2016 Will Be the Year of the Plant Butcher

Porterhouse Steak by The Herbivorous Butcher — made from plants!

The hottest new food trend this year isn’t locavorism, more gluten-free offerings, or the latest and greatest uses for kale, but instead, a quiet yet radical rebellion against that most hallowed of symbols of meat-eating: the butcher shop. Welcome to the age of the Plant Butchers — an intrepid group of inspired, creative, and uber-passionate individuals whose desire to make meat into a more sustainable and healthy food has led them to explore the oft-overlooked world of plant proteins. And it turns out, with the right skills and culinary genius, you can craft almost every kind of meat product imaginable — from burgers and bratwursts to BBQ, ham, salami and more — using strictly plant protein.

All the food shops described here are fairly young — most less than 3 years old — but if their early success is any indication, high quality plant-based meats and the enterprising chefs behind them represent the beginning of a major new food trend. And it couldn’t come at a better time: conventional meat is as environmentally damaging, resource intensive, and potentially harmful as ever, and people are looking for new, appealing alternatives. Fortunately, the plant-based butchers have arrived, and are looking to usher in a new generation of butchers who’ve discovered you don’t need animals to make delicious meat.

The Herbivorous Butcher

Herbivorous Butcher has garnered some major press recently, and it’s clear to see why. This fearless plant-meat kitchen has been enjoying amazing success since they first debuted at a Minneapolis Farmer’s Market in 2014. Founded by siblings Aubrey and Kale Walch, their concept is very simple: make traditional kinds of meat — everything from BBQ ribs to sausages to bacon– using only plants (in this case wheat protein).

The result is nothing short of astonishing: their eye-popping menu includes dozens of highly carnivorous items, from bratwursts and beef jerky to pepperoni, meatballs and salami. Their most bold products have to be the Porterhouse steak, filet mignon, and pot roast, which when sliced open, looks amazingly just like a… pot roast.

THB’s Pot Roast and Holiday Ham

How exactly they craft their recipes and products is a secret, but the duo say they spent “a massive amount of time creating products that so closely resemble meat, that people will not know the difference.”

Kale and Aubrey with their Korean Ribs

And the people seem to agree. They routinely sold out during their weekly stint at the farmer’s market, and a Kickstarter campaign to expand their business was a resounding success. And now, the photogenic siblings can claim another major achievement— on January 23rd, they opened a brick and mortar plant-only butcher shop in downtown Minneapolis. The very first food shop of its kind in the country, ever, they are unapologetic about changing the concept of the word “butcher” from a trade that requires bloody aprons, meat hooks, and animal carcasses to one that uses skill, creativity and imagination to craft delicious cuts of meat out of protein — whether it’s from plants or animals.

Their new storefront comes complete with meat cleaver.

Aubrey may have put it best :

“What our planet needs right now is hope and a whole hell of a lot of people that are willing to take chances. With that said, we’re taking the word “butcher” with us…We’re bringing “meat” and the word “butcher” into the light, and into the plant-based world, for a more sustainable planet.”

Won’t argue with that! Herbivorous Butcher’s first store is opening Saturday, January 23rd. If you’re not in Minnesota, they’ll be launching online ordering next month.

No Evil Foods

(Plant) Meat Lovers: No Evil Foods’ Mike Woliansky and Sadrah Schadel

Chorizo, shredded chicken, Italian sausage… these things sound like they come from an old-fashioned deli, meat market case, or butcher shop, but you couldn’t be more mistaken. No Evil Foods has been proudly making plant-based versions of these hearty favorites for the past 2 years, and are just getting started in their quest to “feed the future”.

Started by husband and wife team Mike Woliansky and Sadrah Schadel, this Asheville, North Carolina plant-meat supplier has been receiving an incredible response from area restaurants, food shops, and grocery stores since they opened, and business has increased exponentially. You can currently find their products in some 40 retailers and eateries throughout North Carolina, including Whole Foods, and have expanded to Georgia, South Carolina, and New York, and are planning to expand to more.

And it’s no wonder: the company prides itself on high-quality, thoroughly handcrafted ingredients to make delicious plant-meats that “can stand shoulder to shoulder with any animal protein without flinching.”

They currently offer 3 highly curated items: The Stallion, an Italian sausage, The Prepper, a “chicken-esque” shredded plant-meat, and El Zapatista, a chorizo product.

No Evil’s “Stallion” plant-meat sausage
“El Zapatista” Chorizo
The “Prepper”

And what about their core audience? Who is mostly interested in their plant-meats?

“Our customers are a really awesome mix of dedicated herbivores, flexitarians and omnivores. But no matter how they identify, they are all looking for an alternative protein with killer flavor & amazing texture,” says Sadrah. And No Evil Foods definitely delivers on that!

The launched online ordering last fall, so now anyone in the US can enjoy their lovingly made foods.

Atlas Meat-Free Deli

When Chef Ryan Echaus went vegetarian, he was sorely disappointed with the lack of retail plant-based meat products that provided the same taste and texture as the meat he craved as a carnivore. So this self-trained chef got to work, and after a year of experimenting, came up a smorgasbord of foods that carnivores and vegans would love: sausages, bratwursts, burgers and more that fully replicated the taste and texture of conventional meat, sans the animals.

With these new products, he launched Atlas Meat-Free Deli, a food counter located in a Hollywood, Florida farmer’s market that provides all the same menu offerings and experience as your old neighborhood delicatessen, but this time purely with plants. Made-to-order sandwiches? Check. Fresh, hand-pressed burger patties? Check. A Katz-Deli style New York pastrami piled high on rye with relish? Double check!! He opened in the summer of 2014 to an enthusiastic reception, and has since consistently sold out his food stall every weekend.

One of Atlas’s signature sausages
Atlas’s gourmet burgers

His sausages come in a variety of flavors — breakfast, chorizo, and Kolkata — and he also sells his own hand-crafted vegan cheese. Atlas’s weekly specials are a customer favorite, which in the past have included everything from Triple Stacked Smokehouse Burgers to Guava Meatloaf Subs, Chili Cheese Dogs, and Chorizo Tacos.

Making meatloaf at Atlas Deli

Recently, he added prepared foods to his offerings, and launched his sausage products into some mainstream South Florida restaurants, including Vanucchi Brothers Pizza and LoKal Burger.

So what’s next for Atlas Deli — will he be expanding outside South Florida soon? Chef Ryan doesn’t know– he is definitely hoping to grow, but isn’t sure what form that will take yet. In the meantime, he’s happy to provide delicious food to the grateful masses who trek to his counter every weekend.

Monk’s Meats

The story of this Brooklyn plant-meat shop shares a similar origin to others — a vegetarian seeking realistic meat flavors and textures decided to take matters into his own hands (literally) and coax these special qualities using humble plants. The name of the shop is Monk’s Meats and founder and owner Chris Kim’s protein of choice is vital wheat gluten, an incredibly versatile protein that with the right love, attention and physical work, magically transforms into what looks, smells, and chews like traditional animal meat.

He opened up in 2012, and has gotten rave reviews from omnivores and vegans alike for the delicious tastes and superb texture of his small batch plant-meat creations. His work has also been featured in videos by media outlets like Food Curated and Dark Rye, where he can be seen waxing poetic about the appeal of alternative protein. In his kitchen, he shows just how rewarding it can be to work with plants, where a skilled cook can turn boring-looking piles of wheat flour into pieces of steak. Very Cool!

BBQ by Monk’s Meats

Monk’s Meats is located in Brooklyn and ships to the New York City area.

Yam Chops

The Yam Chops storefront in Toronto, Canada

Yam Chops is a little different from the other food purveyors here, because whereas the others make meat products mainly for the sake of taste and enjoyment, Yam Chops takes a more holistic, health-oriented approach to their offerings. But this groundbreaking Toronto eatery is still pretty awesome: they offer a variety of freshly prepared foods including shredded pork and chicken-style products, burger patties, coconut bacon, and schawarma, a Middle Eastern favorite. One of their stand-out items is definitely the beet burger, which, with its striking red colors, would definitely fool some people into thinking they had walked into a traditional butcher shop.

No blood here — just beet juice

Honorable Mentions

Internationally, there are at least 2 other outfits dedicated to plant-meat innovation: The Vegetarian Butcher, which sells its products throughout Europe, and Suzy Spoon’s Vegetarian Butcher in Sydney, Australia, which is bringing a taste of animal-free meats to diners down-under.

Let’s hope that all of these pioneering foodies are heralding a new age of making delicious food without animals, and that they inspire other culinarians to explore the amazing possibilities of plant proteins.

November 2016 Update:

Since the publishing of this article, a new Plant Butcher, The Butcher’s Son, has officially set up shop in Berkeley, California. Their inventive cuisine, which includes bacon fried-chicken maple donuts and the A-1 Steak and Potato Sandwich, has already earned major praise from the Bay Area food press. Stay tuned for the next Plant Butcher!

This story was originally published on NewOmnivore.com