- Title: Lab burgers take on the cows as consumer tastes change
- Date: 21st October 2016
- Summary: UNIDENTIFIED LOCATION (FILE) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF COWS AND CATTLE
- Embargoed: 5th November 2016 00:33
- Keywords: Burger meat Impossible Foods
- Location: SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES
- City: SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES
- Country: USA
- Topics: Science
- Reuters ID: LVA00254Y5AVV
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: The meat industry is facing pressure from consumers who are concerned about animal welfare and the environmental impact of raising animals, or those who view vegetarian meals as healthier.
As consumer tastes change, high-tech startups are seeking to create meat alternatives that looks and taste like the real thing.
One such company is Impossible Foods, a venture that is partly funded by the world's richest man, Bill Gates and Google Ventures.
Inside its Silicon Valley lab, biochemists are on a quest to develop products that match the texture, aroma, and flavor of real meat.
"We're not fundamentalists, we're really pragmatic," says Patrick Brown, the Impossible Foods founder and CEO.
"Our goal is that this is not about ecological purity, this is about protecting our mission and anything that advances our mission and protects it -- our mission being to as much as possible to replace the current system of meat production with something that is much better for the world -- we are completely open to," he added.
And Impossible Foods' meat alternative burgers seemed to be a hit at a tasting event in San Francisco.
"I'm really impressed by its texture and it's pretty juicy and it's got ... it kind of mimics that ... I guess that kind of ... I don't know, it's kind of fatty, kind of juicy flavor of maybe a medium-cooked burger would have," said Anna Medina, a journalist from the Bay Area after she bit into the burger.
Acclaimed San Francisco chef and restaurateur Traci Des Jardins says she was so impressed with the flavor of the meat alternative that she has placed a version on her restaurant's menu.
"I think everything about the 'Impossible Burger' is exciting," she says.
"I think we have to be thinking about solutions for the future but mostly we make choices for the restaurant based on what's delicious and I'm really impressed with the way this burger tastes," she adds.
Global sales of meat substitutes jumped to an estimated $4 billion this year, a 42 percent rise since 2010, according to research firm Markets and Markets, and the meat industry is starting to take notice.
Some major North American meat producers are clearing room on their plates for plant-based substitutes, hedging their bets as consumer tastes shift.
The trend was highlighted last week when Tyson Foods Inc, the biggest U.S. chicken processor, took a 5 percent stake in Beyond Meat, a plant-based protein maker also partly backed by Gates.
Other meat packers including Canada's Maple Leaf Foods Inc and German sausage-maker Rugenwalder Muhle are also stepping up production of "meats" made from peas, soy and other crops, predicting stronger sales growth for the segment than its traditional products.
In Europe, sausage-maker Rugenwalder Muhle added meat-substitute dishes in 2014 as German meat sales declined.
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