What’s the Future of Plant-Based Meat?

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    The global market for alternative meats is forecast to grow to $450 billion by 2040, according to consulting firm Kearney. For the past few years, plant-based burgers have been dominating the space. Now, there’s a new focus: whole cuts.

    Bloomberg News’ Deena Shanker explains.

    “So, the burgers and the sausages have been hugely successful, I think more successful than anybody expected. But most Americans, when they want meat, they don’t just want a burger or sausage. They want like that chicken fillet. They want that steak. They want that pork chop. So if a meat replacement is truly going to be a replacement, then the company that’s making it needs to make more than just burgers and sausages. So that’s been a big challenge for this industry. And, you know, whether they can make something that really mimics a whole cut of meat is a big open question right now.”

    The Good Food Institute’s Mirte Gosker says the plant-based sector is undergoing a seismic shift.

    “Currently meat eaters are interested in trying plant-based meat because they biomimic the exact same thing. The taste, the mouthfeel, the structure. It feels the same as animal meat. And we see new technologies coming out that are improving taste, texture and mouthfeel. And we’re very excited because you can just see from a couple of years back to now how these products change.”

    But plants don’t have muscle tissues or the bite and chewiness of meat. So, how do you make a whole cut of meat from plants?

    Atlast Food Co. has turned to mushrooms. The company’s president Steve Lomnes explains.

    “We think about creating amazing whole cut meat alternatives, using mushrooms is really leaning into what we call the “foragers secret,” that is, that nature’s already created the most compelling plant based alternatives to whole cuts of meat in the form of specialty mushrooms. We grow these specialty mushrooms that people eat and have eaten for hundreds of years, but we grow them very, very fast and in very large formats that make it easy for us to turn it into whole cut meat, alternative products.”

    He says the process works really well because the taste and the texture of meat is really grown right into the product.

    “Because the structure is grown right into the primary ingredient, we’re able to bring products to market that only have six ingredients on the on the label. And they’re all ingredients that people will recognize and find comfortable to include in their diet.”

    Some companies like Redefine Meat are taking a more high-tech approach. It prints its whole-cut meat alternative.

    The company’s CEO, Eshchar Ben-Shitrit, explains.

    “We’ve broken down the composition of meat to what we call muscle, fat and blood components, which are all plant-based. And we create them by taking natural ingredients and mixing them. And then we have a machine, which is basically a very large robot that knows how to place each and every one of them in a precise place according to a three- dimensional file. Then we have meat that is really tasty. But it’s 3 years of development, 5 patents and a lot of hard work.”

    Fermentation is yet another technology being used by companies like Chunk Foods to create whole-cuts. The company’s CEO, Amos Golan, explains.

    “We take plant raw materials like soy or pea or others, and we improve them by introducing microorganisms that metabolize those raw materials and change them and give them a new life, just like in the case of miso or soy sauce. We get those who umami flavors get the different texture and better nutrition. We have a proprietary process in which we take that raw material and turn that into something that really resembles a whole cut with its fibrous texture, with its nutritional profile, with the fat marbling and with the general appearance of what a whole cut is.”

    So, are whole-cuts the future of the industry?

    “At this point, no company has shown that they can really make a whole cut of meat that on its own looks taste and has that same texture and mouth feel as an actual piece of meat. So there’s a big if there. If they can do it, I think that that will be the future of this industry”.

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