Slicing through juicy cuts of pork belly alongside rarer delicacies of ox brain and sheep intestine, young butchers at a Frankfurt trade hall cast a suspicious eye towards the so-called fake meat products on display.
Puzzlingly, for the butchers, the fake meat seems to be popular.
“As a butcher, it just can’t be that we have to get into plastic!” said Paolo Desbois, an 18-year-old French butcher, referring disparagingly to the synthetic burgers, sausages and nuggets at the IFFA meat industry convention.
The concept that animals are meat — and plants are not — never used to challenge.
But increasingly plant-based protein products are trying to muscle in on the meat market.
Derived from sources like soy, peas or beans, the synthetic products are being manufactured without using animals.
Another budding elite butcher from Switzerland, 20-year-old Selina Niederberger, agreed.
“As a butcher, I’m for real meat. I think a lot of people would see it the same way,” she declared.
– Ethical concerns –
Whether meat substitutes will ever be able to 100 percent replicate the taste, colour, smell and texture of a freshly chopped up slaughtered animal is debatable.
But some young butchers suspect their growing popularity will inevitably have a transformative effect on their trade.
Josja Haagsma from the Netherlands, who won the young butchers competition, agreed that synthetic meats were changing opinions.
“It makes you think about how you can use meat and how you can change it, how you can use more vegetables,” she said.
“Maybe the next generation” will be the ones pressed to apply their knives and creativity to the task, Haagsma said.
Vegetables used to be considered a side dish, at best, for carnivore connoisseurs.
But in increasingly health conscious societies, where governments warn about the dangers of consuming too much red meat, plant-based products are widening in appeal.
Alongside ethical concerns over animals bred for the dinner table and green advocates urging the public to eat less meat to save the environment, the scope for more no-meat products is growing.