Long story short, I thought about this question and simple Google searches weren't enough. I know there must be some nutrient that can only be found in one of the meats but not the other, but I can't seem to search for it.

For this scenario, just assume that the 2 meats are exactly the same in terms of texture, color, consistency, taste, etc., to the point where only chemical tests can tell one apart from the other.

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    $\begingroup$ Testing for cellulose seems like an obvious choice; unfortunately, cellulose (sometimes loving referred to as "wood pulp" in a food setting) is a common additive to processed foods, including meat. Ex: Is there wood pulp in your burger or taco? $\endgroup$ – theforestecologist Mar 4 '19 at 15:55
  • $\begingroup$ @theforestecologist good point, though for balance, I might mention that the article you linked makes it sound like a bad thing that there be cellulose in your food, which is not the case. $\endgroup$ – rotaredom Mar 4 '19 at 16:23
  • $\begingroup$ @rotaredom ha, right! Thanks for "balancing out" my link! Good follow-up :) $\endgroup$ – theforestecologist Mar 4 '19 at 16:31

There are a lot of things you could test for. The thing that come to mind off the top of my head is cholesterol. This will be present in all animal meat, since all animals muscles contain cholesterol, whereas meat substitutes usually do not.

That said, there are other options as well (such as starch vs. glycogen levels, for example), and even molecules such as collagen differ between plants and animals, so a careful analysis (provided the proteins have not been too altered by the commercial production process) should be able to reveal thousands of differences, even in molecules found in both plants and animals.

Further reading

  • Marzetta CA, Rudel LL. 1986. A species comparison of low density lipoprotein heterogeneity in nonhuman primates fed atherogenic diets. Journal of Lipid Research. 27: pp. 753-762
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry for responding so late. Nevertheless, based on the research linked, it seems that significant effort would be required to make meat substitutes taste like actual meat. $\endgroup$ – Steve Mar 14 '19 at 14:48

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