Meet The Meat – Sans The Meat

Ever wondered what goes into bringing your favourite non-vegetarian dish to the table? Apart from the ethical questions around eating meat, breeding and raising livestock is resource-intensive. It also generates a lot of harmful waste and by-products, such as methane, that disturb the (1)

For decades scientists have been trying to develop mock meat that tastes like the real deal for meat lovers with a guilty conscience. While some did come close to tasting like the real thing, they were not convincing enough for meat lovers to make the shift. Since these ‘meats’ are usually plant-based, they tend to retain their vegetal and grainy texture, making the difference too obvious to be ignored.

US-based Beyond Meat appears to have reached the holy grail. Everyone from Bill Gates to Twitter co-founders, Biz Stone and Evan Williams, couldn’t tell the ‘veggies’ apart from real meat. So thrilled were they with the product that they decided to bet big bucks on it. This is what Biz Stone, a vegan for a decade, had to say after a bite:

My first reaction was, if I was given this in a restaurant, I’d get the waiter to come over and ask if he’d accidentally given us real chicken.

Watch anchors of TODAY try out the delicacies, only to confuse them with real chicken and beef:

The company has replaced animal proteins with plant proteins without depriving the senses. Made out of soy and pea proteins and flavoured by fragrance-maker Givaudan, the products taste and look like the real thing. In an interview to Fortune, Ethan Brown, CEO of Beyond Meat had said:

We call it OCD. Obsessive Chicken Disorder. It has to be exactly like chicken.

Making plant proteins taste and look like chicken is the easier bit. The hard part is getting the chewy, fibrous texture – mouthfeel – absolutely right, and the company delivers on that front too. The secret recipe originally belonged to researchers Fu-Hung Hsieh and Howard Huff, who sold it off to Brown in 2010.

While the fake chicken companies have been around for a while, the new kid on the block is a fake egg company, Hampton Creek. The company that counts Bill Gates, Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang and the richest Asian, Li Ka-shing among its investors seeks to replace egg with its products. The plant-based substitute claims to be light on cholesterol as well as the wallet. As Forbes puts it:

The ratio of energy input to food energy output for chicken-laid eggs is about 39-to-1, behind only beef and lamb farming. Hampton Creek’s plant products maintain a ratio of 2-to-1. That translates into direct cost savings: Its egg equivalents cost 39 cents a pound–almost half of its chicken-begat counterpart.

The team experimented with 1,500 varieties of plants to find one which matches the properties of an egg. The lab has developed more than 300 prototypes of fake eggs and mayo so far. Once a prototype of eggless mayo clears a series of tests, such as droplet particle size and thickness, the jar is stored in a mayo library to check for shelf stability.

While Hampton’s product has not yet been widely accepted by the market it is determined to take on poultry industry with products that are healthier and more resource efficient.

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