Thoughts on Plant-based Meat

In a rural town in Aichi Prefecture, 200 miles west of Tokyo, my teenage mother had her very first taste of beef. Red meat was expensive and difficult to find, so it was reserved only for special occasions like New Year’s Eve.

Just a decade or so later, beef became more readily available, and shortly thereafter, a staple of the Japanese diet. Now, restaurants and grocery stores across Japan offer a variety of meats. In numbers, a typical Japanese person in 1939 ate just 0.1 ounces of meat (beef, pork, chicken) per day. This is in contrast to the current daily consumption rate of 4.7 ounces (businessinsider).

On a global scale, there’s a similar story to tell. Since 1961, per capita meat consumption has increased 44 pounds (yearly average), the average person consuming about 95 pounds in 2014 (ourworldindata). Meat remains the most highly consumed product, making up 30% of the calories consumed by humans (cb insights).

To cope with the demand, we’re seeing the emergence of another form of meat- plant-based meat. These “meats”, made directly from plants, aim to mimic the texture and flavor of beef, chicken and pork. They are becoming readily available in grocery stores and chain restaurants across the US. Impossible Foods is a well-known company in the industry, offering “all the flavor, aroma and beefiness of meat from cows” (impossiblefoods). The Impossible Burger 2.0 debuted this year, so I decided to give it a try. I’m no food critic, but it was surprisingly beefy. Together with the accompanying vegetables and cheese, I may even have mistaken it for animal meat although there was still a slight dryness to it. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the overall flavor and texture.

The Impossible Classic Cheeseburger, Umami Burger SF

The upward trend in meat consumption is undeniable. I admire companies like Impossible Foods who are taking on the immense challenge of popularizing plant-based meat as an additional option. I look forward to trying the next version (Impossible Burger 3.0?) and also seeing what other companies have to offer in the near future. There may even come a time when I’m asked how old I was when I first tasted plant-based meat… Only time will tell!