SHARE
COPY LINK

MEAT

‘They’re not sausages!’ Butchers at Frankfurt trade fair fight back against synthetic meat

Amid ethical and health concerns, 'fake meat' products have gained high-profile investment and support. Butchers at a trade fair in Frankfurt, however, greeted the trend with scepticism.

'They're not sausages!' Butchers at Frankfurt trade fair fight back against synthetic meat
Meat plays a big role in German culture. Photo: DPA

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.

SEE ALSO: Quiz: How well do you know German food culture?

The concept that animals are meat — and plants are not — never used to be challenged. Especially in Germany, a country famous for its selection of Wurst (sausage) products.

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.

And Desbois, who placed second in a young butchers competition at the convention, feels they undermine “the essence of the profession”.

“It's just not possible to work with synthetic meat,” he said.

Another budding elite butcher from Switzerland, 20-year-old Selina Niederberger, agreed.

A synthetic meat hamburger. Photo: DPA

“As a butcher, I'm for real meat. I think a lot of people would see it the same way,” she declared.

Non “real” meat products have been making headlines lately, backed by investors with an appetite for supplying plant-based burgers and sausages to the trendy diet-conscious masses.

The celebrity-backed vegan burger start-up Beyond Meat, for example, made a sizzling Wall Street debut on May 3 when it more than doubled its share price.

Backed by Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio and Microsoft founder Bill Gates, the firm and its competitors aim to turn plant-based foods mainstream and capture a huge potential market.

Ethical concerns

Whether meat substitutes will ever be able to 100 percent replicate the taste, colour, smell and texture of a freshly chopped up and slaughtered animal is debatable.   

But some young butchers suspect their growing popularity will inevitably have a transformative effect on their trade.

“It's just shifting with the world and working with it rather than against it,” said 19-year-old British butcher Lennon Callister.

Trade skills are “what sets butchers apart from supermarkets,” he argued, but accepted consumers are starting to look at food differently.

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.

Photo: DPA

“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.

'They aren't sausages!'

“It's very important that we think about it, that we consume less” but “good quality meat,” said Haagsma.

“You can use organic meat and homegrown cows, and not the cows from the big companies,” she said.

The growing numbers of people turning to plant-based meat alternatives include vegans, who shun all animal products, and flexitarians, who advocate moderate consumption of meat.

One sign of their expanding popularity? Silicon-valley company Impossible has linked up with Burger King to offer a plant-based version of its signature Whopper.

They are sausages. Photo: DPA

Nestle and Unilever are also aiming to cement their presence in the sector.

The move by big conglomerates into the sector has made young butchers note that changes are on the way.

“There'll be less of this mass-produced stuff, which is also really, really bad for the climate,” said 23-year-old German Raphael Buschmann.

However, while recognizing environment-conscious citizens are rethinking their diets, Buschmann predicted a limit to the industry changes.    

Vegetarian sausages would not be added to his displays any time soon.

“They aren't sausages,” he said. “That's just the way it is.”

 By Yann Schreiber

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

MEAT

German authorities impose second local coronavirus lockdown

Germany on Tuesday placed a second district under lockdown over a coronavirus outbreak at a slaughterhouse, just hours after similar restrictions were imposed for a neighbouring area.

German authorities impose second local coronavirus lockdown
A man wearing a protective suit in the district of Gütersloh after a coronavirus outbreak at a meat plant. Now neighbouring district Warendorf is going into lockdown. Photo: DPA

“In order to protect the population, we are now launching a further safety and security package to effectively combat the spread of the virus,” North Rhine-Westphalia health minister Karl-Josef Laumann said Tuesday, ordering a lockdown for the district of Warendorf.

Authorities had earlier announced similar measures in the neighbouring district of Gütersloh after more than 1,500 workers tested positive for Covid-19 at the slaughterhouse.

Almost 280,000 people live in Warendorf. Businesses and cultural facilities will close, while all schools and daycare centres (Kitas) will also shut their doors.

READ ALSO: Explained – What you need to know about Germany's new local coronavirus lockdowns

In Gütersloh the new lockdown affected 360,000 people living there and will be in place until at least June 30th.

It came after more than 1,500 workers out of a total of nearly 7,000 have tested positive for Covid-19 at the slaughterhouse in Rheda-Wiedenbrück run by Tönnies.

All workers are currently in quarantine. However, authorities are now turning to tougher rules to try and control the spread of coronavirus.

The new lockdown in Gütersloh means a return to measures first introduced in March, with cinemas, museums, concert halls, bars, gyms, swimming pools and saunas shut down.

However, restaurants can remain open with rules in place.

Schools and Kitas were already closed last week in a bid to control the virus.

SHOW COMMENTS