Vegetarian meat is having a bit of a renaissance around the world. While it’s been heralded as an alternative for meat-eaters reluctant to forsake their burgers and T-bones, it’s not without issues.
For one, plant-based meats sometimes don’t taste very good. And as we’ve seen with brands like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, their products aren’t exactly made to cater to Asian tastebuds: plant burgers and sausages are well and good, but what if someone’s craving something a little closer to home?
Enter OmniMeat, a new meat-alternative brand that produces not just the usual suspects (such as all-purpose patties) — but Asian favourites like luncheon ‘meat’ and ‘pork’ strips.
“There’s so much more than just creating an analogue to beef or pork,” says David Yeung, founder of Hong Kong-based Green Monday, which produces OmniMeat. “Food is cultural, social and emotional — it’s about the total experience.”
Why luncheon meat? Because it’s one of the most popular processed meats in Asia. Despite its popularity, people have long had concerns about the risks of consuming processed meat: the World Health Organisation labels luncheon meat as a Class 1 carcinogen, stating that eating just one slice a day can increase a person’s risk for cancer by up to 18 percent.
The meat industry has also seen some troubling times. Between outbreaks of swine fever and reports of just how negatively meat-farming impacts the planet, it’s hard to find a guilt-free way of eating.
OmniMeat’s plant-based luncheon meat wants to change that. With zero cholesterol and carcinogenic nitrates, the plant-based meat promises to deliver a less-fatty meat with no added hormones, antibiotics, and MSG — and it also happens to be pretty darn delicious.
And even professional chefs have taken note. At Hong Kong’s Michelin-starred Ming Court, chefs have created several special dishes to highlight OmniMeat’s new offerings; Executive Chef Chan Hong Cheong even notes the OmniMeat Luncheon’s “tempting aroma” during cooking, thanks to its close resemblance to an actual slice of luncheon meat.
It’s not just health benefits that plant-based meats bring. Traditional livestock farming contributes more to climate change than one might think: for one, livestock often produce greenhouse gases (usually through burps). They occupy a large amount of land, and the food that they eat takes a lot of water and natural resources to grow — often, the land doesn’t get a chance to recuperate from heavy industrial farming, and declines.
OmniMeat founder Yeung says: “The reality is that the animal protein-oriented food supply chain is unsustainable, and has been stretched way beyond its breaking point for a long time.”
“The planet and our outdated food system simply cannot keep up with the growth and demand of the human population. It’s only a matter of time before it collapses.”
It’s a revelation that hit Yeung in adulthood, inspiring him to become a vegetarian in his 20s, and later, to spread the message to more people through OmniFoods.
“One of the simplest steps to address climate change is to move to a more plant-based diet,” he says, citing the growing number of ‘flexitarians’ in Asia who are already leading the way.
“With the pandemic exposing how fragile the meat supply chain is, it only further illustrates why change is not an option — but a must.”