Meat-free foods that “bleed” like the real thing are becoming increasingly common. Could these vegetarian alternatives replace “traditional” burgers and sausages?
Concerns about the environmental and health impact of our diets has seen interest in vegetarian and vegan foods grow.
This has boosted everything from flexitarianism to vegan sausage rolls and campaigns like “Veganuary”.
While Quorn and Linda McCartney once ruled the meat substitute aisles of our supermarkets, new companies are appearing with a radically different vision of “meat-free”.
Vegetarian “meat” designed to mimic the look, smelling and savour of the real thing are already available, while scientists are developing lab-grown meat
But with the arrival of these new dishes comes an increasingly animated debate about what can be called “meat”, as well as how – and even if – it should be sold.
The first type of these new meat alternatives are plant-based products.
These are already available in restaurants, pubs and supermarkets, contributing to a growing marketplace worth an estimated PS4. 6bn. Last week, the value of US firm Beyond Meat rose to virtually $3.8 bn( PS2. 9bn ) after its Wall Street debut.
The aim of plant-based “meat” is for it to be so similar to cook and feed as the real thing, that it is virtually indistinguishable.
It is made from plant proteins – usually wheat, pea or potato. Natural colourings like beetroot juice usually offer the “blood”.
Another US firm, Impossible Foods, has developed a plant version of heme – which dedicates beef its colouring and taste.
The second type of meat alternative is known as cultured or clean meat, which is produced using animal stem cells.
These cells are grown in a lab or bioreactor, usually with the help of a growth-enhancing substance taken from a calf foetus.
The process is arguably closer to a scientist growing replacing tissues and organs than the work of a cattle farmer.
Although not yet available in stores and restaurants, the techniques are being explored in a number of countries and could be on our plates in a matter of years.
A firm called Just hopes to have its lab-grown chicken on US shelves by the end of 2019.
Cultured lab meat may construct climate change worse Where should shops stock veggie burgers ? US vegan food-maker Beyond Meat eyes$ 1bn valuation The veggie burger that bleeds when you cut it Image caption Media captionThese chicken nuggets were grown in a lab from cells taken away from a live animal