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In the ever-evolving world of food technology, innovative startups in 2022 are setting their sights on revolutionizing the way we think about meat. As concerns about the environmental impact of conventional meat production continue to rise, these startups are exploring alternative solutions that not only cater to our appetite for meat but also prioritize sustainability. Enter the era of hybrid meat, a concept that combines elements of lab-grown meat with plant-based ingredients to create a new category of meat substitutes.
The Meat-Substitute Landscape
The meat-substitute space primarily comprises two categories: plant-based meat substitutes and lab-grown or cultured meat. While both aim to address the same global challenge of reducing our reliance on traditional animal protein sources, they each offer unique advantages and face specific challenges.
- Plant-Based Meat Substitutes: These products are already available in many parts of the world and are designed to mimic the taste, texture, and appearance of real meat. They are typically made from plant ingredients like soy, pea protein, or mushrooms and are known for their eco-friendly footprint and suitability for vegetarians and vegans.
- Lab-Grown Meat: Lab-grown meat, on the other hand, is produced by cultivating animal cells in a controlled environment, often a test tube. While it holds great promise for sustainability and reducing animal cruelty, it is still in its infancy, with limited availability for consumers. Singapore has become a hotspot for cultured meat, with pioneering companies like Vow making significant strides in bringing these products to the market.
The Hybrid Approach
Meatable, a venture-backed Dutch company, is at the forefront of this emerging trend. They have recently partnered with Love Handle, a culinary startup based in Singapore, to establish what they proudly call “the world’s first hybrid meat innovation center.” This initiative combines the strengths of cultured meat and plant-based proteins to create a new category of hybrid meat products.
Why Hybrid Meat?
The concept of hybrid meat is not entirely novel, as several companies worldwide are experimenting with blending real meat with plant-based alternatives to reduce the environmental impact. The idea is that by offering meat products with a reduced meat content, consumers can enjoy the flavors they love while contributing to environmental sustainability.
But why would a company like Meatable, known for its commitment to “fake real meat,” embrace this approach? The answer lies in two critical factors: speed to market and cost efficiency.
Developing lab-grown meat can be a resource-intensive process with uncertain cost projections. Even in Singapore, where it is legal to consume cultured meat, regulatory restrictions and the psychological barrier of consuming lab-grown meat pose challenges.
By combining the benefits of cultured and plant-based meat alternatives, companies like Meatable and Love Handle can overcome many of these hurdles. Hybrid meat products allow for a smoother transition for consumers who may be unfamiliar with cultured meat.
The Lessons from Electric Vehicles
The hybrid meat approach shares similarities with the rise of hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs). Just as HEVs expedited the adoption of electric vehicle technology by offering a bridge between traditional combustion engines and full electric vehicles, hybrid meat products aim to bridge the gap between conventional meat and lab-grown alternatives.
Meatable’s Chief Commercial Officer, Caroline Wilschut, emphasizes that they are starting with a cultivated meat-led approach. This means that they begin with Meatable’s lab-grown meat and then incorporate Love Handle’s plant-based protein to create hybrid products that closely mimic the taste and texture of real meat.
The key advantage of hybrid meat is that it caters to a broader consumer base. While purely plant-based meat substitutes often fall short in replicating the taste and texture of real meat, hybrid products offer a more convincing alternative.
The Future of Hybrid Meat
The newly established innovation center in Singapore by Meatable and Love Handle is poised to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of hybrid meat. By 2023, the lab is expected to be fully operational, with both companies investing in a team of ten researchers.
This facility will serve as a hub for research, development, and production of hybrid meat products. It will include a commercial front end, allowing consumers to experience and purchase these innovative creations directly. Additionally, a production kitchen and laboratory equipped with the necessary tools and materials will facilitate the creation of a diverse range of hybrid meat products.
Dumplings, pulled pork, pork belly, meatballs, cold cuts, and patties are just some of the exciting hybrid products that Meatable and Love Handle plan to introduce to the market starting in 2024.
In a world increasingly concerned about the environmental impact of food production, hybrid meat represents a promising step towards sustainable and ethical consumption. By combining the best of both plant-based and lab-grown meat, this trend is poised to make a significant impact on the way we eat, offering a more sustainable and satisfying solution for meat lovers everywhere.