One of the most captivating trends to have appeared in the last few years, has been the rise of “alternative meats”. With more diners choosing to leave animal meat out of their meal choices – whether it’s for health, ethical or environmental reasons – this is the perfect time for restaurants to include “alternative meats” into their menus.
And your choice of alternative meats comes down to two broad categories – plant-based meat or lab-grown meat.
What’s the difference between plant-based and lab-grown meat?
So, you’ve heard about plant-based and lab-grown meats. But do you know how the two choices differ? It’s important that you understand what’s different between these meats, because your diners certainly know – and care – about the types of meats you’re using in your recipes.
To get started, let’s see how these meats are created.
Plant-based meat: Made from plants, tastes like meat!
Making meat from plants isn’t a new idea – after all, veggie burgers have been around for decades. Of course, while veggie burger patties don’t really taste like beef or chicken, plant-based meats are rapidly gaining in popularity because they taste just like animal meat.
How are these incredible tasting meats created? There are several ways this can be done, but the most popular technique is known as “high-moisture extrusion”. Plant-proteins are put inside a barrel and go through thermal and mechanical stresses – a process that involves a variety of heating, cooling and shearing techniques – to produce an end product that is essentially plant proteins with a meat-like texture. By altering the process slightly, the characteristics of the end product can also be tailored accordingly.
These meat-like plant proteins are now ready to be made into burger patties, meatballs, meat pieces, and other products that restaurants can readily use to either create brand-new recipes, or to conjured up a special “meatless” version of an existing (and usually highly popular) dish.
Lab-grown meat: Animal meat, minus the environmental impact
Also known as “cultured meat”, lab-grown meat takes a different approach towards creating meat. Lab-grown meat uses muscle samples and stem cells from animals, then cultivates (i.e., grows) this small sample into a large amount of meat.
Essentially, lab-grown meat offers diners the choice of eating real meat – without the guilt of having an animal die for their meal, or knowing that the environment has suffered as a result of their dining preference.
Being animal meat, however, does mean that lab-grown meat isn’t suitable for diners who have health or religious reasons for not consuming meat. Also, the cost of lab-grown meat is currently incredibly high – which is why we’re not (yet) seeing lab-grown meat offered in most restaurant menus.
The future of meat
At present, plant-based meats are starting to play an increasingly important role in restaurant’s menus – especially as chefs want to create dishes that appeal to the expanding numbers of flexitarian diners across the country.
As lab-grown meats become more affordable, these too, could share a space on dining tables. But at the moment, traditional meats and plant-based meats are the two options you’ll see filling burgers, recipes and diners’ tummies throughout 2021.