Plant-based meat vies to win over a skeptical public and promote food security

When the spongy bread is torn open, vapor wafts out from the hot filling within. The aroma is a familiar one at breakfast stalls all around China, but this steamed bun by Chinese startup Zhenrou isn’t actually filled with pork, beef, or shrimp—but rather, with a pea protein mixture made to replicate the texture and taste of meat by exposure to precise levels of heat and pressure.

In the last year, China’s plant-based or alternative meat (植物肉 or 人造肉 in Chinese) market has seen plump returns. African Swine Fever (ASF) decimated China’s hog population and caused soaring pork prices. Meanwhile, scientists are exploring the potential role of meat markets and cold-chain storage in the Covid-19 pandemic, which has disrupted China’s meat supply, and may in the long run feed into Chinese consumers’ already growing health and safety consciousness toward meat.

A fraught geopolitical environment has also renewed emphasis for the government to guarantee that China can feed its own population, which increasingly depends on imports of pork and beef. “It is imperative, and it is well within our ability, to ensure the food supply for 1.4 billion Chinese people through our own efforts,” exhorted Premier Li Keqiang at the National People’s Congress in May.

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Meat 2.0 is a story from our issue, “High Steaks.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.


author Sam Davies

Sam Davies is the deputy managing editor at The World of Chinese. He writes mainly about society, sport, and culture, with his pieces touching on diverse topics from the future of China’s ski industry to efforts to prevent juvenile crime.

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