Industry Focus: Meat Substitutes
As with computer software, agriculture needs constant updating to stay relevant. Thanks to technology, farming and diet continue to be demystified, and meat substitutes is one major innovation. Research and developments in this area are a popular niche of the food tech industry.
The meat substitute industry is a booming business with new, innovative ideas of cultivating and producing plant-based products, coming up daily. These job opportunities extend to improving the methodologies that are already in place and only need a shine here and there.
Why substitute meat?
Animal meat has, for a long time, been the major source of protein for many families around the world. Apart from protein, meat contains essential amino acids, vitamins, fatty acids, and minerals, which are all important nutrients for the human body.
However, as lifestyle diseases such as obesity and diabetes have become widespread, meat is not the safest source of protein. Because it contains high levels of saturated fats and cholesterol in comparison to dietary fiber, various adverse health problems arise from overconsumption of meat. These include cardiovascular diseases and osteoporosis among others. These harmful effects of meat added to the recent outbreaks of animal diseases such bird flu have put the credibility of raw meat in question. Furthermore, killing animals for human consumption is a major contributor to environmental degradation as it disrupts the ecosystem and contributes to pollution. According to the Food Agricultural Organization, over a billion animals are slaughtered each year in different parts of the world. This form of ‘adulteration’ has raised concerns about animal welfare, which could foresee a time of ‘limited resources’ in future as far as animal life goes.
What are meat substitutes?
Meat alternatives were introduced to reduce the effects of large meat consumption mentioned earlier. These are foods made to resemble meat in nutritional content and sensory value, though they’re not of animal origin. The raw materials are processed to have the same chemical characteristics and aesthetic form (appearance, texture, flavor) as real meat. Listed below are the main groups into which meat substitutes are classified:
Based on Product
- Tofu and tofu products
- Soya products such as miso, yaso, nitto
- Textured Vegetable Protein(TVP)
Based on Raw Material/Source
- Other milk-based alternatives
In the list above, soy-based meat substitutes make the largest chunk of meat alternatives consumed per capita.It takes four-fifth of global consumption according to Markets and Markets, one of the world’s fastest growing market research database. This is mainly because soy is considered to have high protein value and less calorie values as compared to the rest. It is the raw material in products such as tofu, tempeh and Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP). Some popular foods from soy include soy burgers, soy hot dogs, soy bacon and soy turkey, to name a few.
Market research and growth forecast
When the idea of providing alternatives to meat was first introduced, it did not receive much popularity. This was mainly because it was claimed that these products were highly processed and that they were made from GMO seeds. However, the industry of meat substitutes, also known as meat analog, faux meat or mock meat, has experienced substantial growth in recent years. According to ResearchandMarkets, The Global Meat Substitutes is expected to grow at a CAGR of about 6.6% from 2016 to a whopping gross value of USD 5.96 Billion by 2022. This comes in the wake of new and modern consumerism patterns of food products in the majority of the population.
Regarding regions, Europe is the second-largest consumer of plant-based sources of protein, after the United States of America. Third on the list is the Asia-Pacific region. Countries such as China and India are leaning towards meat substitutes due to heightened awareness of the health hazards associated with meat. Factors such as high demand due to the large population, and the presence of disposable incomes in countries like Japan and South Korea, also contribute actively to the rise of meat-substitute consumption in Asia.
Technologies used in making meat substitutes
Extrusion is the conventional method of meat substitute production on a large scale. It mainly involves a barrel with twin screw extruders and is mostly used to produce ready-to- eat cereals.
The aim of this process is to form desirable fibers out of plants and mix them under specific temperatures and moisture levels to form ‘meat.’ Protein coagulation is the driving principle of this process.
This is the most recent innovation process that can be used in a large-scale manufacturing set-up for meat substitutes. Wageningen University & Research, Netherlands, is where the ground-breaking technological procedure was brought to life.
The importance of this procedure over the conventional extrusion process described above is:
- It is energy-efficient as it requires less energy for cooling
- It provides more flexibility in production as it is simpler
- It is possible to make meat substitutes for specific target groups to suit their nutritional needs and quality of texture, e.g. chewability for children
- It is easier to meet consumer demands and adjust, as far as the use of additives or other regional ingredients is concerned
Companies that produce meat-substitutes
While there are many food companies warming up to the meat substitute business, what with optimistic economic times ahead, these four have been around for long enough, and consistently:
- Amy’s Kitchen Inc. (US) Started in 1987, this company is a pioneer of all foods organic – “We were organic before organic was a thing.” The unique thing about Amy’s Kitchen is that they grow the food on their farms and tend them all the way to the kitchen.
- Beyond Meat, Inc. (US) It has been among the most innovative companies of 2017. The Beyond Meat company is built on four pillars: improving human health, positively impacting climate change, addressing global resource constraints, and improving animal welfare. It is one of the best plant-based meat companies regarding corporate scalability.
- Meatless BV (The Netherlands) is faster in moving towards healthy vegetarian living than any other country in Europe, thanks to companies such as this. Meatless stands out because it manufactures individually quick frozen (IQF) products only, that are “ready to use”
- Quorn Foods (UK) Quorn Foods is a familiar name in Europe when it comes to meat substitutes. It provides possibly the widest variety of plant-based food products and recipes for its consumers.
The meat substitute industry offers many job opportunities for people with different kinds of skill stes.
There are several unexplored fields in the meat substitute industry that can be pursued as serious careers. Here are some of them:
- Corporate Health, Safety & Environmental Manager
Hygiene is vital in any food-making process. This job entails overseeing the handling of food from the farm to the plate and making sure it meets the health standards before selling to the public. Here’s a vacancy at Amy’s Kitchen.
- Kitchen porter
This job involves working hard to ensure the kitchen preparation area is clean, the dishes are well done and the areas are spick and span. Quorn Gangre hotel has a free slot!
- Equipment operator
The main role of the equipment operator in the farm or the processing plant is to test the equipment, ensure that it is running properly and perform maintenance according to the manual. In this regard, Morningstar Farm in the U.S is always willing to hire.
Institutions that offer related programs
Natural Gourmet Institute is leading in offering a chef training program to people generally interested in healthy living and ways of preparing vegetarian meals. It is located in New York City, USA.
The University of Kent in the UK has also recently diversified its programs to include a vegan cookery masterclass that trains on plant-based diet skills. The program is gaining a lot of heat.
For Masters in Culinary Innovation and Food product development that so includes meat-substitute technologies, Dublin Institute of Technology in Ireland is the place to check out. Click here to read more.
Living Light Culinary Institute found in California stands by its name through the nutrition programs it offers. Read about it here.
Also, see School of Natural Cookery.
The introduction of protein-rich supplements in the stead of meat is slowly shifting the dynamics of consumerism, starting from Europe to India, North America to the Pacific. With more innovation in agriculture technology and new branding strategies of involved food companies every day, the tables are steadily turning the vegan way.