Credit: © Vegetaran Butcher

Vegetarian butchers

Introducing a new generation of butchers: head chefs, engineers, farmers and scientists who are transforming soy beans into crispy “chicken” filets, and garden peas into juicy steaks.

On my right, Beyond Meat. Founded in 2009 by Ethan Brown, Beyond Meat was named one of the world’s most innovative companies in 2014 by Fast Company magazine. Bill Gates says it’s the future of food and Biz Stone and Evan Williams (the co-founders of Twitter) think so too. Beyond Meat sells slices of (chicken-free) grilled chicken made from natural ingredients: no cholesterol, no saturated fat, but with the same protein content as a chicken breast.

The products developed by Beyond Meat and The Vegetarian Butcher are similar to meat – too similar for some vegetarians.

On my left, The Vegetarian Butcher, founded by Jaap Korteweg in 2010. Using a process developed by a Dutch university, this farmer can reproduce meat fibers using machine-pressed organic soy bean or lupin paste (legumes rich in protein). His hamburgers, meatballs and bacon are retailed in over 1,000 stores across Europe. So how did these two entrepreneurs manage to make meat substitutes appealing to consumers?

Following a rise in health scares related to intensive livestock breeding, consumers are waking up to the fact that industrial meat production isn’t just harmful for animals and human health, it’s damaging to the planet too. Many researchers and international organizations now believe that the industry’s days are numbered as the evidence against it – water and energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, soil pollution, acid rain, and deforestation – stacks up.

Although proteins are an essential part of a balanced diet, animals aren’t the only source. Meat substitutes, such as soy bean steaks and cereal and vegetable burgers, have been on the market for years. Unfortunately, they’re not always very appetizing. And they don’t fool meat eaters.

The products developed by Beyond Meat and The Vegetarian Butcher are very similar to meat – a little too similar for some vegetarians. Fortunately, they’re aimed at a much wider market. Building on recent scientific advances, both companies produce food that looks and tastes like meat, with the same texture as real flesh and muscle, but made from 100% plant matter. Peas, carrots and potatoes are used for minced beef, and lupin and soya bean for chicken, which is sold at the same price as organic chicken. These entrepreneurs hope to lower their prices once they gain a greater share of the market.

According to chefs, food critics and specialist journalists, vegetarian meat looks and feels just like the real thing. The Vegetarian Butcher could arrive on French shelves this year, and the organic supermarket chain, Whole Foods, is planning to use Beyond Meat chicken in its ready-made dishes. With an ecological footprint seven times smaller than beef, imagine if Jaap Korteweg’s minced meat was used in all industrial preparations?

Find out more:

- Tastes Like Chicken

Main picture: Credit: © Vegetaran Butcher

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