Pig out?

Asia gets a taste of cli­mate-friendly ‘pork’

Global Times - Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - Reuters

It’s Fri­day af­ter­noon at the Vene­tian Ma­cao ho­tel’s Portofino restau­rant, and on the ter­race a hand­ful of chefs in white uni­forms are pre­par­ing the casino hub’s fa­mous pork chop bun for wait­ing guests.

But to­day, the bun has a dif­fer­ence. As guests dive in, they’re bit­ing not into pork but into a ve­gan pat­tie cre­ated to mimic pork’s taste and feel.

In a re­gion where pork is king – it is the fa­vored meat in most dishes – switch­ing di­ets to a tasty veg­etable sub­sti­tute could be a ma­jor way to curb cli­mate change, ex­perts say.

But will “Om­ni­pork” pass the taste test?

“The ap­pear­ance and tex­ture is the same, I can’t tell the dif­fer­ence,” said Suki Chu, who runs a Face­book cook­ing group called “Be Jeal­ous by JM,” and is there with her hus­band and 11-year-old son.

Eric Tang, who works in cus­tomer ser­vices at a tele­com com­pany, agrees the pat­tie looks like minced pork, but no­tices a sub­tle dif­fer­ence in the taste.

It doesn’t have “the gamey fla­vor of real pork,” he said.

A plant-pro­tein made from peas, soy, shi­itake mush­room and rice, Om­ni­pork is the lat­est ven­ture by Hong Kong­based David Ye­ung, whose so­cial en­ter­prise Green Mon­day aims to curb cli­mate change, shore up food global food se­cu­rity and im­prove pub­lic health.

A veg­e­tar­ian for 18 years, Ye­ung started Green Mon­day to per­suade din­ers to take one day a week off meat – a move­ment that has spread to 30 coun­tries and re­gions. Now an­other ven­ture, Right Treat, has cre­ated Om­ni­pork for the Asian palate.

While beef and chicken is pop­u­lar in the West, and US foodtech firms like Im­pos­si­ble Foods and Be­yond Burger have cre­ated plant-based meat al­ter­na­tives, pork has been over­looked, Ye­ung says.

But pork is the most con­sumed meat glob­ally, the World­watch In­sti­tute says, and is in high de­mand in Asia, par­tic­u­larly China.

“Chi­nese peo­ple use pork in ev­ery­thing,” Ye­ung said. In­deed, 65 per­cent of all meat con­sumed in China is pork. And China’s 1.4 bil­lion peo­ple eat it in soups, dumplings, stir-fries and pork buns.

Shift­ing tastes

Om­ni­pork – de­signed to mimic minced pork – aims to di­rect an emerg­ing mid­dle class away from meat as a sta­ple.

With ris­ing in­comes, Asia’s meat con­sump­tion is ex­pected to grow by a third by 2030, ac­cord­ing to Asia Re­search and En­gage­ment (ARE), an in­de­pen­dent con­sult­ing firm on en­vi­ron­men­tal, so­cial and gov­er­nance risks.

Land the size of In­dia will be re­quired by 2050 to sat­isfy this de­mand, ARE said. Pro­duc­ing pork also takes vast amounts of wa­ter and food crops, and gen­er­ates huge waste and meth­ane emis­sions.

Meat and seafood pro­duc­tion ac­count for 15 per­cent of to­tal green­house gas emis­sions in Asia, ac­cord­ing to a 2018 re­port writ­ten for Asian in­vest­ment firm CLSA.

Meat health and safety is also a con­cern in Asia, with tainted food scan­dals, an­tibi­otics and hor­mone use, and the African Swine Fever tak­ing a toll, Ye­ung said.

Even China’s gov­ern­ment in 2016 ad­vised its cit­i­zens to cut the amount of meat they eat each day.

This makes the meat in­dus­try ripe for dis­rup­tion, Ye­ung said. But shift­ing di­ets in a coun­try as huge as China will take time, so Ye­ung has launched Om­ni­pork in the foodie and meat cap­i­tal of the world, Hong Kong.

“If we can get the move­ment vi­ral very quickly in a dense city like Hong Kong, it can cre­ate a domino ef­fect across the re­gion,” he said.

In Hong Kong, Om­ni­pork is now served at 42 restau­rant out­lets and, af­ter a re­cent launch in Sin­ga­pore, 80 out­lets there are serv­ing it as well.

Sands Re­sorts Ma­cao, who run the Vene­tian and four other re­sorts in the city, of­fers Om­ni­pork to 28,000 work­ers. But work­ers liked it so much man­agers de­cided to of­fer it in 14 restau­rants as well.

“We chal­lenged our chefs to re-in­trepret what they were al­ready cook­ing,” said Tom Con­nolly, se­nior vice pres­i­dent of food and bev­er­age at Sands China.

The dishes were tested on reg­u­lar guests and “ev­ery­body thought it tasted like pork,” Con­nelly said. With more guests ask­ing for ve­gan and veg­e­tar­ian fare, he be­lieves it’s now time to of­fer more meat­free op­tions.

$6 bil­lion mar­ket?

But how likely are con­sumers to switch en masse? Global sales of plant-based meat prod­ucts have risen an av­er­age of 8 per­cent each year since 2010, ac­cord­ing to Per­sis­tence Mar­ket Re­search.

The mar­ket for such prod­ucts is ex­pected to reach more than $6 bil­lion a year by 2023, ac­cord­ing to Mar­ket­sandMar­kets, a mar­ket re­search firm.

Ye­ung says he has seen Be­yond Meat sales rise four­fold in one year and ve­gan cheese Daiya has tripled sales this year.

But chal­lenges re­main. The re­tail price of Om­ni­pork is HK$43 ($5.50) for 230 grams. That’s cheaper than or­ganic pork and com­pa­ra­ble to im­ported pork but more ex­pen­sive than the HK$27 for 300 grams of pork at lo­cal mar­kets in Hong Kong.

Meat is also seen as a fes­tive and cul­tural food, so it may be hard to con­vince many peo­ple in China to give it up. But Ye­ung is op­ti­mistic.

The new gen­er­a­tion of plant-based foods is nu­tri­tious, he said.

Om­ni­pork is “cru­elty-free,” has no an­tibi­otics or hor­mones and is lower in sat­u­rated fat and calo­ries than real pork, while of­fer­ing more fiber, cal­cium and iron, he said.

Ye­ung’s plan in 2019 is to partner with Chi­nese ho­tels and restau­rants as well as food ser­vice com­pa­nies that cater to For­tune 500 com­pa­nies and big-tech cafe­te­rias.

He’ll also try on­line sites and e-com­merce chan­nels.

But Tang, for one, said his tra­di­tional mother from Shang­hai may take some con­vinc­ing.

“I’m go­ing to try cook­ing a Shang­hainese dish for her, but I’m not telling her what’s in­side,” said the cus­tomer ser­vices agent.

An Om­ni­pork dish

Pho­tos: IC

An Om­ni­pork burger Be­low: A veg­e­tar­ian dish

A veg­e­tar­ian dish that uses car­rots and morchella to re­place shrimp and squid

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.