish isnt made of meat?(and bone, and skin, etc....just like a cow!))

                    1. re: nkeane

                      there are many who disagree that fish is meat. no need to call us stupid or believe the earth is flat. Just a difference of opinion, not a 1 + 1 = 2. If everyone did not think they would be, well, meat.

                      1. re: jfood

                        think or not, we ARE all meat!? atleast grizzly bears think so!

                        how can you disagree that fish is meat? in its most basic definition, Meat is flesh. Do fish not have flesh?

                        1. re: nkeane

                          jfood is not leaving the definitional decision of whether he believes fish is meat to Yogi Bear or Boo Boo.

                          And inthe most basic definition he and Obama are related but jfood did not get an invitation to DC.

                          Fish = fish; Meat = Meat; never the twain shall meet

                          1. re: jfood

                            Yogi made agreed with you. Boo Boo made no such distinctions. However, he was younger, so what should we expect?


                              1. re: Candy

                                seafood, not meat...same bad choice of words as hot dog and hamburger

                                1. re: jfood

                                  (totally off topic)
                                  if it's parent or potential of the thing (ie sausage) has eyes, can walk and talk (or send sonar or other sounds), it's meat. So I'd include bugs such as insects and their tasty cousins, the crab, crayfish, shrimp, and lobster. Or it's fruit of the sea that runs away from its stalks and branches. But I really don't care. It all tastes good. Even the neither animal nor plant species. If I can eat it, I probably will.

                            1. re: nkeane

                              I don't know if this clarifies or further convolutes the issue...In korean, we call fish 'gogi'. Mainly because this is the main 'protein' we eat. Beef is called 'so-gogi" or cow-meat. Pork is called 'dweji-gogi' or pig meat, and Chicken is called 'dak-gogi' or chicken meat.

                              Also to be noted...Green onions are called 'paw' because they're the main type of onion and white onions are called 'yang-paw' because it is a secondary type of onion. I think, anyway...

                            2. re: jfood

                              And chickens are okay because they're not mammals, and my ongoing favourite, eggs must be mammallian in origin, because they're in the dairy section. :)

                              What about mushrooms? They're neither animal nor plant...

                            3. re: nkeane

                              That's hardly the only menu with separate categories for meat and fish, but I didn't want to belabor the point - you seem to have no such compunction. It seems like what's upsetting you is that (some) people (might) feel less guilty about eating a fish than they do about eating a cow. Why do you care?

                        2. re: hotoynoodle


                          Thanks for that timeline perspective. I was just curious, and did not recall this reference prior to a couple of years ago. Then, it was basically a TV thing.



                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                            This separating "fish" from "meat" idea is why PETA started a movement to rename fish "sea-kittens"
                            I'd love to see a menu with a category for Sea Kitten. Tasty!

                            1. re: hyacinthgirl

                              it will appear on the menu under hot dogs. Jfood made me write that, oy.

                        3. re: hotoynoodle

                          Yes, I know that "chix" isn't actually spoken out loud. Sorry my wording on that one wasn't too clear -- I just meant to say both terms might have originated in restaurant kitchens.

                        4. re: nkeane

                          um, excuse me for just a second...

                          If you were raised Catholic...and followed the ever changing "no meat on Friday" rules....there always was a Fish Fry Friday going on in the Church basement. This is also why the "soup of the day" is pretty much always clam chowder on Fridays.

                          'No meat' meant (and means)(to some people) no beef, pork or chicken but could have some sort of fish for your meals. Tuna salad with mac and cheese was my Friday lunch growing up.

                          1. re: Cathy

                            yet another example why I thank god I am an atheist!

                            meat=animal flesh
                            fish are animals
                            QED, fish=meat

                            1. re: Cathy

                              I don't think this should turn into a religious discussion NOR do I agree that Catholic definitions are supreme. Meat refers to both land and sea animals.

                              1. re: brooklynmasala

                                Right, and I somewhat agree BUT it is a reason for some people to consider meat to be something other than fish - and it's less religious than cultural. Equally, I wonder whether the subject of this thread is supposed to be "why would anyone not call fish protein?" or "why it's worng to eat animals"? I've got no problem with a discussion of vegetarianism, but is this thread intended to be that? It didn't look that way to me.

                              2. re: Cathy

                                lol, i completely forgot we had fish sticks on fridays.

                              3. re: nkeane

                                Ok, then please provide an example of a menu that lists snapper in the "meat" category. You're free to make up your own definitions for words most of us understand, but don't expect they'll be adopted.

                                1. re: nkeane

                                  I believe that there are so many levels of "non-meat eating," that the boundaries have become blurred and differ person to person. Some will not eat anyting that roams on four legs/hooves/feet, but would have not problem going for kangaroo. Some do not want something that has a name, like the Angus steer from the 4H competition.

                                  When trying to be sensetive to a non-omnivore guest, I'll ask for specific clarification The restrictions seem to vary person to person.

                                  What was the line about being a "Level 5 Vegan? - I don't anything that casts a shadow... "

                                  For me, it's case-by-case, person-by-person.


                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                    We have a friend that doesn't eat anything with a "face".Every time we break bread with them I get clarification.clams,yes ;squid no ,go figure

                                    1. re: lcool

                                      Yes, the "face." I had forgotten that one.

                                      In the end, it is whatever suits the diner. I ask, and then ask for clarification. Then I send a FAX to the caterer, with the various necessary menu alterations. Without the details, an omnivore, such as I, cannot be held accountable. If it does not eat me first, then I eat it. Others have restrictions, and I attempt to honor them. They just need to be very, very specific. Names, terms, etc., do not help me much. Gotta' get a fact-sheet from each one.


                                      1. re: Bill Hunt

                                        face? I have friends that will eat flesh, just nothing with nipples.

                                        but good salads and great kids.

                                        lcool - ever cleaned a squid? eyes.

                                        1. re: hill food

                                          hill food ,about the squid ,yes and octopus etc so no problems with getting
                                          it right .However the first time I asked about food particulars the response was vague,"I'll eat it if it doesn't have a brain".That makes for some avenue
                                          of debate.Fortunately it was all fun among friends.Like Bill Hunt I ask every
                                          one almost every time.

                                          1. re: lcool

                                            I also knew someone who refused to eat anything with karma.

                                            and in the precaution that plants might have it boiled everything into a mush in the attempt to remove what little there might be.

                                  2. re: nkeane

                                    >> ... BlueFIn tuna or Yellowtail!(two warm blooded,
                                    >> red fleshed fish. the flesh is red for the same reason cows are).

                                    This is false. All fish are cold-blooded animals, which means their body temperature is close the the temperature of the surrounding water. Mammals (such as cows, whales, and humans) are warm-blooded and regulate their body temperature.

                                    I do agree, in a broad sense, that fish is a form of meat.

                                      1. re: nkeane

                                        Interesting article. Indeed there are some fish species that are able to raise their body temperature relative to the water temperature. This does not make them warm-blooded. Warm-blooded animals (such as mammals and birds) regulate their bodies to a specific temperature range, and will maintain within that range regardless of the environment temperature.
                                        Of course, it's not all that simple. Scientists no longer use the term "warm-blooded". There are several types of thermoregulation. I suppose you could argue that the tuna is doing a rudimentary form of thermoregulation. But it is hardly a thermal homeostasis.

                                        I merely meant to assert that a tuna is not warm-blooded like a cow. :-)

                                    1. re: nkeane

                                      Amen! :) Respect! :)
                                      Happy eating, Oana

                                    2. Sounds like a Home Ec. phrase used in menu planning, e.g.: two green vegetables, one starch and one protein.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: jillp

                                        I'm with you. When I'm planning dinner, I think in components as I try to balance the plate. Trying to figuring out my protein isn't any different than deciding if I want my starch to be rice or pasta.

                                      2. I don't necessarily find it disrespectful to the animals we eat, but I do find it very annoying.
                                        I agree with hotoynoodle's explanation as a blanket term recognizing a component on the plate, but it should be within context.
                                        Take it out of context and it becomes grating; "pass the protein, would you please?" or "Look at all this protein to choose from" etc etc.
                                        And yeah, the bumbling blockheads on Top Chef are always taking it out of context...
                                        its as if they're saying "we are CHEFS and a CHEF is supposed to refer to meat and fish as protein. Look at me, I say "protein" so I gotta be a CHEF...isn't that right, CHEF?"

                                        Don't even get me started on how vegetarians refer to themselves...

                                        1. "and please stop referring to me as a vegetable," cried little miss tomato as she stomped off the salad bar.

                                          Jfood thinks they are just dividing the plate like Mrs. Swanson did her TV dinners. One section gets the starch, one the vegetable and one the protein.
                                          Whether you call it a steak, a burger, a protein it is still the same lineage.

                                          Jfood loves animals, but calling something a protein is not dissing the dead.

                                          BTW - fish and meat are totally different in jfood's eyes. You want to overlay these two proteins under the meat umbrella, no biggie, but jfood would guess >90% of america would never walk into a fish restaurant and ask what meat is on the menu and receive anything other than a blank stare.

                                          15 Replies
                                          1. re: jfood

                                            Jfood is right. He would get the exact same blank, stupid stare if he walked into just about any restaurant and ordered "meat"!

                                            the point is its too vague. we can argue all day about what it should/would/does(n't) mean, the FACT is fish is meat. so is Squirrel, Grasshopper, Snails, Cows, internet food geeks, etc......

                                            BTW, 90% of americans eat at McD's and think that Kraft blue box is legitimate food!? Majority based arguements are frought with sinkholes.......

                                            1. re: nkeane

                                              Yes, but if he would ask which meats the restaurant has on the menu, dollars to donuts, "Chilean Sea Bass" would not be one of the responses, but pork, veal, beef, lamb, deer, bison, ie. warm blooded vertebrae, not cold blooded vertebrae with gills. Likewise if you ask for the "meat" of an apple would you expect to receive everything but the skin or the core?

                                              At some point you need to delineate where familes end. Jfood separates at a different point than you do, he likes poultry, seafood, fish, meat, with significant sub-groups. He classifies all the above as proteins, then he sub-divides. Your horizontal line is just a little lower.

                                              BTW - grasshoppers are insects, not meat and internet food geeks are humans, not meat.

                                              1. re: jfood


                                                Think about a restaurant in New Orleans, any restaurant. You ask what "meat" is on the menu, and your probably right about the "Chilean Seabass" (Patagonia Toothfish), but if there is alligator, or frog's legs, I'd wager that they WILL be mentioned. Same for calamari, and abalone, but that is only a guess.

                                                We need to meet up in NOLA and do this as a test. I'll even buy all of the wine.

                                                BTW, I have never found much "meat" in my grasshoppers. Not even in those large "jumping" legs. Maybe it was just the grasshoppers in Mississippi...

                                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                  alligator and frogs could qualify as meat, not calamari nor abalone.

                                                  M&M may be in NOLA in a few weeks. Gotta call Frank and Myrna for a great meal.

                                                  1. re: jfood

                                                    What about rattlesnake? No, just kidding. You know that you'll have a great meal. Please do a review, and enjoy. Hope that little Jfood is doing well - Tulane, or Loyola, I forget?

                                                    Safe trip,


                                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                      Jfood would characterize rattler as meat. Would have to eat out of eyeshot from the family though. :-))

                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                        They had it at our County Fair two years ago and it was breaded and fried...and didn't even taste like chicken.

                                                        1. re: Cathy

                                                          jfood had some rattler years ago in Montana (one of those silly City Slicker events). He thought it was pretty tasy from what he remembered.

                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                            It is.Also not to be missed is iguanna ,the large ones in Central America.

                                                            1. re: lcool

                                                              To which (cooked iguana) Anthony Bourdain said something like, "Makes you want to dunk your head in a bucket of acid, rip your eyeballs out of their sockets, set your head on fire, and jump off a cliff".

                                                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                They must have added something special just for him.It was not that bad.
                                                                There is for certain better protien to be had if you have $$ and a choice.

                                                          2. re: Cathy


                                                            What is the line from the Dos XX's commercial? "He never says that it tastes like chicken, even if it IS chicken."

                                                            Going back, the Fiesta Week dining in San Antonio was always sold out of rattlesnake at their kiosk. The cry would go out through the crowd, "Rattlesnake," and by the time we'd get there, it would be all gone. In several years of trying, we've never tasted it - not like chicken - Hm-m-m?



                                                  2. re: jfood

                                                    oh that BTW was hilarious :) lol :) well put :)
                                                    happy eating, Oana

                                                2. re: jfood


                                                  You are not old enough to remember Swanson TV Dinners®. Your mother must have told you about those. Even before that, I had a "baby bowl," that was divided into three sections. It also allowed one to put hot water into a space below the partitioned top section and the base of the bowl. Mine had little fish that floated in the water jacket.

                                                  Way back then, no one in my presence, based on my memory, referred to any meat, fish, fowl as protein, but maybe that was only in Mississippi.

                                                  As for the "fishsticks," mentioned above, I agree that once they could be referred to as fish. Nowadays, I'm not sure one could find the fish, even with a microscope - but that is for another thread.

                                                  As for your last paragraph, I see the distinction. I am with you, on my personal behavior, and would not ask with those words. OTOH, until you gave that reference, I was cool with fish = meat. Good point.


                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                    Sorry but jfood remembers Mrs Swanson all too well. In fact it was and amzing adolescent day when he "graduated" to the one with the soup.

                                                    Likewise the round pot pie was not enough at some point and he "graduated" to Hungy Man.

                                                3. it doesnt bother me at all. it is defining the food by it's general place in the meal, and what sort of techniques and approaches might be considered.

                                                  from a cooking standpoint, the proteins have more in common w/ each other, that a starch or veg does. I'm not saying every protein is interchangable without modification, but they do share a set of characteristics when considering purpose and approach

                                                  9 Replies
                                                  1. re: thew

                                                    really? does a piece of tofu share more with a chunk of ostrich than a sweet potato with a green bean?

                                                    proteins are as varied and different as starches and veg. That being said, the idea that proteins(meat, flesh, animal parts) can be interchanged in a dish that has been 86'd might work in a simple, down scale environment. Trying to substitute different ingredients in a highend, composed dish is disasterous! simply put, Chili's can probably sub some chicken breasts for steak on a sandwich or fajitas but Jean Georges wont be switching Escolar for Trigger Fish, mid-service anytime soon!LOL

                                                    1. re: nkeane

                                                      tofu, while protien, is clearly something otehr than pork or lamb

                                                      did you actually read what i wrote?
                                                      " I'm not saying every protein is interchangable without modification"

                                                      1. re: thew

                                                        I appologize, but the way I read what you wrote is, "protein's are more similar to each other then starches and veg are similar to each other" . if that interpretation is incorrect, then its my mistake. Maybe the issue is your statement was too all incompassing!?

                                                        1. re: nkeane

                                                          no i said proteins are more similar to each other than they are to starchs or veg.

                                                          and think about it - you can take a pork dish you like, and make it with beef or lamb or chicken with very little modification, and will still have a tasty dish. not the identical dish. but a good one

                                                          and indeed if a restaurant runs out of a specific protein, and i am not talking about chili's, they will often offer the same or similar w/ a different protein.

                                                          cooking is about techniques, more than recipes. and most proteins can handle the same techniques, to some degree.

                                                          i know im rambling here, but this reminds me of hitchcock and his idea of the mcguffin in films. the mcguffin was whatever the characters in the film were after, gold, or uranium, or whatever. this thing was of vital importance to the characters, but it was almost irrelevant what it was , to the filmmaker. he would make the film the same way, regardless what this life or death item was to the characters in the film.

                                                          replace characters with customers, and filmmakers with chefs, and the protein is the mcguffin.

                                                      2. re: nkeane

                                                        Have you read "Simple to Spectacular?" Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Mark Bittman's cook book in which, amongst other things, they advocate liberal substitution of types of fish in complex dishes and even swapping fish or various poultry and sometimes tofu in and out for each other.

                                                        No, a high end restaurant isn't going to swap out a prime cut of a particular fish for a piece of lesser quality (though one could assert that a place like Vong wouldn't have such a lesser quality fish in the house to begin with) but certainly all kinds of substitutions are possible on the fly even in composed dishes.

                                                        1. re: ccbweb

                                                          I said mid service. That is different then having to change it before service because you didnt get your shipment! ofcourse extremely similar items(its not just limited to proteins) can be sub'd in a dish but it more then likely requires altering other parameters(cooking method, ingredients, spices, plating, etc...) that may not be doable on the fly. Ergo the dish gets 86'd instead of bastardized.

                                                          1. re: nkeane

                                                            Has anyone ever been less than 100% correct in anything they've written online?

                                                            I can think of examples in which a restaurant/chef might make a change to the central protein of a dish mid-service (and successfully so). Heck, I can think of examples of times I did it when I was cooking. But if I write them, then we'll get into picky details about that and it will go on forever.

                                                            No changes then.

                                                        2. re: nkeane

                                                          disastrous? replacing flounder for turbot because there was a storm and the boats couldn't get out? chefs do this all the time and i have worked with some of the best in the world. would they replace a rib-eye for a halibut? not likely.

                                                          you started saying meat is meat is meat. but halibut and dab are polar opposites? i can't figure you out.

                                                      3. The tens of thousands of cookbook and menu writers who have subdivided many of their recipes into: "meat, fish, and poultry categories" would disagree with you. As do I.

                                                        4 Replies
                                                        1. re: pikawicca

                                                          if you are attempting to make an arguement based on the sheer number of misinformed people, well then good luck to ya!
                                                          second, just because someone with economic motivation(authors) does something to appeal to its potential clientele(see: people that think fish isnt meat) doesnt make it correct. disagree as much and loudly as you wish.......it doesnt make fish not meat!

                                                          1. re: nkeane

                                                            Are you really trying to argue that words don't have different/multiple meanings and usages in different contexts?

                                                            In culinary terminology, it's a widely accepted practice that goes back at a minimum several centuries to differentiate between flesh from mammals, birds and aquatic animals, which are further subdivided into (fin)fish and shellfish. In this context, "meat" is commonly understood to refer to mammal flesh. This is not being "misinformed" -- it's a correct usage in the specific context.

                                                            The issue of whether someone who eats fish but not meat or poultry can properly call him/herself a vegetarian is a separate issue -- you may or may not categorize fish as "meat" but it's certainly not a vegetable!

                                                            1. re: nkeane


                                                              Our choice of words, their meanings and usage evolve and change or time, otherwise we wouldn't need new editions of dictionaries! ;-)

                                                              Whether or not the idea of a main dish with sides fits your definition of meal planning, this has been the predominant view point in the U.S. for sometime. Within that view, the main has generally been a meat, fish or poultry - hence the chapter category. The chapter choices are picked in order to try to facilitate ease of usage of the book. Every cookbook author I have ever worked with has been motivated by a desire to share their love of food. If they wanted to get rich, they would not be writing cookbooks!

                                                              Over time our options,interests and views have changed as to what the focal point of a meal is. This has lead to the use of "protein" as a category or option in some menus. I find this more frequently in areas with a large vegetarian population and on breakfast menus.

                                                              To suggest this means of attempting to adjust to current food views is "disrespectful" is interpreting a broad stroke with a mighty fine lens...

                                                              1. re: nkeane

                                                                I really wanted to take your initial post at face value - the one where you specifically asked for everyone's opinions. It is a bit unsporting to ASK for opinions, indeed to solicit them, and then criticize people for their opinions - and wrongly, to boot.

                                                                Webster's says:
                                                                1 a: food ; especially : solid food as distinguished from drink b: the edible part of something as distinguished from its covering (as a husk or shell)

                                                                So ANY solid food can be called "meat."

                                                                2: animal tissue considered esp. as food: a: flesh 2b ; also : flesh of a mammal as opposed to fowl or fish b: flesh 1a ; specifically : flesh of domesticated animals

                                                                Hence the common and proper usage of meat as flesh of a mammal, not fish or fowl. You are welcome to your own definiton of any word you choose, but you may not dictate that others must use your creative definition. I'm a big fan of creative definitions, but it's necessary to recognize that others will not agree with a nonstandard definition.

                                                            2. I had not encountered the term, so applied, until the last five, or so, years. Before, I heard the term "meat" applied, instead. I would *guess* that with the use of soy protein, and others, it was determined that "meat" just didn't but it anymore. [could be a pun in there?]

                                                              Not sure when, or from where, this use of the word protein came about.

                                                              Also, do not recall this being posted before, but could easily have missed it.

                                                              Rather than showing any disrespect, I feel that the attempt is to be more encompassing, but could be missing something very important.


                                                              1. I'm not going to wade in to the meat = fish debate... I will however suggest that it might be the diet industry and the press it receives (thinking of Atkins mainly) that perpetuated the meat as protein thing.

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: maplesugar


                                                                  Could be. That I do not recall it going way back, might just reflect on me. Still, it seems to be a bit more current a reference.


                                                                2. I think it's got nothing to do with anything important to honoring an animal. One honors an animal by treating it well, respecting it in its life and killing it humanely and not wasting the parts of it that can be used. In the case of consumers, one can honor animals by choosing to purchase animals or parts of animals that come from places that treated the animals well, respected them in their lives and killed them humanely. I'm sure we all know the keywords that help find those: free-range, organic and so on. My wife and I work pretty hard to "source" the food we buy for our house. We know some people who have farms, we've gotten to see some of the places that especially the chickens (and eggs) we get come from. We talk to our butcher about the places we get turkey and duck from. We talk to our fishmonger about where he's getting things and their practices and aquaculture. We are concerned with the lives the animals led, not just cost or environmental impact.

                                                                  But when we're talking about what we want to eat for dinner on some random night, my wife might very well say "I really want some of that broccoli we got yesterday, ooh and egg noodles," and I might say "ok, how do you want me to cook the protein?" or something similar.

                                                                  The first parts are where one shows respect. The latter is just words in a place where words don't matter anymore.

                                                                  1. Even more than calling meats proteins, I really don't like calling the dishes we produce as professionals "product". I don't make "product". I make food; meals, dishes,entrees, sides, desserts.

                                                                    1. My husband used to get on my case for referring to chicken/turkey/duck/other poultry as birds. I know it's not proper, but that is what it is. It took me awhile to get used to the various phrases surrounding the love of pig in the south, which probably inspired me to use the term bird (in the oven, which bird should we get at the store).

                                                                      Protein also includes legumes+pulses, tofu, dairy (why are eggs in the dairy department? they don't even come from mammals!)...some refer to a potato as a vegetable, or a starch. Fats should include meat and dairy, and a few choice vegetables. Stick around a bunch of Atkins people or body builders, and eating is less about enjoyment, than increasing the amount of protein consumed at prescribed times.

                                                                      It's all about classification, which is an inexact science. When designing an entree, protein, starch, and veg are included and have to be accounted for--including at vegetarian restaurants. "Honoring the protein" seems a silly phrase, but if it works for him, fine.

                                                                      1. I've noticed this, and adopted it somewhat, because it's practical. "Protein" is an overarching word that encompasses all the different sources possible for that component of a nutritionally balanced meal. I can also understand why it'd become annoying if overused (and I find Top Chef obnoxious in this way.) Yes, it's better to be specific once you know what protein you're using. But, I find this term "protein" helpful in discussing meal planning with family members, for example. It works in this context and many others. It may very well have come from restaurant lingo, but also from nutritionists and other such professionals.

                                                                        1. You're all providing an ethnographic Chow discussion as to conceptual - linguistic distinctions. Just as in (mostly past) conversations around the globe between ethnologists and people wearing penis sheaths and lip discs regarding first conceptual divisions between what is "hot" vs "cold, "raw" vs "cooked" (ref to Claude Levi-Strauss), "food" vs "not food", "sacred" vs "profane", "yin" vs ""yang", "plant" vs "animal", "edible" vs "inedible", "good" vs "bad", or "us" vs "them". Our tribe is like many others: the basic conceptual and linguistic concepts are open to discussion and change; and the high priests discuss while the rest grow, harvest, process, cook, and eat.

                                                                          4 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                                            The sacred and the profane...and so on.

                                                                            The thing that strikes me most in this thread is that I can't recall maybe anyone in my life musing on whether what term we use for something we're cooking for dinner was sufficient to honor the animal from which that thing was taken. I find that notable because many of the people in my life tend to think about such things (probably a bit more often than is really necessary). I think it's an interesting thing to think about. I do find it surprising, though. And, as you note, perhaps it will result in a shift in what we call things. That could be a good thing. Words do matter and can shape thought. Just as thought can shape words.

                                                                            To the OP: thanks for posting a really thought provoking thread.

                                                                            1. The food pyramid lists in the "Meat category"; beef • pork • chicken and turkey • fish • dried beans and peas • peanut butter • eggs • nuts.


                                                                              8 Replies
                                                                              1. re: RShea78

                                                                                but I do believe that there would be plenty of people who might be offended by the terming of their vegan proteins as "meat"

                                                                                1. re: Caralien

                                                                                  If they eat the grassy part of the soybean plant they should be okay. But the soybean itself is the meat of the plant.

                                                                                  I once had a discussion with a vegan that meats generally contains fats. So does vegetable oil really come from a vegetable (the stalk) or meat/bean/nut? He quickly gave up fried foods...

                                                                                  1. re: RShea78

                                                                                    Nutmeats & faux meats too! My vegan friends aren't as rabid as they were in their 20's, so things have mostly settled down (most of them still live off of french fries, no-cheese pizza, and TB bean burritos, however).

                                                                                    Question: if the nutmeat/bean/pod section is the part that provides oil, but also provides protein, wouldn't such person also have to give up all beans, which would deplete them of their complementary protein source?

                                                                                    1. re: Caralien

                                                                                      I was attempting to prove there really isn't a "true vegan diet" based on strict or even relaxed interpretations.

                                                                                      1. re: RShea78

                                                                                        A vegan diet isn't about the semantic issue of meat, it's simply not eating foods derived from animals. Vegans who shy away from nuts because they're "meats" are unclear on the concept of veganism.

                                                                                        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                          and also perhaps botony,when eating nut kernals/meats you are eating the "eggs" of the plant,eat the peach not the seed and you ate the ovaries of the plant.It is still a plant.Am I missing something here?

                                                                                2. re: RShea78

                                                                                  As antiquated as the Food Pyramid is, this could open another can of worms(btw, also protein!:-0) Im pretty sure everyone has heard/used the description of a nut as "meat"!?
                                                                                  how far down this rabbit hole does everyone want to go? just so you know, even I draw the line at calling peanut butter , meat! I can almost wrap my mind around eggs, i mean, they were GOING to be meat eventually!?

                                                                                  1. re: nkeane

                                                                                    Unless the eggs were unfertilized, which is one argument as to why they're not really meat

                                                                                    (10+ year member of the recovered from vegetarianism society)

                                                                                3. I'm with ya. I don't have a problem referring to meat as protein. But meat doesn't get honored. Animals do.

                                                                                  1. I think it is just another foodie affectation which will go "the way of all flesh." Sorry about that. Seriously, I don't really see the metaphysical discussion. I just add it to the list which includes "sammies," "apps," "restos," "yum (noun )," and other terms that I find both unnecessary and annoying at the same time. On the other hand, one could revel in the flexibility and plasticity of the English language.

                                                                                    1. I don't recall any restaurant menus or recipes
                                                                                      using the term protein, ecept in recipes where
                                                                                      you have your choice -- for instance, jambalaya.

                                                                                      1. The only time I or my family has referred to meat as "protein" is in a nutrition context, like "you can't possibly consider that a full meal, there's no protein on that plate!" but that also refers to dairy, egg, and tofu.

                                                                                        fwiw, I grew up American in an Asian immigrant household and we always labeled seafood/fish = meat. (If a religious context, egg = meat too, as the understanding was that consumption of an egg required either killing or "falsely" halting potential animal life.)

                                                                                        As in: "Is there going to be any meat at the dinner they're having?" "Yeah, they're making salmon."

                                                                                        Or: "Can I have an egg for breakfast?" "No, we're not eating any meat today, it's holiday X."

                                                                                        It wasn't until some years had passed and the children had finished school that we all finally understood that Westerners conventionally use "meat" to refer to mammal flesh as food and occasionally use it to refer to poultry flesh as well, but rarely fish flesh.

                                                                                        This has not fully convinced the elders, who insist that the Western distinction between "meat" and "fish" is idiotic. To them, it's all dead animal. But they understand that in a Western culinary context, the cultural definition of "meat" does not include fish or seafood and usually does not include fowl.

                                                                                        7 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: rice bowl

                                                                                          hmmm, so apparently I have an eastern philosophy about this!? I think I can be ok with that.

                                                                                          so next logical question along these lines: why has the American lexicon been distorted in such a manner?

                                                                                          1. re: rice bowl

                                                                                            Yes, that was it for me - mostly "health class," as I have never done a "home ec. class." Then, one day it seemed to be all over TV. Maybe I missed the memo?


                                                                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                                                              This thread cinches it for me. I am only going to patronize restaurants from this point forward that have a section of their menu title "Animal Flesh" ;-D

                                                                                            2. re: rice bowl

                                                                                              May I ask, what is your background rice bowl? I also grew up in an Asian household and we never called meat protein, there was meat, (pork, beef, and occasionally lamb), fish (never specified), chicken and duck.

                                                                                              1. re: KTinNYC

                                                                                                Sure, KTinNYC, my family is largely south Asian, south Indian subcontinent-based, with a touch of central Asian (Pakistani/Afghani) and southeast Asian for "color." More the British type of "Asian" rather than the North American type.

                                                                                                1. re: rice bowl

                                                                                                  Interesting...I have largely the same ethnic background as you (Woot! Woot!), but never classified meat, eggs and fish in the same manner you do.

                                                                                                  Meat came from the muscle of anything that lived outside the water and had a distinct head. Offal was named after the organ (i.e. Parent: "Eat your brains." Child: "This is why my friends won't come over.") unless the dish itself had a name like "Katakat" or "Bopis." Fish, living in the water, inhabited their own category. Eggs (including the fertilized versions) counted as eggs: neither meat nor fish. There was much confusion over how to classify amphibians and assorted reptiles, so we largely avoided them.

                                                                                              2. re: rice bowl

                                                                                                I need to add another, finer distinction we sometimes applied solely within a south Indian Hindu immigrant culture context: "meat" could also be used to label goat, lamb, or mutton as opposed to fowl or fish. For some reason it did not quite apply to pork, which we almost never ate anyway, and was never used to label beef only because beef is proscribed in most homes containing Hindus.

                                                                                                It seems that "meat" is not used for offal, right, unless called by that beautiful euphemism "variety meats?" I'm an American by birth, but we never served things like liver, kidney or heart at my childhood table, so I don't really know what people usually call them. "Protein" seems terribly inappropriate when thinking of foie gras or other very fatty preparations of liver, too, chopped liver and terrines, etc.

                                                                                              3. Yeah I find it annoying to refer to meats (inc. fish and fowl) as proteins. I also find it annoying to refer to people who enjoy meat as carnivores (all humans are omnivores by definition, regardless of diet choices); restaurants as restos (would it kill you to use three syllables instead of two?); And pizza as 'za. Don't even get me started on people who use the expression "to die for"!

                                                                                                18 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: AHan

                                                                                                  ""Yeah I find it annoying to refer to meats (inc. fish and fowl) as proteins.""

                                                                                                  Perhaps I have lost it, but isn't animal meat between 15% to 40% protein?

                                                                                                  1. re: RShea78

                                                                                                    Yes, but you're missing my point. I really don't like being offered my "choice of proteins" when the real question is quite clearly what kind of meat. I suppose I could reply: "it doesn't matter, just throw a bunch of various amino acids together however you like".

                                                                                                    1. re: AHan

                                                                                                      What if the choices were chicken, shrimp, fish, tofu, tempeh, beef, pork, eggs or textured soy protein? I don't even mean this in any facetious way, either. I've seen places where those are the options for a stir fry or a stew that will have many vegetables in addition to whatever protein the customer chooses.

                                                                                                      1. re: ccbweb

                                                                                                        There are several Thai restaurants who present their dishes this exact way on their menu in my area.

                                                                                                        1. re: ccbweb

                                                                                                          This is the type scenario I have seen on menus,particularly with stir fry and omelets.
                                                                                                          Options are listed and often grouped by price, similar to what you often find with pizza menus.

                                                                                                          1. re: ccbweb

                                                                                                            The crux of the problem is that meats are not simply protein. Proteins are just one of the complex compnents .
                                                                                                            Referring to meats (and TVP or whatever) as proteins is just some cutesy-pie nonsense, and that's why it annoys me.

                                                                                                            1. re: AHan

                                                                                                              That's something that's going to be an issue with, well, everything. Not much is "simply" anything and we often employ shorthand or widely understood terms to get at what we're really talking about without having to get into much longer explanations. I can appreciate that some of them will annoy you (like this one) and certainly some of them annoy me (clearly, not this one so much).

                                                                                                              I do disagree with it being nonsense, though insofar as it's accurate as far as it goes. It's not a complete description and leaves a lot out, but it's not wrong which counts for a lot when people are communicating.

                                                                                                              1. re: AHan

                                                                                                                and potatoes are not jut starch. so what?

                                                                                                                shall all menus have complete molecular profiles for every food item?

                                                                                                                down that road lies true nonsense

                                                                                                                1. re: AHan

                                                                                                                  we can use astoundingly vague terms in the kitchen. believe it or not, we don't refer to plant-based ingredients by their proper botanical names, in fact, sometimes we just say "vegetables" as a catch-all. we also don't necessarily get all caught up in the farm of origin and breed of cattle sometimes, when doing prep of steaks--we just say steaks. it's possible for a person who does not know the botanical name for an onion to chop it, a person who does not know the difference between a highland and a holstein to prepare beef, a person who did not study chemistry to cook a chicken. folks use general, unspecific terms like "aircraft," "children," "history" all the time.

                                                                                                                  1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                    obviously, but it doesn't take a chef to order beef from a menu instead of "choosing my protein". I don't care how a cook refers to his ingredients in the kitchen, I care how I communicate on a basic yet reasonably intelligent level when presented with my meal choices. Don't need to hear Rachel Ray telling me boneless chicken breast is her protein in dish x either.

                                                                                                                  2. re: AHan

                                                                                                                    >>""Referring to meats (and TVP or whatever) as proteins is just some cutesy-pie nonsense, and that's why it annoys me.""

                                                                                                                    So do you plan on loading up with carbohydrates in order to avoid proteins?

                                                                                                                    1. re: RShea78

                                                                                                                      You mean "sides".
                                                                                                                      Which I first heard the description "sides" used by the general public it was in a Rice-A-Roni commercial with people singing and dancing around like maniacs. I wondered that it was a generally understood description, but guess I forgot about Food Network.

                                                                                                                      1. re: RShea78

                                                                                                                        Right. I never thought of the word protein as "cutesy pie nonsense" any more than carbohydrates or fats. I'm also not annoyed by the cutesy pie nonsense of calling wine "alcohol" when it's mostly water and has other nutrients than alcohol.

                                                                                                                        1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                          Apparently the concept of context is lost on you. I have no problem with the word protein, never said I did in any of my posts. My issue is with it being used as a menu term, or as a redundant descriptor (i.e. "I am using chicken as my protein here").
                                                                                                                          So, you are basically trying to convince me that something does NOT annoy me, despite all evidence to the contrary? Good luck with that.

                                                                                                                          1. re: AHan

                                                                                                                            "So, you are basically trying to convince me that something does NOT annoy me, despite all evidence to the contrary?"

                                                                                                                            Not at all. Just saying it doesn't annoy me at all. "Alcohol" is used to describe wine, liqueur, beer, etc. just as "protein" is used to describe meats. "You're having alcohol at your party?" "Yes, I'm having wine." People want to have a diet balanced with carbs/proteins/fats so someone saying they're using chicken as their protein doesn't seem redundant to me, nor cutesy pie. But, if it annoys you, then it annoys you. As far the concept of context, maybe I wasn't clear in my post but the idea of referring to chicken as protein, broccoli as carbs, olive oil as fat doesn't bother me the way it obviously does you. I wasn't referring only to the words themselves. I thought it was clear in response to Rshea's post which I was responding to but apparently not.

                                                                                                                            1. re: AHan

                                                                                                                              Apparently the concept of a threaded conversation is lost on you. We've all got our challenges.

                                                                                                              2. i think that the fracas in this thread around what IS and what IS NOT meat illustrates why "protein" has become such a useful catch-all term. folks come from all kinds of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and when one person considers "meat" to include the flesh of fish & shellfish, another considers "meat" to be poultry and red meat (no fish), and a third considers it to be red meat and pork only (no poultry/fowl or sea-dwelling creatures), using the term "protein" for any/all of these can lessen confusion.

                                                                                                                some recipes call for one, erm *protein* such as a pheasant breast, but when this ingredient is unavailable/not in season, the same recipe can be altered slightly and made with a substitution, say chicken breast. or a shellfish dish can have its "protein" altered to accommodate a guest with dietary restrictions.

                                                                                                                vegetarian "meats" and tofu are also "proteins" that may be incorporated into dishes & meals can be planned around them in the same way as poultry, fish, beef, venison, etc. vegetarian "proteins" *function* the same way in meal planning as animal based "proteins."

                                                                                                                when planning menus, the term can be useful as a catch all term. examples: "okay everyone, do we have a good range of proteins on the august week 3 menu?" "can we change or improve the protein options for the conventioneers in order to better accommodate our halal guests?" "brian, we have a new source for elk and elk sausage. could you come up with a brunch item, a starter, and several dinner mains, some using the sausage as a supporting ingredient, and some using these trimmed elk primals as the main protein?"

                                                                                                                12 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                  Veg*ans eat nuts, seeds, and beans as protein. Some avoid fake meat and tofu all together.

                                                                                                                  1. re: lgss

                                                                                                                    sorry Lgss---are you responding to anything i said? i don't get where we disagree. . .

                                                                                                                  2. re: soupkitten

                                                                                                                    I understand that some kind of catch-all term is useful for all the reasons that you give. My problem with the use of the term "protein" is that it's not really accurate. For instance, if I were to serve you a bowl of rice and beans with some sour cream or cheese on top, I've just served you a protein. A complete one. Yet, this is NOT what anyone would expect me to prepare for my "protein" on Top Chef. I don't know of a better substitute term, but I don't like using the word "protein" in this context and I eagerly await our culture coming up with a better one.

                                                                                                                    1. re: ratgirlagogo

                                                                                                                      Animal Flesh (or maybe just "Animal" would cover it).

                                                                                                                      1. re: ratgirlagogo

                                                                                                                        the same words have different meanings in different settings already, eg theory as used by the general public, and used in the scientific community, while related are not identical. So it is with "protein"; a biologist means one thing, a chef another. As long as the line chef understands what the chef d' cuisine means when he tells him about the protein, does it really matter that there is more than protein in the slab of meat? does it matter that there are other things that are technically protein, out there?
                                                                                                                        i think not.

                                                                                                                        1. re: thew

                                                                                                                          I think it does matter in culinary terms because the protein in the meal doesn't have to be animal flesh. Vegetarian proteins include more than tofu, tempeh, seitan, etc., as in the rice and bean example I gave. I'd be curious to know if this term is in use in any way in vegetarian restaurant kitchens. In practical terms the term "protein" seems to be a synonym, or maybe a euphemism, for "meat", as in "animal flesh". This whole long thread is a good example of the kinds of arguments people have around it - is fish a meat? does meat include poultry? etc. As I said, I understand that some kind of catch-all word is useful - I just think that "protein" is a poor choice.

                                                                                                                          1. re: ratgirlagogo

                                                                                                                            maybe we should call venison "Bambi" or pork "Wilbur", .. "Saddle of Bambi in a Juniper/Port jus" "Roast Butt of Wilbur in a citrus-honey glaze".

                                                                                                                            god forbid we who choose to eat flesh should face up to where it comes from (I'm not on a high horse, so to speak, as I'm omnivorous) but if one eats it one shouldn't be all squeamish about it or just go veg.

                                                                                                                            complete proteins are found in the vegetarian realm, and this naming trend dilutes the distinction and IMHO does disservice to all. (ok I was kind of on my high horse there)

                                                                                                                            Tom C's 'Honor' quote - that's a little over the top, but the idea of taking it as something to value is right.

                                                                                                                            'protein' is just so clinical and can mean so many things.

                                                                                                                            "We're having protein loaf!"

                                                                                                                            Soylent Green is made out of protein.

                                                                                                                            1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                              But Soylent Green is people! And I can only assume that people are meat.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Blueicus

                                                                                                                                My point EXACTLY. do you think it would be so popular using that as a catch phrase?

                                                                                                                                1. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                  Well, technically in the industry we'd refer to the meatloaf as protein and not simply interchange every instance of the word "meat" with "protein". And as we're all proper chowhounds I think the joys of cannibalism is something we should embrace... or at least have one's corpse be donated to the cause of cannibalism.

                                                                                                                                  P.S. We still use the word meat in our conversations, despite common belief ;)

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Blueicus

                                                                                                                                    I hear Soylent Green tastes just like Soylent Brown...

                                                                                                                                  2. re: hill food

                                                                                                                                    That "catch phrase" might work in PPNG (Papua New Guinea).

                                                                                                                      2. I think this is overthinking. We often use the name of a part of the whole to represent the whole (like wheels for car, the term for this is synecdoche). In this context the word "protein" is used as culinary shorthand for pork, lamb, and chicken. In using the term in this context, Collicho did not eliminate other food sources of protein -- dairy, milk, cheese, eggs and so forth -- or the many dishes that create complete proteins through complementation.

                                                                                                                        Collichio didin't choose the best word here, but he did speak appropriately. He didn't exhibit the best thinking either, but I, for one, don't think he was being disrespectful at all by saying that the other cooks were not "honoring the protein." We show reverence in different ways for the lives of animals we choose to cook and eat, if that is indeed our choice. One of the ways to show reverence is with gratitude for the animal's life, and another is to create the most flavorful dish we can. In this case, keeping the "protein" on the bone creates the best flavor.

                                                                                                                        The use of the word "protein" in the context in which Collichio spoke comes from meal planning, and the desire to create a meal that is nutritionally balanced: some protein (from any of a multitude of sources), some carb, some fat, and a good dollop of vitamins.

                                                                                                                        The discussion about the word "meat": Apart from the thread hijack issue, the use of the word in Collichio's sense is a culinary category distinction, not a biological taxonomy. We use specific culinary language to describe animal flesh, depending on its origin. Not only is the flesh of four-legged animals called meat, it is referred to specifically as beef, lamb, pork, venison, etc. Sometimes these are broken into color categories: red meat, white meat. Often, instead of the word meat, the specifc cut of meat is the word used: steak, ribs, filet, hamburger, etc. Chicken and other feathered animals are referred to as poultry or fowl. Water- living animals are referred to as shellfish or fish. In the culinary world of categorization, meat is not fish.

                                                                                                                        The use of meat in the word nutmeat is another usage of the word, meaning the inner kernel, the nugget, the useful portion; or poetically, the essence or gist of the thing, as in the expression "the meat of the matter."

                                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                                        1. re: maria lorraine

                                                                                                                          "The use of the word "protein" in the context in which Collichio spoke comes from meal planning, and the desire to create a meal that is nutritionally balanced: some protein (from any of a multitude of sources), some carb, some fat, and a good dollop of vitamins."

                                                                                                                          Then protein is a poor choice of words for this idea, since protein can be obtained in culinary terms from many different sources. Rice and beans. Beans and corn. Rice and soybeans. Potatoes and milk. Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. In other words, it's not just that animal flesh is not the only form of culinary protein - it's that vegetarian forms of protein do not necessarily form animal-flesh-like slabs on the plate, like tofu, seitan, tempeh, etc. It is demonstrably possible to plan nutritionally balanced meals without including a "protein" of the Top Chef kind (really, it is - vegetarians do it every day).

                                                                                                                          1. re: ratgirlagogo

                                                                                                                            Yes, I spoke to the other foods that provide protein, and the ways in which food may be combined to create a complete protein. Collichio was not, though, using the word protein in a nutritional context; instead his usage of the word referred to the food category of protein, and his usage was correct for that.

                                                                                                                            Protein has several different meanings. It is the correct term for the nutritional concept you are describing: the making of a complete protein -- a polypeptide chain -- of 20 amino acids. This is one of the scientific and biological definitions of the word protein. There are many. But It isn't at all the way in which Collichio used the word.

                                                                                                                            To your other point: No one has assumed or asserted that animal flesh is only type of protein one can consume. This is well known. And the ability of vegetarians to create phenomenally flavored meals using the ingredients you list is well established.

                                                                                                                            What's important is to recognize that an ingredient with protein does not necessarily contain protein the body can use. While the body can create non-essential amino acids, and even break apart peptide chains to obtain a specific essential amino acid, it's still important to supply the body with all 20 amino acids. To do that, a varied diet -- vegetarian or non-vegetarian -- is needed. Vegetarians just have to be a bit more conscientious about this, and certainly not believe all the inaccurate information that's published on many health food websites. Lots of new scientific information lately on how the body uses and combines amino acids to create a protein.

                                                                                                                            1. re: ratgirlagogo

                                                                                                                              it is not a poor choice of words, if it is understood as being a specialized use in a particular context.

                                                                                                                          2. I don't mind referring to protein in a generic sense, as in "if we're going to make a meal of this salad/pasta/soup, etc., we'll need to add some protein". But referring to a steak as "the protein" is the same type of shop talk that reminds of me of the executive chef at a chain restaurant where I worked referring to new meals as "product", and the restaurant itself as a "store".

                                                                                                                            Those terms betray to me a lack of passion and involvement that I expect from a true restauranteur, as opposed to some corporate style "chef" (hi Bobby Flay!) who seems to care more about food costs and profit margins than he/she does about the quality and flavour of what's put in front of the guest (note: not "customer"). And I'm not suggesting that profits aren't important; places that don't make them don't stick around long. But I do kind of expect that the chef is more concerned about taste, freshness, and presentation when he's cooking than he is in money.

                                                                                                                            I can forgive these terms at FF places like BK/McD; they don't make any pretensions to being cuisine. But whenever I hear them at a more upscale place, I know I'm going to get a less than memorable meal.

                                                                                                                            1. There is a type of vegetarian, who refers to him/herself as a 'pescetarian'.
                                                                                                                              This person considers himself a vegetarian in most respects. I think we should all just eat what we want, and not have someone 'smirk' at us when we don't eat as they think we should. In other words, your friend who does not eat meat, but does eat fish should simply be accepted by you, without judgment. I, too, don't describe fish as meat, I think they are two separate things. Yes, they are both 'flesh', but then we also refer to 'flesh' when talking about many fruits, especially. As others have pointed out, we also consume nut 'meats'. Why be so pedantic about food? Just enjoy it.

                                                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                                                              1. re: FibroLady

                                                                                                                                Actually, that comment was meant to go to nkeane, sorry for seemingly being off-topic.

                                                                                                                                1. re: FibroLady

                                                                                                                                  Seafood is also referred to as fruit of the sea.

                                                                                                                                  Seriously, this topic has gone through the same arguments over and over again.

                                                                                                                                2. Meat is mostly protein, and if you're looking at proportions of carbs/protein/fats, it'll give you the protein component. Not to say it doesn't provide anything else, or that nothing else is a protein. Broccoli also has protein but it has more carbs so it would fit into the carbs. Referring to meats as protein bothers me less than people using starch and carbs interchangeably, as in, "I stopped eating carbs and eat a lot more vegetables now."

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                                                                                                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                    I've really only noticed the 'protein' thing on Top Chef, so it really doesn't bother me. But the misuse of 'carb' and 'carbohydrate' is so much more prevalent and drives me crazy. No, you are not giving up carbs if you are eating big salad!!

                                                                                                                                  2. I nominate this for the silliest thread I've seen so far on Chowhounds. Pretty much everyone disagrees. What else is there to say?

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                                                                                                                                    1. re: sophie fox

                                                                                                                                      Disagreements, I find, are far more eye opening than everyone agreeing. Including this.;-) If we all agreed and only stuck with topics where we agreed, what would be the point?

                                                                                                                                      1. re: sophie fox

                                                                                                                                        Sophie, I tend to agree with you. I had been avoiding this thread, but got bored & opened it up. Holy cow or (should I say "holy protein"). Never expected a brough-ha-ha about fish versus beef versus squid versus tofu; I just thought it would be a discussion of how the word "protein" has slipped into our vocabularies as the thing that usually completes the traditional veggie + starch + protein trio. Who knew?

                                                                                                                                        I have found myself using the word "protein" as well. I kick myself mentally every time I do because it smacks of trying to make myself sound better than I am. As an example, my sister & I were planning Christmas dinner. I said that I would bring roasted asparagus and a wonderful rice pilaf; she replied that she would provide the "protein", but she hadn't decided what that would be yet. Neither of us are even close to being chefs, although we are pretty good cooks (& her step son is a chef - does that count?). 2 years ago, she would not have said "I'll do the protein"; she would have said "I'll make the meat". I think it is a reflection of too much time spent watching cooking shows. Guilty as charged.

                                                                                                                                        Kind of makes me wonder what other "chefish" terms have crept into our vocabularies as the result of cooking show exposure (my personal fave is "plating")? Someone start another thread -- if you dare!

                                                                                                                                        1. re: PattiCakes

                                                                                                                                          Yeah, plating and service are two words that don't belong in a home environment IMO. That connotes to me hundreds of people being served, not 5 or 10.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: coll

                                                                                                                                            I know, I know. But sometimes I just can't help myself. "Honey, dinner's ready. Can you just plate that up for me while I put the clothes in the dryer?" yikes.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: PattiCakes

                                                                                                                                              Well, I'll admit to asking someone to "drop" the fry basket occasionally. Some words describe things so succinctly and I guess that's how they cross over.

                                                                                                                                          2. re: PattiCakes

                                                                                                                                            I use protein, not always meaning meat. If I have a salad, I'll add protein by adding beans, chick peas, hard boiled eggs. If I mean meat, I say meat. I don't think it's pretentious to say protein instead of meat, though.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                                              Exactly! If my menu has been decided to the point where I know exactly what the protein will be I refer to it by it's specific variety. If, using your example of a salad, I am still deciding, then I refer to protein in a general, nutritional manner.

                                                                                                                                        2. Folks, this thread is getting pretty widely off topic, and it seems like everything that is to be said on the original subject has been said, so we're going to close it.