In Argentina, which loves beef, meat substitutes are gaining ground

The founders of Moolec Argentina, officially registered in 2021, include Gastón Paladini, a member of a well-known family in the country that has historically been involved in pork production. In a panel held last August, Paladini predicted that “in 10 years, more than 10% of the world’s animal protein consumption will be alternative protein”. Deputy chief technology officer Martín Salinas has indicated that Latin America, the United States and China are among future export destinations.

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

“We are seeing our market grow exponentially. The trend is here, ”said Guillermo Lentini, one of the founders of the company that launched the first vegetable protein hamburger in 2020. “It was very well received and sales are growing month by month,” the entrepreneur explained.

At the forefront: farmed meat

In addition to these experiments, it is an emerging industry in farmed meat that is produced entirely in the laboratory. This does not affect plants that mimic the properties of animal protein, but the use of cell culture techniques to replace traditional meat production.

The first Latin American representative of the area is the Bioengineering in the Manufacture of Processed Products startup in Buenos Aires, with the acronym BIFE. The company held its first tasting last July, which was unveiled as a new step towards “producing food of animal origin from sustainable, non-slaughter cell cultures,” it said on its website.

Similar to the real thing, the production of farmed meat begins in the field, but with the collection of a small sample of animal tissue. This is then taken to the laboratory, where a certain type of cell is isolated, which creates new animal tissue after a culture process.

The biggest challenge for the consumer is to create a delicious product reminiscent of traditional meat

In a video presented at the tasting, BIFE assured that this type of development will have far-reaching health, environmental and sustainability benefits, claiming that it will save 45% more energy and emit greenhouse gases compared to traditional meat production. They are reduced by 96% and 96% less water is used.

BIFE staff member Laura Correa explained that after the tasting, efforts are being made to “reduce processing costs and create a large-scale farming system,” which could happen over the next five years. “For us, the consumer is the biggest challenge, so we have to come up with a good, tasty product reminiscent of traditional meat first,” he added.

Symbiosis

Respondents say animal protein will continue to dominate the market for years to come. However, all indications are that plant-based and tissue-derived analogues have a place on the table, in line with consumers ’growing and changing concerns about traditional meat.

Argentine animal husbandry faces the challenge of seeking a more sustainable perspective due to growing criticism of the negative effects on the environment, mainly due to the loss of forests due to greenhouse gas emissions and the expansion of agricultural borders.

Argentina’s livestock sector accounts for 20.7% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions and should play a leading role in the transition to a new food system. At the same time, however, a new wave of start-ups and food technology companies in Argentina will take up more space in the market in search of more environmentally friendly food systems. Given the nation’s strong cultural ties to meat, especially beef, the coexistence of the two could be key on the road to sustainability.

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