Walk downtown in The Hague, Netherlands, and you’ll find a tiny butcher shop with a giant glass window and wooden front. Inside, a metal meat grinder clamps onto a white marble worktop. A selection of fresh steaks, chicken, smoked bacon, and mackerel chill inside the front counter. It looks like a retro-style butcher shop — with one major difference.
The butchers only produce vegetarian meats.
The first of its kind, the shop is fittingly called The Vegetarian Butcher. Since the shop was founded in 2010, the demand for its products has grown tremendously. The shop now sells its vegetarian meats to more than 3,000 stores in 13 countries.
“Our goal is to be the biggest butcher in the world,” Niko Koffeman, the co-founder of The Vegetarian Butcher, tells Tech Insider. “I think we can accomplish that in 20 years.”
Next year, Koffeman and co-founder Jaap Korteweg will build a larger production plant in Breda, a city in the southern Netherlands. At the new plant, customers will take cooking classes and learn how the meats are made.
Koffeman says that both meat eaters and vegetarians come to the shop, because their “meats” look and taste like the real thing.
The butchers make most of the meats from organic soy, peas, leek, and lupine, a type of flowering legume (the rest are made from eggs and dairy). To mimic the flavour of tuna, they use seaweed, since tuna normally eat seaweed, Koffeman says.
The process is simple. The “butchers” mix the plants with flour and water into metal machines that look similar to pasta makers. Koffeman says they use different machines for each type of meat, whether it’s pork, beef, or fish.
Koffeman and Korteweg hope their shop will encourage more people to eat vegetarian meat alternatives.
Animal farming has been shown to emit 18% of human-caused greenhouse gases and play a role in climate change. On a global scale, plant-based meats could be a sustainable solution to traditional meat production, which is projected to double by 2050.
“You can’t distinguish our meat from regular meat,” Koffeman says. “It actually might be better.”
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