Welcome to the Era of Plant-Based Meat

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By 2050, the world’s population will grow to more than 9 billion and our appetite for meat will grow along with it. The demand for meat will have doubled between 2000 and 2050.

This is happening in large part because economies are growing and people can afford more meat. That’s all good news.

global-demand-for-meat_v7But raising meat takes a great deal of land and water and has a substantial environmental impact. Put simply, there’s no way to produce enough meat for 9 billion people. Yet we can’t ask everyone to become vegetarians.

That’s why we need more options for producing meat without depleting our resources.

Some exciting new companies are taking on this challenge. They are creating plant-based alternatives to chicken, ground beef, even eggs, that are produced more sustainably, and taste great.

One man who has been trying these alternatives is the tech billionaire Bill Gates.

Writing on GatesNotes in an article titled ‘Future of Food’ the Microsoft founder described his experience with plant based ‘meat’:

“Like most people, I don’t think I can be easily fooled. But that’s just what happened when I was asked to taste a chicken taco and tell whether the meat inside was real or fake.

“The meat certainly had the look and the smell of chicken,” Gates added.

“I took a bite and it had the taste and texture of real chicken, too. But I was surprised to learn that there wasn’t an ounce of real chicken it. The “meat” was made entirely of plants. And yet, I couldn’t tell the difference.

“What I was experiencing was more than a clever meat substitute. It was a taste of the future of food.”

This pioneering research is still very new, but the meat alternatives available now show great promise.

Last month chef Traci Des Jardins dropped by the Food & Wine Test Kitchen to make burgers.

Had you been in the kitchen you would have been greeted with the sounds, sights and smells that one would expect from cooking a beef burger. The smell of cooking beef, the sound of sizzling fat. These were no ordinary burgers however.

Des Jardins wasn’t cooking beef—she was cooking Impossible Foods‘ Impossible Burger

 

What is the Impossible Burger? Not a veggie burger, its makers say. They call it “plant-based meat,” and it is far more complex and sophisticated than any existing non-animal patty.

So what exactly is inside this burger? It contains coconut oil to simulate beef fat, which is solid until heated. It has potato proteins, which helps it achieve a beautiful crust when seared. And it’s got heme, a compound that gives color to red meat, which the Impossible Foods team extracts from yeast.

The Impossible Burger is a lot like a classic beef burger but with a few key differences especially where nutrition is concerned, containing more protein and no cholesterol, hormones, antibiotics or nasty chemicals.

Environmentally, there’s a bigger difference: According to Impossible Foods, making the plant-based meat uses 99 per cent less land, 85 per cent less water and emits 89 per cent less greenhouse gas than traditional beef production.

According to their website, Impossible Foods hopes to create all sorts of entirely plant-based meats and dairy products like fish, pork, chicken, cheese and yogurt. For now, though, they are focusing on launching the Impossible Burger, starting at restaurants in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York this July.

Companies like Beyond Meat and Hampton Creek Foods are also experimenting with new ways to use heat and pressure to turn plants into foods that look and taste just like meat and eggs.

The chicken taco eaten by Bill gates was made using Beyond Meat’s chicken alternative and Mr Gates was not the only one fooled by how real it tasted.

New York Times food writer Mark Bittman  couldn’t tell the difference between Beyond Meat and real chicken either. You can read his review here.

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