by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Meat substitutes

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.



Feb 24 2021

Fungal protein, veganism, and venture capital

I don’t usually pay attention to press releases for food products but this one caught my eye.

Just announced, Nature’s Fynd, the buzzworthy food-tech company growing a nutritional fungi protein named Fy™ that recently raised over $150M in equity and debt financing, opened preorders for a limited release for its Fy Breakfast Bundle…Nature’s Fynd is solving a massive agricultural (and business) need.

The business need I get.  As one of my readers, Kristin Ohlson pointed out, this is an example of “veganism meets venture capital.”

The agricultural need?

Their breakthrough fermentation technology only requires only a fraction of the water, land, and energy of traditional protein sources. And thanks to the natural resilience and efficiency of Fy’s base organism, they make Fy emitting 99% less greenhouse gases, and using 99% less land and 87% less water than processing beef. Plus, the products are incredibly tasty and Fy is good for your body—containing all nine essential amino acids and fiber, with no cholesterol or trans fats. It’s also vegan and certified non-GMO.

Does this remind anyone of Quorn, which the Center for Science in the Public Interest has been complaining about for years?

Despite what some of the manufacturer’s marketing materials indicated, the fungus used in Quorn is only distantly related to mushrooms, truffles, or morels. While all are members of the fungus kingdom, Quorn is made from a less appetizing fungus (or mold) called Fusarium venenatum (venenatum is the Latin word for venomous).

Fy protein comes from Fusar­i­um  flavolapis, which they got out of some Yellowstone hot spring (with permission).

I hope they have done some allergy testing.

I’d like to see the ingredient lists for some of these products.

For the moment, I’ll stick with food.

Feb 16 2021

Cell-based meats: an skeptical update

Cell-based meat substitutes are not yet on the market in the United States, but they are of great interest, and here’s why.

Singapore has approved them:  Eat Just, Inc., a company that applies cutting-edge science and technology to create healthier, more sustainable foods, today announced that, after a rigorous consultation and review process, its cultured chicken has been approved for sale in Singapore as an ingredient in chicken bites.

A Singapore restaurant is serving cell-based chicken nuggets At the debut, the restaurant served cultured chicken from the brand GOOD Meat, affiliated with Eat Just, a sustainable food startup based in the U.S. The event followed the regulatory approval of the product by Singapore…“I’m speechless,” an 11-year-old patron of the restaurant said in a press release. “It will save a lot of animals’ lives and it will be a lot more sustainable … It feels good to have chicken without feeling guilty.”  [Comment: Do we really need cell-based chicken nuggets?]

There is a lot of money riding on these products: A company in Israel has gotten the price down to $7.50 per “chicken breast,” and just got nearly $27 million in funding.  [Prices are going to have to go down a lot further before anyone other than the rich will buy them]

Another Isreali company is producing 3-D printed steaks: Aleph Farms, based in Israel, unveiled the first 3-D-printed ribeye steak, using a culture of live animal tissue and “broadening the scope of alt-meat in what is expected to be a rich area of expansion for food companies.”  This used “a culture of live animal tissue, in what could be a leap forward for lab-grown meat once it receives regulatory approval.”  [Do we need 3-D printed food?]  

The meat may be fake, but the proIfits are real

If this sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  Indeed, as this article maintains, “There’s a giant, undiscussed, confounding party at the table: the world’s richest investors, and the delicious returns they expect for saving the world.”

Meat imitation technologies can deliver staggering profits and act as a lever to transition from a destructive animal diet—but we must recognize that those two potentialities are necessarily in conflict….When the chips are down, fiduciary obligations will always privilege profit over the moral aspirations of these patent-clutching geniuses. In its present composition, the new-meat dream will let us down. Its affinity for and resemblance to agribusiness will ultimately prolong the hegemony of animal slaughter, not challenge it.