Dutch Start-up Wants to Bring You a Better Vegan Steak


Photo via Fast Company

Demand for meat substitutes has been growing steadily in the U.S. as more consumers become aware of the environmental and animal welfare impacts of farmed meat, and the recent report from the World Health Organization labeling processed meat as carcinogenic will likely drive that trend faster. Although there are still very few true vegetarians in the United States – only 2 to 5% of adults in the states currently eat no meat, and many of those will return to their carnivorous lifestyle at some point in the future – many more people are now making attempts to eat more meatless meals.

But although the demand for plant proteins is there, the supply still has a long way to go. Because of processing costs, meat substitutes still run about as much per pound as organic meat, and taste and texture turn off many would-be herbivores. In the Netherlands, where a small landmass and substantial environmental awareness makes the push toward vegetarianism even stronger, companies are using engineering to solve this problem. Most notably is Vegetarian Butcher, a Dutch company which has developed “the world’s first vegan steak.” The machine responsible for this steak is called the Couette shear cell device, and it uses rotating cylinders and temperature variation to spin liquid soy protein into a slab with the texture of steak. Besides better mimicking the taste and mouthfeel of a  good tenderloin, this process is much cheaper than current vegan meat production.

Although it’s still impossible to get this faux steak in the States, Vegetarian Butcher is currently expanding and hope to be available here soon. Although they’ll have some competition from companies cropping up here, they hope to work more in partnership than opposition. As costs come down and demand goes up, there may just be enough room in the market to me that happen.

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