‘ME-AT the alternative’ has set up the first protein chain with locally grown faba beans. The result: burgers, sausages and minced meat alternatives on the shelves of a major retailer and ambitious plans for the future. ME-AT set up the faba bean chain in the Netherlands in cooperation with ZLTO, Herba Ingredients and Agrifirm. ME-AT is now looking to sign agreements with German retailers and farmers.
To feed the world in a healthy and sustainable way now and in the future, plant-based alternatives to meat are an interesting addition to a healthy diet. The group of flexitarians is growing among consumers, alongside vegetarians and vegans. They are looking for healthy and nutritious alternatives to meat. ME-AT and the other parties involved decided to investigate whether faba beans could be a suitable local source of protein for making plant-based meat substitutes. No good results have yet been achieved with Dutch-grown soy beans. Faba beans turned out to be suitable and enthusiastic Dutch farmers sowed 30 hectares. Since September last year, ME-AT has been using the protein yield for the production of plant-based burgers. After this year’s harvest season, this will be extended to 60 hectares.
Advantages of locally grown protein
ME-AT wants to use locally grown raw materials for its products as much as possible. The advantages of a local protein chain are fewer transport movements, less dependence on foreign countries, a future for local farmers, quality of local soil, enriched biodiversity and choice for the consumer. In addition, faba beans take nitrogen from the air and are able to fix it in the soil through the roots. The crop therefore contributes to soil improvement and nitrogen reduction in our countries. Last but not least the faba bean is a legume that has flowers which helps to enrich the biodiversity on the fields. ME-AT is now doing more research into what faba beans mean for emissions and the soil.
Several years ago, Vion, the parent company of ME-AT, converted its abattoir in Leeuwarden into a production site for ME-AT’s plant-based meat substitutes alone. These products are now exported to 17 countries. The linking of meat substitutes to regional origin is attracting a great deal of attention and increasing consumer awareness. With only Dutch farmers involved so far, ME-AT is now also looking for corresponding agreements with German retailers and farmers.
The developers at ME-AT are already working hard on new, local, healthy, sustainable and high-quality meat substitutes. ME-AT products already contain less salt and saturated fats and are rich in fibre and plant proteins. They certainly do not exclude the use of raw materials other than faba beans for these products. ME-AT’s main objective is to contribute to the switch to plant-based proteins with crops grown “on our own doorstep” and to create sustainable food for future generations. In this way, ME-AT provides another example of a successful chain according to Vion’s strategy of Building Balanced Chains.