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Could lab meat become international phenomenon?

Laboratory produced meat-like substances have grabbed a small but quickly growing market share and created quite a stir in doing so.

Laboratory produced meat-like substances have grabbed a small but quickly growing market share in the U.S., and now, those few well-funded companies that have managed to create close-proximity analogs, some that ‘bleed’ like the real thing, are stretching their wings to encompass the world.

Cut to the theme music from “Jaws,” the 1975 movie that kept people out of the ocean for more than a decade. The shark that terrified the citizens of Amity Island was almost as relentless as the makers of Beyond Meat and Boca Burger. Flush with investor cash and rabid enthusiasm for the righteousness of their product, they are aggressively moving into new international markets, with sales expected to be as much as $6.5 billion in the next five years. 

A defensive rallying cry from far beyond America’s shores comes from Don Mackay, independent chair of Australia’s Red Meat Advisory Council. He insists shoppers and consumers should have “the right information for products” when it comes to red meat.

Quite sensibly, he said, “Meat, by definition, comes from an animal that is slaughtered for human consumption and labeling should, of course, reflect that.”

Mounting his southern hemisphere soap box, he proclaimed, “Other claims should also be accurate and verifiable.” He objected to “particularly unsubstantiated references to phrases like ‘clean’ or ‘environmentally friendly’ or even ‘better for you’ that remain unchallenged.”

He wants to challenge those phrases when it comes to marketing and labeling claims made by producers of meat analogs.

The French, always the staunchest defenders of purity in labeling -- Champagne, for instance, can only come from that small region of France, anything else is merely sparkling wine -- have already slammed the door on inaccurate claims made by makers of lab produced meat-like substances.  "Non, non, non," they say.

The Missouri Senate followed the French lead and passed a bill that prohibits the marketing of plant-based meat analogs using the term 'meat.' The bill had the support of the Missouri Farm Bureau, Missouri Cattlemen’s Assn. and the Missouri Pork Assn. and was predictably opposed by the Plant Based Foods Assn., a group that has no problem with borrowed (stolen?) marketing phrases.

But does fake meat pass taste test?

Andy Kryza, taste-testing 13 fake meat products for Thrillist, (Click here to read his comments: https://www.thrillist.com/eat/nation/best-fake-meat-vegetarian-substitutes) ranked the current PR champion, Beyond Meat Beast Burger, at a lowly #5. He wrote, “Unlike the Boca Burger, this thing gets points for being a little extra burger-y, on account of Beyond Meat's scientific approach to producing burgers that ‘bleed.’ This doesn't actually bleed, but it's juicy as hell, and the texture's pretty close to the real deal. It has even got a little grill flavor, which goes a long way in creating the illusion of meatiness, though it definitely doesn't help the smell (liquid smoke is a fickle mistress).

If you're a converted vegetarian who's been craving a burger -- a Burger King one, specifically, given the pre-made grill lines on this baby -- the Beast Burger should definitely scratch that (very specific) itch.”

The best tasting product? Quorn’s Meatless Chik’n Patties. The British company wins “with its thick breading, juiciness and glorious saline kick... In fact, it's better than 80% of its meat-centric frozen counterparts. That's not exactly a high bar, mind you, but the fact that a non-meat from Britain has managed to out-chicken the likes of Tyson and Banquet -- it's juicier and more flavorful than both -- is a befuddling, delightful surprise.”

How it’s made is not so glorious, though. According to Wikipedia, “Quorn is made from the soil mold Fusarium venenatum strain PTA-2684 (previously misidentified as the parasitic mold Fusarium graminearum[34]). The fungus is grown in continually oxygenated water in large, otherwise sterile fermentation tanks. Glucose and fixed nitrogen are added as a food for the fungus, as are vitamins and minerals to improve the food value of the product.

A fermented soil mold sitting at the center of the family dinner plate like a blob of the infamous culinary abomination 1950s, glow-in-the-dark lime Jello doused with that sugar bomb canned fruit cocktail? Sounds only slightly more appetizing than the infamous Soylent Green that horrified Charlton Heston in 1973. It might make bread made from cricket flour a preferred food. It could even be tastier than fried grasshoppers. Could Entomophagy* become a household word?

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