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Agri food tech

First plant-based meat factory opens in Abu Dhabi

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3 min read
AUTHOR: Fiona Holland
Part of Abu Dhabi, UAE with tall buildings and surrounding area viewed from the helicopter. Many details are visible in the image

Abu Dhabi residents now have access to ‘homegrown’ alternative proteins, following the opening of the first plant-based meat factory in the UAE capital.

Situated in the KEZAD Industrial City, the factory is the new home for local alt-protein start-up Switch Foods.

Production of the company’s meat alternatives began at the new space at the start of May 2023. The plant-based range is mostly made with pea protein and includes mince meat and burger patties, as well as other vegan varieties of popular meats within the region, such as kebab, kafta, and soujuk (a type of sausage). All the products are free from soy, gluten, antibiotics and cholesterol, says Switch Foods.

Spanning around 20,000 square feet, the facility features ‘built-to-order equipment’, cold storage areas, a cutting edge laboratory, innovation centre, as well as preparation and logistics areas, and offices.

Edward Hamod, Founder and CEO of Switch Foods, said: “We are excited to launch our game-changing plant-based meat production facility in KEZAD, Abu Dhabi, marking a significant milestone in our journey to transform the way people consume food in the UAE and their perception of plant-based meat.

“We aim to lead the transition to sustainable food systems by introducing localised, innovative plant-based meat alternatives that are healthier for both the environment and consumers.”

Switch Foods’ factory is the second plant-based meat plant to open in the Middle East in 2023. Earlier this year, one of the UAE’s largest food producers IFFCO opened a facility to produce a range of fava bean-based meat alternatives under the THRYVE brand.

The opening of the space was attended by the UAE Minister for Climate Change and Environment, H.E. Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri. She emphasised the importance of investing in plant-based meat as the country looks to reach the targets set out in its National Food Security Strategy, which includes making the UAE a leading country on the Global Food Security Index by 2051, and reducing the nation’s reliance on food imports.

At the launch of the facility, she said: “The food and agriculture sector faces the critical challenge of climate change. We must ensure a healthy and reliable food supply for our people while recognising that global food systems account for over a fourth of greenhouse gas emissions. Plant-based meat generates 30 to 90% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than conventional meat and contributes to a more sustainable food supply.

She added: “The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment is accelerating national efforts by identifying critical areas of action, with food production being a core pillar. We are investing in a thriving ecosystem that fosters innovation and growth through partnerships and investments in sustainable food production. This project embodies the spirit of public-private collaboration and ingenuity necessary to achieve our food security and climate action objectives.”

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