In beef-loving Argentina, meat substitutes are gaining ground

Formally incorporated in 2021, the founders of Moolec Argentina include Gastón Paladini, a member of a well-known family in the country historically dedicated to pork production. In a panel organized last August, Paladini predicted that in 10 years, “more than 10% of the world’s consumption of animal proteins will be alternative proteins”. Its Chief Technology Officer, Martín Salinas, has indicated that Greater Latin America, the United States and China are among its future export destinations.

Another start-up entering the fray is Tomorrow Foods, which recently launched an “innovation center” in Buenos Aires, with the aim of formulating and developing plant-based ingredients and solutions for the food industry.

“What we see is that our market is going to grow exponentially. The trend is here,” said Guillermo Lentini, one of the founders of the company, which launched its first vegetable protein burger in 2020. “It has been very well received and sales are increasing month by month,” explained the entrepreneur.

Cutting Edge: Cultured Meat

Alongside these experiments is the emerging cultured meat industry, produced entirely in the laboratory. It’s not about plants mimicking the properties of animal protein, but about applying cell culture techniques to develop a substitute for traditional meat production.

The first Latin American exponent in the field is the Buenos Aired-based startup Bio Ingeniería en la Fabricación de Elaborados – in English, Bioengineering in the Manufacture of Processed Products, with the playful acronym BIFE. Last July, the firm organized a first tasting, presented as a new step towards “the sustainable production of food products of animal origin, from cell cultures that do not require the slaughter of animals”, indicates its website. .

Just like the real thing, cultured meat production begins in the field, but with the collection of a small sample of animal tissue. This is then taken to the laboratory, where a particular type of cell is isolated, which after a cultivation process, ends up generating new animal tissues.

The consumer is the big challenge: we must first offer a tasty product that resembles traditional meat

In a video presented during the tasting, BIFE assured that this type of development has many advantages in terms of health, environment and sustainability, compared to the production of traditional meat, according to him, 45% of more energy is saved, greenhouse gas emissions are reduced by 96% and 96% less water is used.

BIFE’s Laura Correa explained that after the tasting, efforts are now focused on “reducing processing costs and creating a large-scale farming system”, which could happen in the next five years. “For us, the consumer is the big challenge, so first we have to offer a good, tasty product that looks like traditional meat,” she added.

Coexistence

According to those consulted, animal proteins will continue to dominate the market in the years to come. However, there is every indication that there is a place on the table for plant-based and tissue culture analogues, in line with growing and changing consumer concerns about traditional meat.

Livestock in Argentina faces the challenge of seeking a more sustainable horizon in the face of growing criticism of its negative effects on the environment, mainly in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and loss of forests due to the expansion of the agricultural frontier.

Argentina’s livestock sector contributes 20.7% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions and must play a leading role in the transition to a new diet. But along with that, Argentina’s new wave of food tech start-ups and companies are expected to take a bigger place in the market in pursuit of more environmentally friendly food systems. Given the country’s strong cultural associations with meat, especially beef, the coexistence of the two may be key to achieving such a journey towards sustainability.

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