The global demand and appetite for meat consumption is placing a gargantuan strain on the environment and exacerbating climate change. Because animal farming generates an obscene amount of greenhouse gas emissions; numerous scientific research have found that consuming less meat alongside using renewable sources of energy and reducing our carbon footprint are all mission critical to slowing down and eliminating the devastating impacts of global warming on our planet. In recent times, alternative meat products such as those fully made from plant materials, as well as others that are lab grown using extracted animal cells or cultured in bioreactors have emerged in response to combating these environmental concerns.
In December 2020, Singapore was the first country in the world to give regulatory approval for lab-grown meat and is widely seen as the global leader in the field of cultured meat. This novel method of meat production and cultivation is largely considered to be a more sustainable and ethical approach to procuring meat proteins for mass consumption especially since large quantities can be produced using less far land space and manpower. The statistics speak for themselves. Cultured meats generates approximately up to 96% fewer carbon emissions, uses up to 96% less water consumption, and requires 99% less land than traditionally farmed meats. Additionally, no animals have to be slaughtered during the process, thus making lab-grown meat to be the more humane choice.
The carbon emissions emitted from plant based protein sources are approximately 10 to 50 times far lesser than those from animal products. This makes plant-based proteins an even better alternative to cultured meat products in terms of long term environmental sustainability. According to Bloomberg Intelligence, retail sales of plant-based “meat” products could possibly swell to as high as a whopping US$162 billion in the next decade, up from US$29.4 billion in 2020. Market growth in this sector will be driven by education, technological innovations, economies of scale, increased market demand, mass adoption and overall higher consumer acceptance.
Experts estimate that with the current uptrend indicators and rising adoption rates for both plant based proteins and cultured meats due to increased visibility and availability, the demand will exponentially explode and become mainstream in just a matter of five to seven years. The global meat industry is presently worth over US$1 trillion dollars. If just a mere 10% of that total consumer market share reverts over to alternative sources of proteins, this sector alone could already account for a whopping US$100 billion dollars, making this fast growing market segment a potentially lucrative and profitable one.
Now that the environmental and ethical benefits of switching over to alternative meat sources have been ascertained and discussed, what about the crucial element of the taste and texture? Can alternative proteins realistically be comparable to that of actual meat products? Would consumers be confidently willing to accept, purchase and eat these alternative protein products? I had the good fortune to test out several gourmet dishes at an alternative proteins afternoon tea event hosted and organised by SATS and Country Foods. The general consensus is that all the presented dishes tasted like elevated versions of those mock meats that you find at Buddhist vegetarian eateries, but without the sodium laden greasy gluten sensation, which is really a good thing.
Out of the lot, I really enjoyed the Impossible katsu sando sandwich, the vegetarian Singapore style bak chor mee made from V2’s minced “pork”, as well as the wok fried Tyson First Pride’s “chicken” with dried chilli and Szechuan peppers. I would absolutely be willing to eat all of these delectable dishes again.
My top favourite pick however has got to be the oriental spice fried squid with lime mayo. Made from konjac root, the texture and taste of Growthwell “squid” when deep-fried is almost similar and identical to actual calamari. SATS Food’s executive sous chef Jordi Noguera, who hails from Barcelona, was the creator behind the dish said, “The texture of the Growthwell squid is simply amazing and it even browns when pan seared like real squid. I sometimes substitute real squid with Growthwell squid to my signature squid ink paella dish and customers do not even notice the difference.”
Growthwell Oriental Spice Fried Squid with Lime Mayo
Mr Kerry Mok, the president and CEO Designate of SATS Ltd explains, “We want to bring alternative proteins to the masses and to increase the customer adoption rates. What we are trying to do is to offer a hybrid approach whereby we use a mix of real meat protein together with alternate protein to slowly bring the public towards greater acceptance of alternate proteins as a mainstream protein source that they can enjoy, and this will lead to a step forward towards a more sustainable source of food for the future, especially as our technology improves. This is our role as a food caterer to bring all of these alternative protein options and make them widely available to the public.”
Look out and keep an eye out for much more tasty alternate protein dishes and food selections coming soon in the near future at various supermarkets, delicatessens, cafes, restaurants, at school canteens, on board cruise ships, at airport lounges, on inflight menus, etc.
Images: SATS Ltd