Embracing cruelty-free Meats

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For the majority of inhabitants of our blue planet ‘Food is Life’. Yet, the consensus is increasingly turning into ‘Life is Food’. Surely the days of unpredictable ‘nature’ are behind us, with advancements in technology and our increased understanding about almost everything under the sun. With such an evolution, our tastes and preferences of food were bound to change as well. A clear leaning towards compassion towards animals and the ecosystem has seen a major acceptance in the western countries, evidenced by their foregoing animal meats partially or totally. India, on the other hand, always had a compassionate outlook towards all creatures, notwithstanding the many post-independence decades that pushed an incremental surge towards non-vegetarianism. Fortunately there has been a revolution of sorts to ‘spare the animal for our taste buds’, albeit in recent years. Here’s where plant-based meats come into play. Let’s explore the exciting world of cruelty-free meats.

With demands for healthier foods and fitness becoming a priority, which has further been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The food industry is witnessing an upsurge in demands for meat and seafood alternatives. This has given rise to the plant-based meats and lab-cultured meat industry. Plant-based meats and lab-cultured meats are being touted as the food of the future. The world population by 2050 would be close to 9.7 billion, which could put a massive burden on the meat industry.

Rearing animals for their meat is already a concern as it has put tremendous pressure on natural resources such as vegetation, land and water. The meat industry is also a contributor to the greenhouse gases generated (GHG). According to a survey by the International Energy Agency, India emitted 2,299 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) in 2018. This accounts for 7 per cent of global GHG emissions. Agriculture and livestock account for 18 per cent of gross national GHG emissions.

With global developments in meat alternatives, plant-based meats and lab-cultured meats have become a reality. There are various brands globally available that provide plant-based meats, lab-cultured meats development has had some breakthroughs. The global landscape in food consumption is changing, people are open to trying new offerings as disposable incomes are on the rise, people are becoming more mindful of what they eat and its impact on the body as well as the planet.


Current scenario

According to Good Food Institute, India, consumer research plant-based meat category could find broad acceptance with consumers in India, with 62.8 per cent of Indian consumers being very likely to regularly buy plant-based meats – but only if the offering matches the taste of conventionally produced meats like chicken and mutton.

India pioneers in plant-based meats are Ahimsa Food, Vezlay, Vegeta Gold, GoodDot Enterprises, Vegitein, Mister Veg, BlueTribeFoods, Wakao Foods, GreenestFoods, Oh Veg, Urban Platter, BVeg Foods, Greenest Foods, and recently launched Imagine Meats. There is also an Indian startup called EVO that has researched and created plant-based eggs using lentil protein. Plantmade is another such organisation that offers plant-based egg, dairy, and mayonnaise alternatives.

Recently Domino’s India, operated by India’s largest Foodservice company, Jubilant FoodWorks Limited launched a pizza with ‘plant-based meat’ toppings. The ‘Unthinkable Pizza’ is topped with a 100 per cent plant-based protein mince, aiming to deliver the taste of chicken, guilt-free. A pilot project has been launched across Mumbai, Delhi NCR, and Bengaluru, in an attempt to understand the market response.

Sharing his views on the Indian plant-based meat market Varun Deshpande, Managing Director, The Good Food Institute India, Mumbai opines, “Plant-based meats are at the forefront of food innovation globally, and hold tremendous promise to fight back against climate change, zoonotic diseases, and food insecurity.”

Commenting on how plant-based meats are in terms of nutritional value when compared to conventional meats, Sohil Wazir, Chief Commercial Officer, Blue Tribe Foods, Mumbai, mentions, “Plant-based meats are meant to replicate animal meat in the closest possible way. In terms of protein content, plant-based meats provide the same levels of protein that animal meat provides. This is possible through a process called low moisture, protein extrusion, protein is extracted from plant-based sources like soy and peas and then texturised to make it feel like meat. In terms of micronutrients though there is still some way for plant-based meats to get to the exact micro-nutrient profile of meats. It is something of a work in progress, so the products that we will be launching in the next few months will have a micro-nutrient profile, including nutrients like vitamin B12 which will be replicating levels that are found in animal meat.”

India’s plant-based meat market seems to have hit the right chords when it comes to market growth, acceptability and varieties available for consumers. India is amongst the lowest consumers of traditional meat in the world. As per the report: India Emerges as a Burgeoning Market for Plant-based Meat Substitutes by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), India has the highest number of vegetarians in the world, accounting for 30 per cent of the population.

The remaining 70 per cent of the population consumes very low quantities of meat, with annual per capita meat consumption estimated to be about 4.5 kilograms. Chicken accounts for half the meat consumption followed by buffalo meat, mutton, and other meats.


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