A Vegan Pork Startup Hopes to Win Over Meat-Loving China
Vegan xiao long bao? It just might be possible if Omnipork's plant-based pork gets the approval of Chinese regulators.
During Saturday Night Live’s early-90s golden era, Mike Myers played Linda Richman, the sequin sweater-wearing, New York-accented host of “Coffee Talk,” who liked starting conversations about the incongruous naming conventions of various items. “Talk amongst yourselves,” she’d squawk. “Grape Nuts contains neither grapes, nor nuts.” Or “The Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire. Discuss!” If she and her tinted glasses were still on the air, she’d probably dedicate a segment to the new vegan superfood Omnipork, which is neither omniscient, nor pork.
A company called Right Treat has just launched Omnipork in Hong Kong, in an attempt to help China cut down on its pork consumption, and to give the environment a break, too. Pork accounts for 40 percent of the world’s meat production, and China consumes it at a significantly higher rate than other countries; according to Right Treat, 65 percent of all meat that appears on Chinese plates is pork, and the country chooses pork over beef at a rate of almost 11 to one.
The company says that Omnipork is the world’s first plant-based pork-replacement product, made from a blend of proteins from, peas, non-GMO soy, shiitake mushrooms, and rice. “Omnipork offers high-quality complete vegan protein fulfill our body. It is also cholesterol-free, antibiotic-free, hormone-free, cruelty-free, and 71 percent lower in saturated fat and 62 percent lower in calories than real pork while offering much higher fiber, 233 percent higher in calcium and 53 percent higher in iron.” Yeung says.
He also swears that the texture and flavor of his faux pork is similar to the real thing. (CNN Money did a taste-test of pork soup dumplings and Omnipork soup dumplings, and everyone said that they could totally tell the difference—but that the pseudomeat was still “tasty.”)
It’s not just our arteries that Right Treat is concerned about: It wants to deliver the juicy, savory flavor of pork without the large-scale environmental impact of pig farming. According to research published by the National Academy of Sciences of the United States (PNAS), livestock-based food production is responsible for about one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions, and is “the key land-user and source of water pollution by nutrient overabundance.”
Although PNAS rates beef production as having the highest environmental cost, raising pork isn’t exactly easy on our planet, largely because of the animals’ poop. (One study said that an industrial-scale hog farm with 80,000 animals could produce 1.5 times the amount of waste as the city of Philadelphia—and in China, an estimated 1.29 billion metric tons of pig waste is produced every year).
“The lagoons in which this waste is stored contain pathogens such as Salmonella, insecticides, antimicrobial agents and other pharmaceuticals, and nutrients that cause widespread pollution and impairment of watersheds,” researchers from Environmental Health Perspectives wrote. And those nasty environmental side effects are in addition to the greenhouse gas emissions.
“The philosophy behind Right Treat is that we believe achieving long-term win-win-win among the planet, mankind and animals is possible,” Yeung says.
Omnipork is waiting for approval from Chinese regulators and, if all goes to plan, it should be available for sale within the country by the end of the year. Talk amongst yourselves.