“We like to joke that we buy meat sausages in the store, in which there is practically no meat. Manufacturers print the words “more meat”, “meaty”, etc. in large letters on their product labels. Until now, any meat substitutes were viewed negatively, but today the situation is changing: sausages without meat can be no less tastier, healthier, friendlier to the environment and animals and, strangely enough, they are even several times more expensive,” says plant-based nutrition expert Tomas Byčkov.
The future is not so far
However, the co-founder of the company “Gyvi gali” T. Byčkovs notes in a press release that the price is already decreasing, as the production volume of alternative products to meat is increasing and, as a result, they are cheaper. Many companies want to achieve the same or even lower prices than animal meat products.
According to Tomas Byčkov, in Lithuania we can already buy alternative meat products made from plant proteins. It looks like we are eating meat, but it is made from wheat, barley or soy using modern technology. The number of users of such products in the world is increasing rapidly every year, and hundreds of millions are invested in the companies that produce them.
Meat substitutes produced using modern technologies solve many problems: human food supply, food safety, environmental protection, animal welfare.
“Many people associate plant-based meat substitutes with patties for grilling hamburgers, but the market is developing very rapidly and can offer more and more interesting forms of plant-based meat: little different from medium-roasted beef, crispy chicken, smoked sausages, fish fillets.” Without knowing what you’re eating, today you can hardly tell the difference between vegetable and real meat,” says Byčkov.
We still talk about plant-based meat substitutes as the food of the future, because we are a country with a strong meat processing industry, and we consume much more meat than the average European.
However, according to Byčkov, the future is not as far as it seems: we can already buy plant-based meat in Lithuanian stores, and it is possible that soon there will be a protein factory for the production of meat substitutes in Lithuania as well.
A jump is planned
The global vegetable protein market has grown rapidly over the past decade and is expected to grow by 2021. reached approximately 5.6 billion The value of EUR. It is predicted that this sector will grow twice in the next five years.
“Market participants predict that by 2035 alternative proteins will make up 11 percent. of all protein consumption, and with the help of technology, investors and regulatory authorities, alternative proteins could occupy about 22 percent during this period. global markets,” says the expert.
Although growth in the sector has slowed over the past year, as economic and political circumstances have seen the global market decline, investor surveys indicate that meat substitutes will take an ever-increasing share of the food market.
In the market today, we can already see two large groups of players.
First of all, these are startups that invest a lot in research, looking for ways to make plant-based meat as close as possible to the real thing. Only in 2021 they raised over 8 billion investments. The second group consists of large food industry companies that invest in or buy meat substitute start-ups.
“You think that only vegans, vegetarians, raw foodists choose these and similar products? This is a myth. Many people around the world are looking to non-meat proteins due to the realization of the huge environmental impact of the meat industry. During a survey of buyers in the USA, it was found that those who buy plant-based meat also add animal meat to the shopping cart,” says Byčkov.
The damage to the environment is great
There are many ways to calculate the proportion of greenhouse gases that the meat industry is responsible for. Here, The Guardian calculates that cattle breeding, feed production, logistics, etc. are responsible for almost 60 percent. water, soil and air pollution.
The food industry is responsible for 26 percent. current global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Livestock production, the largest GHG emitter in the food production chain, emits 15 percent. of all greenhouse gases generated worldwide.
Alternative meat products generate 90 percent less CO on average2 and consumes 99% less land and water. A BCG/Blue Horizon study showed that investing in alternatives to meat, milk and fish reduces CO emissions 3 times more2 amount of gas than investments in alternatives for other polluting industries (cement, steel and iron, chemistry, transport).
The global market for plant-based meat is expected to grow primarily due to the increasing awareness of the population about the negative effects of meat consumption on the environment. Many people voluntarily choose not to use or consume any animal products in order to contribute to the environment.
“The skeptics of this business sector like to repeat that the production of vegetable proteins will further accelerate deforestation, will force an increase in the area of cultivation of soy or other plants used in production, but they keep silent about one very important truth – the majority of the raw materials of crop production are consumed precisely for animal food,” he observes.
The production of plant proteins is also crucial to ensure a smooth food supply. Countries that do not have very large areas suitable for agriculture and do not develop animal husbandry can also produce this product. The Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, various energy challenges have disrupted the global food supply chain, so this issue is more important than ever.
Invests in the production of meat substitutes
The big western meat processors have already realized that the opposition between plant-based and real meat makes no sense. And instead of getting involved in a competitive battle, they recognize that vegetable proteins are the inevitable future and are starting to take leadership in this sector themselves.
“Tyson Foods, one of the largest meat retailers in the world, recently added plant-based burger patties to its product portfolio.
In addition, the company previously invested in the US plant-based hamburger company Beyond Meat and supported two laboratory-based meat companies – as well as the American Upside foods and Future Meat Technologies,” says Byčkov.
Industry giants interested in meat substitutes abound: Cargill, BRF, Marfrig, Maple Leaf Foods, Nestle, Unilever, JBS, etc.
Of course, the interlocutor notes, big companies want everything here and now, their products, although cheaper, still lag behind those produced by companies investing in scientific research and technology in both appearance and taste.
On the other hand, large companies are very shrewd in this market and instead of investing in research, they buy or support meat substitute start-ups. As a result, consumers can expect that in a few years the most advanced food products will become more affordable.
Opportunities for Lithuania
“The most advanced countries in the world promote the production of meat substitutes, so Lithuania should also keep up. Information appeared in the media some time ago that the Irish company “ClonBio” plans to invest 200-250 million in a factory of concentrated vegetable proteins for the production of meat substitutes in the Akmene free economic zone in Lithuania. EUR, to create 150-200 new jobs.
It is reported that we are still competing with the US, Canada for this plant. If we manage to attract the investment, we could become a regional FoodTech center. A successful investment, I have no doubt, would attract more similar companies. It would also contribute to the creation of infrastructure for alternative protein research and the training of specialists,” Byčkova assesses the situation.
Lithuania is one of the largest grain producers in Europe. Since, the interviewee notes, we grow twice as much grain as we are able to process on the local market, we export most of it as raw material.
The barley that the new processing plant would use in the production of its meat substitutes is currently not grown in Lithuania, as most of the farmers’ harvest consists of wheat, which is more expensive and easier to sell in many world markets.
The aforementioned Irish companies and similar investments would encourage the country’s farmers to increase crop rotation and expand the areas of less frequently cultivated crops, believes Byčkov, who claims that practically all vegetable raw materials, which contain a lot of protein, can be turned into healthy, modern food products.
Lithuanian habits are changing
Surveys show that in the last few years even 30 percent the population of the continent reduced the consumption of meat and dairy products. Lithuanians should also appreciate plant-based meat soon. A survey initiated by “Gyvi Gali” showed that a third of Lithuanians tried to refuse to eat meat or to reduce its amount in their diet in the last few years.
“In Lithuania, only 8.2 percent identify themselves as alternative eaters – flexitarians, pescetarians, vegetarians and vegans.” population. In comparison, the European average is about 30 percent. Nevertheless, changes in nutrition are noticeable,” says Byčkov. he says, if these trends continue, in a decade our food consumption habits will be no different from Western countries, and we will see plant products on our plates much more often.
Lithuanians consume about 101 kg of meat every year – three times more than recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The European Union has set an ambitious goal – by 2050. ensure climate neutrality. Without reducing the consumption of animal meat, these goals will not be achieved. The development of the alternative protein sector is one of the most effective ways to reduce the negative impact on the environment.
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