Will the fake meat replace the real one? Possible! There are two roads that are being traveled. There is the meatless, or meat-non-meat made with vegetable products. And then there is the clean meat, the clean meat, which is real meat, but obtained without killing the animals. Here's what it is
Whether it is a matter of health, of an ecological spirit, of love for animals or for any other reason, the fact is that the number of people who follow a diet that excludes meat is growing. And when a trend moves from the habit of a few to a choice of many, the market readily responds.
The veg market in the US is growing strongly
The choice to become vegetarian or vegan results in a decline in meat sales. In the beginning this part of the market was the winning ground for small companies that were trying to experiment to recreate foods that resembled meat, but produced from vegetable flours. Because one thing is certain: if, as the statistics of the US market show, meat consumption is falling, at the same time many consumers look for products that in some way the meat (for consistency, taste, smell) can remember it. And given that, still in the USA, that of veg products is a market that by now has reached very high figures (we are around 5 billion dollars), it is natural that even large companies have dived, sniffing the deal.
Meat not meat, or meatless
With the arrival of huge amounts of capital, the search to recreate a meat-non-meat has made a leap forward. Today we no longer have the usual soy or seitan burgers in front of us. What the new veg market offers are sliced algae and lupine that look like ham, chickpea slices that look like chicken breasts … In short, so that these products are more and more similar to meat, they have come to create soy burgers, tofu and beetroot that "bleed": it is the beet juice that makes the veg burgers "bleed".
But shouldn't a vegan or a vegetarian be horrified by this food, which in all respects resembles (mind you: it looks like) meat? In fact, according to Burger King, who added this Impossible Burger (as it is called) in its menus in the stores of the US city of St. Louis, the target are not (only) vegetarians or vegans, but omnivores, which they should prefer this laboratory-made burger from wheat for several reasons. Health reasons, given that it contains 90% less cholesterol and 15% less fat; but also for ecological reasons, given that intensive cow farming entails the release of enormous quantities of carbon dioxide and this impacts the environment by accelerating global warming; moreover, replacing beef with laboratory meat would also cut water consumption by 80%.
But when we talk about laboratory beef we are not speaking only of that of vegetable origin.
Test-tube meat, or clean meat
Yes, in the US they call it this way: clean meat, because it has a very low environmental impact and eliminates intensive farming and, with them, the mistreatment (suffering) of cattle. To understand: we will eat a real steak, not a vegetable substitute, without slaughtering any animal. For now we are experimenting with hamburgers "grown" in the laboratory and born from animal stem cells. Depending on the point of the body where the cells are extracted, the various cuts of meat are reproduced.
Here, in short, as it happens: the material taken is fed with oxygen and amino acids and after six weeks of "incubator" it looks exactly like a piece of meat purchased in the butcher shop. The problem is still on production costs, which are too high. But there are many investors who believe in it and among them Bill Gates stands out, who places a lot of money on the future of the "new meat" and has invested so much money to allow the scientific staff of the Memphis Meats, Silicon Valley start-up that works to the project, to continue its research. Laboratory hamburgers, say Memphis Meats, predict the use of 1% of the soil and 1% of water compared to normal farms. Marketing? Not before 2021: in short, not so far!
Next to the Memphis Meats, there are several companies that move in the same direction and all with important investors behind them: Bill Gates never fails, but many are also Hollywood stars. The most important companies, in addition to the aforementioned Memphis Meats, are Mosa Meat and SuperMeat, but others are still entering the market.
The research therefore goes in two directions
The same Bill Gates also finances the research on meat-not-meat: the one that is realized in the laboratory, but starting from plant products. We are talking about Impossible Foods (IF), a company founded in 2011 by Patrick Brown, a former professor of biochemistry at Stanford. But Bill is not the only big investor: next to him there are also Google Ventures and Horizon Ventures. In short, great giants. However Bill Gates must really believe in it if, in addition to supporting IF, he also finances his most important competitor: the Californian Beyond Meat (besides the meat) whose goal is to make the "non meat" similar to real chicken meat.
And in Europe?
Meanwhile, it must be said that the primacy on the clean meat is right for the Old Continent. After years of research (already started in the US since the seventies) the turning point came with researchers from the University of Maastricht who in 2013 cooked for the first time a hamburger grown from the genetic heritage of a cow.
On the meat-vegetable side, Europe also has its points of excellence. Among many, we recommend The Vegetarian Butcher. It is a Dutch company that produces, starting from vegetable raw materials, meat and fish substitutes with a realistic taste.
In our house the vegetarian burger that seems made of real meat, also called "fake meat", has been on the market since November 2018 in the Welldone chains and is produced by Beyond Meat: it does not contain GMOs, nor gluten, nor hormones nor do antibiotics and, they assure, the intake of protein and iron is identical to that of eating a slice of real meat.
But on the real meat recreated in the laboratory, the so-called clean meat, among Italians, producers and consumers, for now mistrust prevails. According to research by Coldiretti, 3 out of 4 Italians are opposed to the marketing of synthetic meat: "Italians are worried about the repercussions of the application of these new technologies to food products for which the strong concerns of a healthy nature are added to those of ethical character ".
Saving suffering to many animals and reducing environmental impact are certainly two goals to be achieved. Now it remains to be seen if the roads taken are the right ones.