Pathfinders

Vegetable-based, artificial, premium:
what will tomorrow’s meat be like?

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Meat consumption is continuing to grow worldwide, driven in particular by developing countries. With more plant-based foodstuffs on our plates - nearly 7% of food innovations in 2018 - the consumption of legumes is expected to grow faster. Is this a sign that the future of the meat sector lies in "fake" meat?

Meat consumption is expected to increase by a further 1.7 percent by 2028.
Source: FAO/OECD Agricultural Outlook report. 

Plant-based meat substitutes

Whether vegetarian, vegan or flexitarian, consumers' motivations for stopping or reducing their consumption of animal proteins are varied. It may be an ethical choice in response to the conditions of slaughter, or a medical choice, for example, to have a low-fat diet. In recent years, the issue of animal welfare and health conditions, but also the carbon footprint of livestock farming, have become reasons behind the decline in traditional meat consumption. But the fact nevertheless remains that humans need protein: between 11% and 15% of energy intake over an average day.

Fortunately, many sources of vegetable protein exist, including legumes, a category that includes vegetables or plants whose fruit is a pod. These include peas and beans, lentils and soybeans, from which tofu, tempeh and miso are made. They can be consumed directly in their raw form or processed into so-called imitation meat: vegetable substitutes for well-known meat preparations such as steaks, nuggets, sausages or ground meat. Products in which a wide range of innovations could be found at SIAL Paris 2018.

They also offer variations on shapes and tastes that allow for a multitude of textures. For example, textured soy protein or seitan, made from gluten, can replace meat in many dishes such as blanquette.

In the 2019 Global Innovation Report produced by Protéines XTC, these plant-based products are for the consumer "a health promise", notes Xavier Terlet. But despite the challenge from substitutes, traditional meat isn’t finished yet.

Upmarket shift for the meat market

Confronted with the depreciation of its sector, the meat market is changing. The emergence of the flexitarian trend, a new food behaviour which principally consists of giving priority to meat quality over quantity, is perfectly in step with this trend towards enhancing the value of the product.

Loeul et Piriot,Europe's leading processor of  rabbit meat, promotes a quality charter, "Eleveurs & Bien".

Loeul et Piriot,Europe's leading processor of 
rabbit meat, promotes a quality charter, "Eleveurs & Bien".

It is now a matter of being proud of your meat and giving it a premium touch thanks to animal welfare, local or organic labels or even a maturing process for example. Breeders will promote their meat breeds and their history, especially when they are part of the national heritage, as well as the origin of the animals.

Here is a meat market that is moving upmarket, therefore, and playing the sophistication card with new types of processing or cuts, such as rabbit escalopes by the French company Loeul et Piriot. Market players are also riding the DIY - Do It Yourself - wave by offering, for example, kits for making your own turkey fillet “en croute” or foie gras au torchon. The product's value is also enhanced through combinations with luxury ingredients such as the truffle found in the Bellota sausage, selected by the judges of SIAL Innovation 2018.

Meat Like, between traditional meat and substitutes

Beyond meat is one of the world leaders in the  vegetable meat with his The Beyond Burger.

Beyond meat is one of the world leaders in the 
vegetable meat with his The Beyond Burger.

Halfway between real meat and its substitutes are the "Meat Like" products, which, like the imitations, look like traditional meat dishes but taste like them too!

Selected by the jury of SIAL Innovation China 2019, two products from the Danish company Naturli' offer evidence of the strong innovation in this niche. In the form of sausages or minced meat, these 100% plant-based foods are rich in protein and vegan. A finalist for the innovation award, the American company Beyond Meat goes even further and offers the "world's first plant-based patty that looks, cooks and satisfies like beef". Gluten-free products that contain canola and coconut oil as well as natural flavours to recreate the taste of meat. Another particularity in their composition is their high protein content - equivalent in quantity to that of traditional meat - which comes from pea protein obtained by grinding dried yellow split peas.

Artificial meat

Still marginal on the market, can in-vitro or artificial meat become tomorrow's trend? The concept is not new: the first in-vitro steak officially appeared in 2013. It involves recreating meat from stem cells in the laboratory. But for the time being, no company has positioned itself in this niche on an industrial scale.

By 2029, artificial meat would represent 10% of the animal protein market and even 35% in 2040.
Source: AT Kearney, February 2019.

Intended in particular for customers for whom livestock farming is a barrier to meat consumption, artificial meat however faces another reality that could turn consumers off. Because to preserve stem cells, laboratories currently use a serum taken from the blood of calf foetuses taken from pregnant cows before slaughter. As such, it is therefore unclear as to whether the general public will happily adopt artificial meat.

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