Never mind last month’s revolutionary test-tube beef burger grown from meat stem cells. The Dutch are way ahead with a “vegetarian butcher” who transforms plants into “meat”.
Dubbed the “Frankenburger”, the lab-grown beef developed at a cost of more than €250,000 euros ($330,000) was unveiled by scientists in London and served to volunteers in what was billed as the start of a food revolution.
But “we are much more advanced, so-much-so that we have built an unassailable lead over meat produced from stem cells,” said Jaap Korteweg, founder of the “Vegetarian Butcher“.
While the “cultured beef” in London was made using strands of meat grown from muscle cells taken from a living cow, the Dutch butcher needs only plant matter to make his “meat“.
Korteweg’s shop on a main street in downtown The Hague is packed with a range of products from veggie “hamburger” patties to “meatballs” and even “tuna” salad.
One of the secret ingredients is a soy paste, which when put through a special pressurisation machine, imitates meat fibres, a technology invented by the University of Wageningen in the central Netherlands.
The demand for an environmentally friendly and vegetarian alternative to meat is growing, with meat production notoriously inefficient, requiring huge swathes of land to grow the crops to feed the animals.
“Our hamburger’s environmental footprint is seven times less than that of a real hamburger,” claimed Korteweg.
The Vegetarian Butcher sells its products in 500 stores around the Netherlands.
Though now slightly more expensive than real meat, his products cost about the same as organic meat.
The Vegetarian Butcher has struck a chord with Dutch animal welfare organisations and its pro—vegetarian Party for the Animals (PvdD). But just as French beef farmers reacted with outrage at developers of the stem-cell burger, the Dutch meat sector has issues with the Vegetarian Butcher.
“What we do have a problem with is that they use terminology specific to meat, while everybody knows that there’s no meat in there.
“It shouldn’t be called chicken, or a hamburger but should rather have another name, because it tricks consumers,” Jos Goebbels, the head of the Dutch Central Meat Sector Organisation (COV), told AFP.
In his quest to make veggie meat taste like the real thing, Korteweg has enlisted the help of chefs, as well as scientists.
“The great difficulty is to reproduce on a large scale what we’re able here to produce with our experiments in the kitchen,” chef Paul Bom told AFP. — AFP