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Plant Butchery - What you need to know about this latest food trend

May 22 2018 - 5:22pm
Plant butchery may sound like a scene from the Little Shop of Horrors but it’s actually the latest food trend predicted to explode in 2017. Just to be clear, plant butchery is entirely vegetarian – there isn’t a traditional lamb chop or marbled ribeye in sight. Instead, the aim of plant butchery is to use plant proteins to create everything from steaks, to ham and salami. However, rather than the ‘fake’ meat trends of years gone by, which haven’t been enormously popular or successful, plant butchery is a much more precise, tasty and highly skilled affair.

The rise of the vegetarian butcher

For the dedicated carnivore  - or those who have been subjected to the worst examples of fake meat – plant butchery might seem implausible. However, a combination of culinary insight, advanced food tech and some seriously creative minds has brought us meatless meats that rival any of the more traditionally sourced options. These dishes – from pulled pork and fried chicken, to minced beef and Korean style ribs – have such advanced taste sensation and texture that they aren’t just a second choice veggie alternative, they’re increasingly becoming a preferred selection.

Creating with plant proteins

Plant-meat creators use a whole range of different plant proteins to produce dishes that have the look and even the texture of meat. Mushroom, beetroot, peas, yams and wheat are just a few of the ingredients that this new generation of culinary magicians are crafting into incredibly meat-like dishes. The purpose of plant butchery is different from simply being able to offer a vegetarian option too. This is all about taste and texture, delivering killer tastes – with no compromise – and finding new and innovative ways to tickle the tastebuds that don’t involve resorting to masses of meat.

The plant butchery pioneers

The industry has already begun to sit up and take notice of this new trend, primarily because there are already people out there doing it so well – these are just a few of them:

The Vegetarian Butcher – Holland based innovator whose plant-meat and fish products are “indistinguishable from the real thing.” Already selling to 13+ countries, including – unexpectedly – China.

The Herbivorous Butcher – based in Minneapolis, these siblings have become particularly famous for their Korean ribs, which are entirely plant based and said to be better than the real thing.

Yam Chops – hailing from Toronto, these food pioneers have done great things with plant-protein-only chicken and shredded pork. They are particularly well known for their beet patties, which look as red and dripping as a mince tray in a butcher’s shop and have all the taste sensation of a rich, meat burger.

Monk’s Meats – this Brooklyn based creator uses wheat as his protein of choice, producing an incredibly creative meat-like product that looks, smells and even tastes like the real thing. Amazingly, herbivores and carnivores alike claim to adore Monk’s Meats innovative products, in particular the incredible fried chicken.

Just a fad?

Many styles and influences predicted to be the next big trend in food turn out to be just a passing fad (for more information on that, have a look at our Food Trends vs Food Fads blog). Plant butchery itself has plenty of detractors, but given the increasing numbers of people turning vegan and a much wider interest in food that is sustainable and eco-friendly, this might not be the hipster fad it at first seems.

Plant butchery has the big advantage of being cruelty free. While many consumers have switched from factory farmed meat to organic, out of concern for mass farming methods, many still find it difficult to be entirely reassured that meat of any kind if genuinely cruelty free. An alternative protein with the same tastes and textures that is guaranteed to meet that standard could be a revelation.

We want to eat less meat. Research carried out by Mintel found that the value of meat-free food sales in the UK rose from £543 million in 2009 to £657 million in 2014.  Many people consider a diet that is richer in plant-based proteins to be healthier and it is certainly lower in fat with all the weight loss benefit that brings.

The quest for sustainability. Many experts have now come to the conclusion that even organic farming is not sustainable. The damage to the environment from keeping large number of animals and transporting the meat products should give the meat industry a serious shelf life. Add to that the scandals over horsemeat and poor quality meat and it’s easy to see why something more environmentally friendly, and of reliable quality, appeals.

Of course there could be downsides to plant butchery too. For some people, plant protein will never really be meat and so will always be a disappointing experience. If the trend took off in a big way, the impact on individual farmers could be significant. Cost might also become another issue – plants should be cheap, but if plant-proteins become a popular fad there’s every chance that prices could become vastly inflated.

Whether or not plant butchery will catch on remains to be seen. It’s unlikely the world will suddenly switch to a herbivore diet, but many people will see the benefits of substituting plant-meat at least some of the time. Even if it sparks and then fades, as a trend it’s a fascinating step forward in culinary innovation.

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