Amidst all of the buzz about lab-grown meat, one country seems to have it all in order: Asia. For centuries, many different cultures around Asia have been dabbling in what's known as "homemade meat." Dating back to as early as the Tang Dynasty, people have been experimenting with fake meats such as imitation pork and mutton. With this long-standing tradition comes the receptiveness of Asian consumers for the alternative meat market, and the outstanding science to back it up.
In America, we are just starting to expand our tastebuds into the realm of alternative meats. With the "bleeding" Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat's sausage alternatives, more people are giving meat alternatives a try. However, the hesitancy still remains; Can a meat alternative actually substitute for our beloved livestock?
Meat alternatives have been a part of Asian culture for centuries. With a heavy influence of India's culture of vegetarianism, eating a diet sans meat isn't exactly a foreign concept. In fact, meat alternatives are already normalized in many Asian cultures, thanks to soy patties and wheat gluten "mock meat."
While imitation burgers, sausages, and meatless minced crumbles may satisfy American consumers, the same can't be said in Asia. Asian cuisine has a heavy reliance on more fish and rice-based foods; burgers just aren't going to cut it.
Asia is currently expanding its food production to focus on alternative meats. But for countries that don't really focus on red meat anyways, the results look much different than they do in the US. For example, a number of food producers are narrowing their focus into cell-based meat alternatives. One of the most popular companies doing this at the moment is Shiok Meats. Shiok uses the cutting edge technology behind the lab-grown meat trend to reproduce actual shrimp on a cellular level. The cells are collected and grown in a lab setting without harming the crustacean population.
Another impressive alternative meat source comes from a company called Karana. They use jackfruit to produce a plant-based meat alternative that's hearty, filling, and tastes good. Plus, all of their jackfruit is sustainably sourced and grown in Southeast Asia.
Pork is also used fairly frequently in Asian cuisine. Currently, we don't have much in terms of imitation pork, but Asian startup OMN!PORK seems to have nailed it. Their imitation pork consists of pea powder, non-GMO soy, shiitake mushrooms, and rice. The focus of this product isn't just for environmental purposes. The main goal is to make alternative meat that is actually healthier than the real thing. Their OMN!PORK alternatives have 260% more calcium, 127% more iron, and 86% less saturated fat than ground pork.
OMN!PORK products are becoming popular as an all-purpose plant-based pork alternative
Just like in the US, the alternative meat industry is facing hurdles in Asia. The stringent rules and regulations are making it difficult for some of the products to hit the markets. Cell-based technology is experiencing the majority of the backlash, seeing as it is the most revolutionary alternative meat production process.
The "Future of Food"
Ask anyone who eats meat to give up their habit, and the answer is most likely "no." We are so accustomed to eating meat as a large portion of our diets. It is estimated that 30% of all of the calories consumed globally are made up of meat products. And with the population growing, the demand is only going to trend upwards. The question is, do we have the capacity to meet this demand?
The meat industry is huge. As a whole, the meat industry is worth a staggering $90 billion. Countries near and far are consuming meat in record-breaking amounts, but the environmental backlash is proving to be a deterrent. Between the discussion of animal rights and the concerns over climate change, the meat industry is being looked at with skepticism from consumers and investors alike.
The awareness of the changing future of food has opened the eyes of mega meat suppliers and distributors. More and more investors are accepting the new future ahead of us by investing in alternative meat startups near and far. Both lab-grown meats and plant-based alternatives are gaining traction in these markets.
By 2050, the world's population is projected to reach 9.6 billion people. In terms of food, this means we will need a 61% increase in production, a number that will certainly leave its mark on the environment. However, by transitioning towards more sustainable sources of food, the damage will be greatly reduced. By cutting back on meat production from cows alone, a considerable amount of methane production will be spared. And seeing as methane is 30 times more potent than CO2, cutting back on cows is one of the best things we can do for now.
As the global population grows, the use of plant-based meat alternatives will have positive effects on the environment
Additionally, these alternative meats are also sources of cleaner, healthier nutrients. Traditional meat products are typically packed with cholesterol and saturated fats. These can then alter your body's kidney function, contribute to heart disease risk, and lead to weight gain.
Alternative meat sources are an exciting new addition to the food industry. Considering all of the environmental and population statistics on hand, it's a welcome change with the potential to preserve our planet for as long as possible. The issue now is whether or not the general population will take to it or not. Naturally, there is some hesitation in trying out alternative meat for the first time. Will it taste the same? Will it actually keep you full?
Thanks to all of the startups dedicated to the alternative meat industry, things are about to change. Alternative meat is getting a facelift, and the results are pretty tasty. Stay tuned for more updates on the ever-changing food industry and the future of alternative meat.