Sustainable Food Forum: “We love meat, we just don’t think it should come from animals”
How do you convince consumers to adopt a sustainable diet? It may sound like a simple question to answer, after all we are living during a climate emergency, where droughts, fires, food insecurity and the mistreatment of farm animals make the daily headlines. Yet the global human taste for meat is not decreasing.
“We love meat, we just don’t think it should come from animals,“says Edwin Bark, Senior Vice President of Redefine Meat. The company, famous for making 3D-printed plant-based meat – also referred to as ‘New-Meat’ – in the form of tenderloin, striploin, pulled pork and lamb, bratwurst, beef flank, beef mince, lamb kebab mince, sausages and burgers, has enjoyed huge success since it was launched in 2018 in Israel.
Famous for their meat-like flavour, texture and mouthfeel, Redefine Meat’s products are now available in several restaurants around the world. In the UK former chef and restaurateur Marco Pierre White was the first to put the Israeli start-up’s products on the menu of several of its restaurants in May 2022. White, who had followed a plant-based diet for several months before tasting Redefine Meat, said at the time: “I didn’t feel satisfied [eating vegan food]. We didn’t have New-Meat in those days. I was always hungry…I eat this [New-Meat], once or twice a week.” He even went as far as saying that the start-up’s plant-based offering was “the cleverest thing I’ve seen in almost 40 years in the kitchen.”
Since then, Redefine Meat has gone from strength to strength, with more restaurants in Britain and around the world putting its products on their menu. “We are trying to seduce carnivores,” says Bark, during Food Matters Live’s Sustainable Food Forum. Speaking on the We become what we eat, and so does the planet: changing global diets panel, today [20.09.2023], for Bark the three key areas to get more consumers to eat sustainably are very clear: communication, innovation and collaboration.
Driving the message that plant-based meat can be as satisfying to eat as animal meat, is key to help omnivores and flexitarians decrease their meat consumption and add more vegan products to their diet. Innovation is of the utmost importance – after all, consumers won’t buy a product they don’t like the taste of, especially with so many affordable options on the market, which brings the Redefine Meat’s Senior Vice President to make another point, also highlighted the previous day at the Sustainable Food Forum by Alberto Musacchio, CEO of Italian plant-based meat company Food Evolution, and by activist and campaigner Jonathon Porritt: the discrepancy between governments’ large meat and dairy subsidies, compared to those given to the plant-based food sector. For Bark it’s important that we create a level playing field, where plant-based food can fairly compete with animal-derived products. But lack of financial support, paired with higher VAT charges, means the vegan sector is still at a disadvantage. If global diets are to change and become more sustainable, consumers must be made aware of the true price of meat, fish and dairy, namely their intrinsic environmental cost, which includes water pollution, GHG emissions, deforestation, harm to livestock and food insecurity.
For plant-based food companies not only to survive, but to thrive, collaboration between stakeholders is crucial, says Bark – a point echoed by many of the speakers at Food Matters Live’s Sustainable Food Forum. Scaling, bringing down costs of vegan food production across the value chain, and developing new sources of proteins and binders are all keys to ensure the sector’s success.
If global diets are to become sustainable and consumers are to be enticed to make a switch, plant-based products must address quality and versatility, and deliver on taste, mouthfeel, cooking experience and price. Only then committed carnivores and those shunning vegan food will embrace an eco-friendly diet.