I love beef, but as a food source it is decidedly problematic: even aside from the ethical concerns of eating animals at all, farmed cattle are environmental disasters on hooves, and red meat just isn't that good for you.
Unfortunately nothing quite romances my tastebuds the way beef does. I find myself straying away from my half-hearted exclusive relationships with wholesome chicken chicken breast and vegetarian options and having mouthwatering but unhealthy affairs with beef. Perhaps achieving a similar gustatory experience with non-beef foods will help me cut down on my beef cravings, so I'm here for some help. How can I break up with beef but not the beefiness?
I'm looking for suggestions for how to prepare other foods so that they substantially reproduce the flavors and meaty qualities that set beef apart. Substitutes can be other meats, preferably those both healthier and less environmentally harmful to raise, as well as vegetarian options.
My ultimate personal target for this question is the transcendental experience of eating a medium-rare loin cut (e.g., tenderloin, NY strip, or sirloin), i.e., beef-flavorful, umami, lean, smooth-textured, and tender-- but still with a little substance to sink my teeth into (the mignon can even be too soft for my preference).
However, I hope this post can be broader than that and cover beef products in general, in order to be helpful for a range of dishes, recipe adaptations, and stricter dietary substitutions.* For that reason, for each suggestion please try to identify specifically what characteristics of beef your substitution achieves and why. Food science is welcome!
How can I reproduce beefiness, especially flavor and texture, with other foods?
*For those interested, check out some of the many related questions out there: