vegetable meat? this is the future.
“It’s a misunderstanding that vegetarians don’t like meat.”
Jaap Korteweg is the owner and founder of The Vegetarian Butcher. His company produces vegetable meat which is for sale in fourteen countries. We talked to Jaap in the soon-to-be-opened factory, of The Vegetarian Butcher in Breda, The Netherlands.
“I decided to become a vegetarian fourteen years ago. Before that time [there] were periods in my life in which I only ate biological meat, meat that I had hunted myself or didn’t eat meat at all. At a certain point I thought I had found the perfect formula. On my farm I raised calves and pigs together with my family. We treated those animals very well and the idea was to kill the animals and eat them after a couple of years. In the end that turned out to be impossible. When you raise animals together with your family you are not going to shoot them after a couple of years. When I realized that this ‘animal-friendly’ way didn’t work either I stopped eating meat completely.
The rational arguments all plead against eating meat: it is not healthy, not sustainable and not good for the animal’s well-being. Nevertheless, we like meat, we are addicted to it. I’m a big meat fan myself. That is where the concept for The Vegetarian Butcher comes from. How do you leave out the animal but make meat anyway?”
“What we in our society consider as ‘meat’ could be better described as ‘meat products’. Meatballs and sausages simply don’t grow from cows or pigs. These products have been developed throughout the years and are very much liked by people. We try to copy these icons, that have proven themselves for decades.
To do so we have a product development team with five team members. The ingredients we use are the same that you can find in cattle-fodder, such as grains and beans. Next to that we use herbs and natural aromas.
To make vegetable meat resemble meat from animals as much as possible we cooperate with technologists from the meat industry. The process consists of trying different combinations and tasting. Because the bite is very important we try to improve the structure of our products continuously. An important aspect of taste sensation is how something looks, how it feels in the mouth, the texture. It certainly helps when the final product resembles meat.”
Ode to meat
“We think it’s important that our products are an ode to meat. It’s a misunderstanding that vegetarians don’t like meat. It’s the other way around. If people wouldn’t love meat so much, they wouldn’t be a vegetarian. We focus on the very large group of vegetarians that does love meat.
Our factory in Breda will start producing meat products. First the [base], then the structure and after that we process the basis in a similar way to what happens to meat. Meat is almost never eaten in its purest form. It is being prepared, cooked, baked and grilled. After that it is cut into small pieces, glued together or mixed with other ingredients. Our factory could be a meat producing factory. All the machinery we have here are meat processing machines. What’s so special about us is that we create vegetable products with these machines.”
The future of meat
“I think people will still eat meat in twenty years, but the share of vegetarians will have increased. The ratio could be fifty-fifty, maybe even more. Things can turn around quickly with this kind of development. We’ll reach a tipping point if about twenty percent of the market eats vegetable meat. That would mean that we’d have achieved the right level of innovation and [adoption] by the public. With a market share of twenty, moreover, you can start competing with affordable meat. After that, things can change quickly, meat from an animal could be become the exception then.
Within society one can notice an increasing awareness when it comes to eating meat. Especially in big cities the number of vegetarians is growing quickly. There, you have large groups of progressive people putting this into motion. It is our goal to make all our products vegan. Until [that happens], so far replacing proteins forms the biggest obstacle. If we’d find a good replacement for that, all our products would be vegan.”
Order more vegetarian options via foodora.