by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Meat substitutes

Sep 29 2021

Plant-based meat and alternatives: the marketing push continues

I dealt with cell-based alternatives to animal foods yesterday; those are not on the market yet and are unlikely to be on the market soon at any reasonable scale.  In the meantime, we have lots of plant-based products to deal with.  These too require critical discussion.

Pea protein is a basic ingredient of plant-based meat alternatives.  Take a look at what’s happening to pea prices.

While sorting all this out, the quest for profitable products is relentless.

Sep 28 2021

Meat alternatives: cell-based

I’m seeing considerable confusion about the difference between cell-based and plant-based meat alternatives.

Cell-based products are not yet on the market, except in Singapore.  Plant-based products are everywhere, and I will deal with them separately tomorrow.

For an example of the confusion, Phil Howard’s op-ed in Civil Eats was first titled Giant Meat and Dairy Companies Are Dominating the Plant-Based Protein Market, but his informative diagram refers to cell-cultured meat and fish alternatives, those that start with cells of animal origin.  Civil Eats, ever careful, fixed the headline so it now reads, Op-Ed: Giant Meat and Dairy Companies Are Dominating the Plant-Based and Cellular Meat Market.  

Today, lets stick to cell-based, beginning with Joe Fassler‘s thoughtful analysis in The Counter: “Lab-grown meat is supposed to be inevitable. The science tells a different story.”

That science tells us:

  • Manufacturers consistently miss targets for product release.
  • Production costs are astronomical.
  • Even if costs can be reduced, production volume can never match real meat.
  • Producing cell-based meat to scale means keeping it free of contaminants (difficult, if not impossible)
  • Fetal blood serum, a necessary ingredient, requires animals to be slaughtered.
  • Cell culture facilities are resource-intensive.

In the meantime, here are some of the latest developments in regulation, image, and celebrity investment.

And here’s a summary of the latest research on concentration and power in cell-based agriculure.

  • Democratizing ownership and participation in the 4th Industrial Revolution: challenges and opportunities in cellular agriculture:  In this paper, we have sought to engage the nascent feld of cellular agriculture in conversation with the political economy of agriculture scholarship, namely, on the inescapable question of whether or not this emerging technology will further concentrate wealth and power in the global food system. Innovation without meaningful inclusion has led to inequality, distrust, environmental crises, and social disintegration, and the world’s biggest tech companies are well positioned to continue disrupting and absorbing traditional industries in the coming decades…Critically important and valuable innovation, including agroecological approaches to food production, also continues to come from non-industrial contexts.

 

Aug 26 2021

Keeping up with plant-based substitutes: not easy

The marketplace for plant-based meat and dairy substitutes is booming, and attracting tons of venture capital.

It also is attracting controversy.

Here are some of the new products and those in the works.

And the latest business news.

Aug 19 2021

Lab-based meat: the latest

Eating less meat is good advice for the health of people and the planet.  How to do that?  The makers of cell-based meat substitutes say they are the solution to this problem.  But are they?  They aren’t on the market yet, except in Singapore, so the jury is still out.

Public interest

  • A taste for lab-grown meat: In an online poll, 19 percent of American adults responded “Yes, I am eager to try” cell-cultured meat when it becomes available, while 78 percent of meat eaters said they would prefer “real meat” in the long run. (Piplsay)

The rationale

  • The film: Meat Me Halfway is a just-released documentary from the Reducitarian perspective, which argues that any reduction in meat intake is a help, any way it happens.  One way is to substitute cell-based meat.  Take a look.  I found the film interesting and compelling, and not just because I’m one of the talking heads in it.

The forthcoming products

  • Bacon:  Sales of Vegan Bacon Are On the Rise as More Brands Hit the Market.  Plant-based producers are attracting notable funding for a market not yet taken over by Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat.
  • Milk: Tech fantasy or a liquid goldmine? BioMilk goes public:  Visitors to BioMilk’s website are asked a simple question: ‘What is milk?’ a question that – until relatively recently – had a pretty obvious answer: the white stuff lactating mammals produce. Today, however, there’s plant-based milk; there are products containing selected components of mammalian milk produced via microbes in fermentation tanks; and now the final frontier: cell-cultured milk…. Read more
  • Chicken: Memphis Meats Re-Brands as UPSIDE Foods, Announces Cultured Chicken as its First Product.  Press release.
  • Caviar: the mass-market health food star of the future? A British company is developing the world’s first lab-grown ‘compassionate’ caviar to allow more people to experience the delicacy’s unique taste and nutritional benefits…. Read more
  • Foie Gras: Gourmey, a start-up based in Paris, received an additional $10 million in seed funding this week. The company hopes to find a market in the United States amid growing concerns about animal cruelty.

The business (follow the money)

May 24 2021

Industry-funded study of the week: Cultured meat

US and UK Consumer Adoption of Cultivated Meat: A Segmentation Study.  Keri Szejda, Christopher J. Bryant, Tessa UrbanovichFoods 2021, 10(5), 1050.

Background: “Despite growing evidence of the environmental and public health threats posed by today’s intensive animal production, consumers in the west remain largely attached to meat. Cultivated meat offers a way to grow meat directly from cells, circumventing these issues as well as the use of animals altogether.”

Purpose: “The aim of this study was to assess the overall consumer markets and a range of preferences around cultivated meat in the US and the UK relating to nomenclature, genetic modification, health enhancements, and other features.”

Conclusion: “there are solid consumer markets for cultivated meat in the UK and the US, despite an overall lack of familiarity with the product. Younger generations are the most open to trying cultivated meat, and government seals of approval are considered important. Consumers tend to prefer non-GM cultivated meat, and while nutritional enhancements do not add much to consumer appeal overall, they may be an effective way to provide tangible benefits to more skeptical consumers.”

Funding: “This work was supported by Aleph Farms. Aleph Farms participated in the study design, but not other aspects of the project.”

Conflicts of interest: “The authors report no conflicts of interest.”

Comment: Aleph Farms produces cell-based meat substitutes: “We’re paving a new way forward in the field of cultivated meat, growing delicious, real beef steaks from the cells of cows, eliminating the need for slaughtering animals or harming the environment.”

The company paid for consumer research to find out how to sell its product.   The authors perceive no conflicted interests in this kind of paid research.  The biases induced by paid research are often unconscious and unrecognized.  The result of this study is an implied suggestion to add nutrients to cell-based meat products as a means to convince people to buy them.

This is marketing research.

Thanks to Michele Simon for sending a query about this paper.

May 13 2021

Keeping up with plant-based food products (not easy)

Plant-based meat and dairy products are big business these days, with startups loaded with investor capital.

Here are some recent items on what’s happening in this food business sector.

Apr 8 2021

Plant-based: an attempt to keep up

Information pours out about plant-based meat and dairy substitutes.  Here are some recent items, pro and con:

Mar 22 2021

Annals of marketing: walnuts as plant-based meats

The California Walnut Commission, ever on the job, has a new white paper out on using walnuts as ingredients in plant-based meat substitutes.

The paper rightly points out that the most popular plant-based meats are full of artificial ingredients (they don’t use the word “ultra-processed).

The public wants “clean.”

The sweet spot for manufacturers is in creating great-tasting plant-based products while maintaining clean labels. Walnuts are a popular tree nut and the ideal ingredient for many uses in plant-based meat alternatives. Want to mimic meat in taco crumbles or provide a savory taste and exceptional texture to a plant-based burger? Use walnuts.

Apparently, such products are on the market already (the white paper gives examples).

My question, as always, how do they taste?

I will look for them and find out.  With luck, they will taste like walnuts.

Expect trade associations for every kind of nut to get on this bandwagon, if they haven’t already done so.