In a recent Protein Innovation Webinar hosted by AGF, Mr. Chen Wei, Executive Vice President of the China Meat Association (CMA), spoke on upgrading the meat industry in China as well as the current challenges faced by alternative meat. To better identify the issues, Mr. Chen expounded upon an analogy used by Mr. Paul Shapiro (Better Meat Co.) about the “film vs. digital” transition of the last two decades. In photography, traditional film cameras have largely been supplanted by digital ones, yet there are still some functionalities that digital cameras cannot emulate like resolution and authenticity. This is the reason why some young people, particularly those born in the 90’s, are now returning to film photography to recapture the essence of the art. Likewise, if alternative protein is unable solve its own hiccups of taste, texture, and health benefits to meet or surpass the quality of animal meat, a complete transition cannot take place. This is especially true if problems such as plant protein’s dissimilarity to the human body or the unnecessary amino acid it contains cannot be resolved. Hence, for the foreseeable future, animal protein will still play an important role in food supply for the world.
Mr. Chen went on to introduce some changes that he and the CMA are encouraging in the meat industry.
- Promoting the reduction of fat, sugar, and salt (in alignment with China’s national objectives).
- Encouraging the production of functional meat, e.g., meat suited for elders which is low in cholesterol, and meat suited for children that rich in protein.
- Advocating for changes in meat processing by initiating green, climate-smart production and processing.
Mr. Chen notes that we should treat changes in the market with a scientific attitude. This means working upon the belief that scientific research in all areas is fundamental to the further development of the protein industry, and the government should push the development of the protein industry in an objective, innovative manner. Moving forward, it is critical to remember that there is no contradiction between animal meat and plant-based meat but we must collaborate to blend them together seamlessly. In doing so, we can help to ensure long-term global food security and sustainability.