Guy Trafford looks at how the plant-based meat industry is developing in China and whether it is a threat to New Zealand exporters. Boris seems to have taken a leaf from Trump's book. And Hawkes Bay looks to storing water, again

Guy Trafford looks at how the plant-based meat industry is developing in China and whether it is a threat to New Zealand exporters. Boris seems to have taken a leaf from Trump's book. And Hawkes Bay looks to storing water, again

With the arrival of plant-based meats on the scene some interesting data had come out of China. Back in April a plant-based meat “festival” was held in Shanghai to show case the new products to the Chinese audience.

Despite being 100% plant based the tag “Meatfest” was attached to the promotion which apart from being rather ironic must irk genuine meat producers.

Selective use of Northern Hemisphere figures around the amount of carbon emissions involved in the production of 1 kg of steak also from a New Zealand perspective need challenging.

Information coming out of the ‘festival’ implies that the plant based meat sector in China is growing rapidly and at a faster rate than other protein sources. New Zealand Institute of Plant and Food Research last year conducted a survey of ‘Tier 1’ consumers, admittedly only 2,000 so probably has some statistical holes in it but it does provide useful information. It did show that nearly 33% of respondents said they were eating more plant-based foods, this includes more traditional types such as tofu so not that clear to decipher how much of a threat. What was more clear was the admission that pork and poultry were the losers with 34% and 28% respectively being the amount of respondents who said they were eating less.

The big winners however were fish and seafood which had increased by 44% and beef and sheep meat which increased by 33%.

While increases don’t indicate volume they do show that from a red meat perspective the Chinese market is reasonably secure. However, New Zealand cannot rest on its laurels with a US study showing that the plant-based meat market size has increased over the four years from 2014 to 2018 from ¥3.6  billion to ¥6.1 billion. However, these figures need to be taken with the context of the fact that only 3.6% of Chinese are said to be vegetarian while Australia is quoted as having 11% and India with 40%.

Despite the small percentage of vegetarians with the large population in China it managed to outstrip the US by 33% in the size of its market although the US consumes about three times more per capita. The major reasons given in China for reducing meat intake were perceived health benefits (63.5%), managing personal weight (56.7%), and environmental concerns (40%). 17.4% claimed they reduced their meat intake due to concerns for animal welfare. It should be noted that the survey was conducted prior to the outbreak of African Swine Fever which will have altered the numbers somewhat. Certainly, pork will have reduced and we know that more red meat is being consumed as a substitute for that. How much plant-based meat is being used as a pork substitute is not yet revealed.

China reflects much of the developing world where growth in living standards is driving greater demand for what New Zealand produces despite the threat of alternative proteins.

As with dairying the meat industry needs to makes sure the positives of New Zealand products are clearly promoted. At the moment it appears too often New Zealand products get lumped in with the less sustainable systems of the US and Europe.

Pulling up the ladder

One of the more unfortunate aspects of life at the moment is the rise of the politicians who seem to thumb their noses at the democratic processes which got them there. Trump antics at being free and lose with facts is well known, and it seems that even some of his more hardened supporters are starting to get tired of his behaviour.

Farmers, one of the traditional sectors supporting Trump, or at least the Conservatives, are finding his policies are making life increasingly difficult in the US. They are getting more aggrieved when being told by Trump and his administration that things are good and going to get better when all they see is lost markets and poorer returns. It appears that UK PM Boris Johnson is adopting the Trump approach and seems hell bent on doing things his way with the support of Parliament. Suspending the opening of parliament by a further  two weeks until the 21st of October means there is only 10 days to thrash out an acceptable deal to take to the EU who seem unmoveable in their attitude to Britain. Prior to this decision Johnston seemed to have the upper hand with parliament due to the lack of cohesion within opposing parties. However, he may have overplayed his hand by seemingly going it alone and his decision to suspend parliament has done what nothing else seemed able to do and that is unit the opposing forces. It is now starting to look that a vote of no confidence which previously looked unlikely is on the cards. The PM appears determined to withdraw the UK from the EU regardless of with a deal is made or not. A vote of no confidence, if successful throws a major spanner in the works and may involve a snap election. What happens then is anybody’s guess. If exporters from New Zealand were scratching their heads before this now they will be tearing their hair out. It makes New Zealand seem an incredibly sane place amidst a world going bonkers.

Irrigation progress

To that end it was pleasing to see that a modified irrigation scheme has been proposed in Hawkes Bay. While modest in its size it should provide potential for the Bay to further develop its abundant ag and hort resources. Hopefully the development can satisfy the requirements of Forest and Bird and others and can contribute to water security and quality.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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"As with dairying the meat industry needs to makes sure the positives of New Zealand products are clearly promoted." Sure, but as far as the emerging plant-based meat industry goes, and the increasing popularity of plant based eating habits in general, it's also futile to fight a so-called emerging megatrend, if that's what it is. It seems a greater number of young people are embracing plant-based diets, and scientists are encouraging people to do so on a global level because of environmental issues such as climate change. It's good not just just to look ahead, but also to plan ahead, otherwise NZ meat and dairy might get into the situation the fossil fuel industry is now in: trying to convince people changes don't need to be made and the old way is still the best way, when it's clearly not the case. Perhaps we should not put all our eggs (or rather meat and dairy) in one basket for coming decades?

No need to worry, soon a lot of people are going to get sick eating all these highly processed, GMO, laboratory manufactured, fake foods. They are the new transfats - which were also "plant based" and designed to replace butter. Look how that worked out. The human body was designed to eat food in its natural state, and a diet based on refined processed foods destroys your gut microbiomes and alters your body chemistry, leading to a raft of health problems developing. Just look at the latest research around gut health and autism for example. Not to mention the association with diabetes and various inflammatory illnesses. If you want to not eat meat, then eat actual vegetables in their raw state, not this fake food rubbish.

There’s also increasing evidence of links between processed/cured meats, and even moderate red meat consumption and increased cancer risk, so not sure that bodes particularly well for the NZ meat industry really. If the evidence keeps piling up, good marketing won’t be enough. I eat less cured and red meat than I used to.

Would be interesting to know if meat from grass fed systems such as NZ uses and meat from intensive feeding systems have different risk factors. Crop growing relies on chemicals to control pest and diseases so what, if any are found, are the levels of these in the feed that animals in grain fed systems. The EU is banning the use of chlorpyrifos Since its launch in 1965, it has been one of the most widely used pesticides in agriculture to protect crops from insects. In fact, in the European Union, chlorpyrifos is among the fifteen pesticides most present in food, and its residues have been detected mostly in citrus fruits.. How many people consider if they are consuming an orange/lemon/mandarin etc containing organophosphate when they buy them, or any plant based food for that matter?

A lot of the data that draws that conclusion comes out of the US, where most processed meat consumption is via fast food outlets.

There's a lot of confounding variables involved - is it the processed meat, or is it the large fries and soda, or is it the lack of dietary fibre and fruit and vegetables in the meal? Or is it none of those things, but some other unhealthy habits associated with people who eat a lot of fast food.

Note also there's a strong association between vegetarian and vegan diets and anxiety and depression. And also a strong association between a high consumption of processed foods and cancer incidence.

We have been feeding the family highly processed breakfast cereals for 120 years and none has pointed the finger at them yet.
On the other hand eggs have been discredited at least once and A1 milk is suspect.

The activist vegan/vegetarians are unlikely to lead a campaign against breakfast cereals, when no more animal farming/food is their agenda. ;-) Not so many years ago butter and olive oil were considered bad for you, now they are the darlings of the latest food fashion. Everything in moderation pws. The reality in life is we are all going to die sometime. Saw an Irish film 'Older than Ireland' everyone in it was 100yrs old or more. One of them was still happily smoking cigarettes.

I heard of one lady who smoked until she was 117 and died at 120, from that I deduce if she continued smoking she would have lived for ever.
I choose the cereals example, eg, sanitarium products because they were referred to somewhere as a food innovation that took the world by storm based on their perceived health benefits.
The switch to substitute plants products are expected to do the same based on a wave of concern over environmental issues.
A bit emotive but that’s life.

And the epidemic of childhood obesity, children getting diabetes, huge increases in the rates of asthma and allergies, autism, and behavioural disorders such as ADHD - all things that hardly existed 50 years ago. Kids started getting sick about the same time as the notorious food pyramid was launched and people started eating a lot of refined and processed grains, including breakfast cereal.

Some nutritionists say plant based is ok in moderation.

How would they know? There has been no long term safety studies. Plus the company selling the stuff will be paying them to say that.

Exactly will go get my Mushroom Buger now

Keep burying your head in the sand... that's the way forward! Your response is unfortunately very conservative. But in 50 years it will be look on the same as we look at people advocating tobacco smoking in the 60's - absolute madness

People are just basically eating peas or soy with a few additives. You think a McDonalds Big Mac is natural? You think even the "meat patty" in there is natural? You know what they feed cows and how the meat is processed?

People have been eating processed foods for decades now and are generally living longer. Diabetes is a problem with sugar and carbs, both of which are naturally appearing foods. Other inflammatory illnesses - is it down to environmental issues or food issues? Jury is usually still out on it.

What we need to do is start and support our own companies involved in the industry. Otherwise we will quickly find ourselves in a sunset industry without any alternatives. And we need to start early so we can compete on the world stage. Sunfed chicken should be getting massive investment and drive, for instance.

They might be living longer, but they are also living sicker. Half of the population is obese. Diabetes is at epidemic levels. Children are not expected to have as long a life expectancy as their parents. But hey, lets force them to eat even more processed foods full of chemicals!

I wonder if the realise many Vegetarians have lived to a ripe old age without eating any fake meat or processed food at all .

Ripe? That'll be the legumes..

Wonder if any of them actually enjoyed life.. i see no point living to a ripe old age if its not a life worth living.

I see no point in living if you can't accept people with a different diet to yours can't enjoy life.

Seems it was a pretty pragmatic statement and they do accept exactly that.

Here is an overview of plant substitutes taken from the Globalmeatnews site.

I was in Hawaii recently and the Impossible burger was on the menu with the other meat and chicken burgers. 1st thing I noticed - it was the cheapest (bugger lost that one). I ordered it out of curiosity. Tasted great and as good as any other burger. Went to another restaurant (Hard Rock Cafe) and they had it as well - my son decided to order one - bad luck they had sold out and we were informed you had to be in early as they sold out each day (double bugger). I will still eat a meat burger but the vege burger was as good, cheaper and obviously popular. Ignore it at your peril.

Isnt the Impossible Burger company chugging through funds hand over fist? I guess if you dont have to make a profit, you can sell your goop cheaper than the real thing. But at some point investors will demand a return. Then we shall see how they compete with a bit of bull mince.

Belle, they recently raised funds and tripled their manufacturing capacity, they can get to $400 US million per annum income based on that.
I expect they will have more turnover than the Alliance in a couple of years.
It’s not a threat to the NZ pastoralist in the short term but I’m guessing manufacturing beef won’t be worth much.
Several companies are working on replicating whole muscle.

Raising a lot of funds in a market that is bereft of new ideas and companies, that has zero or negative percent interest rates on the horizon is quite possibly the easy part. You still have to make a profit. At some point. Show me the they say. I hear they wont give that information out. The bit about the cost ....I am of the suspicious type. Wasnt there a lady by the name of Elizabeth that stung all the big wigs not so long ago. The guys that should have known better. So Positivelywallstreet have they published the cost of making this goop yet?

Not that I have seen but it is a simple process by extrusion and easily scaleable.
I think in this modern world profits are irrelevant, farmers never do, Amazon famously doesn’t, property investors live in fear of them.
They all gamble on tax free capital gains.
Will it be hard to find further funding?, probably not, capitalism is a casino and the players are desperate to stay in the game.
It’s life..

PWS I really must attempt to change your notions about us lot. Farmers do make profits. Those of us who dont play the casino of the property market have to make profits. I reared my kids on hard slog and paying taxes.
Currently there will be a certain proportion of farmers....investors ahem....who will be shiting themselves because it was a property game. That might be about to fonterrafail. But I assure you we do ok. Especially those that are a few generations in, or had the wisdom to invest in farming through the backing of another business. Buying the land is quite crushing initially. I had neither. However Roger Douglas had worked his argh land was cheap back then.
I am a simple soul. And I understand that when you are not given the whole story as Impossible Meat has done, it might be exactly that. Impossible meat.

I knew I was generalising and ignoring the family owned farms that are managed conservatively and often with best practice.

I hear you though PWS. Actually its screaming at us really. Coming from many different directions all at once. Suddenly food production, especially animal based is the enemy. Industrialised production has made food cheap. Cheap and nasty. Yet we live this western life in luxury because this item we require daily is so accessable.
We have forgotten how difficult it is to feed a family or oneself if you have to hunt it or grow it yourself. So it is cheapened and denigrated.

I agree, people are increasingly viewing industrialised food production with concern.They have had some frights such as the Melamine debacle in China and a milk contamination scare that originated locally.

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