"A meat-eater with a bicycle is much more environmentally unfriendly than a vegetarian with a Hummer."
--Dr Mark Post
The world's largest food concern, Unilever, has opened a new research lab at the world's most prestigious agricultural university, the University of Wageningen (the Netherlands).
Unilever will locate all elements of its foods R&D there. A spokeswoman on Dutch radio stressed plant-based meat alternatives as an important research subject.
Wageningen University has strong credentials in that respect, with the development of shear cell technology.
Shear cell technology strings plant proteins together in tightly controlled fibers, resulting in a meat substitute where texture (fibrousness, bite, mouthfeel) can easily be controlled, and changed at will. This, combined with 3D food printing, offers the possibility of creating multiple meat (substitute) variations in future.
Unilever's food campus is open to startups, innovators and partners. One of the first to have build its own lab on the same grounds is Symrise, an industrial flavours and scents group.
About half of Dutch people call themselves 'flexitarians'. This means that they don't eat meat with their main meal at least three times a week. The proportion of vegetarians is stable, at just under five percent of the Dutch population.
Wageningen researchers believe, however, that feeding 9 billion people with animal meat will not be sustainable for the planet.
Think about sausage: a hull around processed meat i.e. proteins. If you can replace part of that protein with this kind of manufactured meat, based on (far) cheaper plant protein, you've got a double win. Your profit increases, and you're seemingly doing something for the environment.
That's just sausage, an obvious example: but note also the 3D food printing stuff, and the focus on bite and mouth feel. It is not very hard to see upcoming regulation stating that something like your steak can still be sold as 'beef' as long as it contains a certain percentage of animal meat, is it?
Perhaps because it's actually about deception.