The refrigerator cabinets are stuffed with ground beef, chicken pieces, meatballs, bacon, everything you’d expect to see at the butcher’s shop. Except that there’s no meat in any of them.
Jaap Korteweg’s shop in the Netherlands has an old-fashioned meat grinder and a wooden butcher’s block, but they’re just for show. The name over the store window explains everything: De Vegetarische Slager – The Vegetarian Butcher.
The Independent newspaper explains what Korteweg is doing:
The Vegetarian Butcher makes use of emerging techniques and new recipes to create, they say, some of the most convincing meat replicas ever.
And while you might expect other local butchers to be complaining that Korteweg isn’t really butchering anything, it turns out they’re quite happy with what he’s doing.
“They were hostile at first,” he says. “How did we persuade them? They tasted it.”
The butchers also recognized commercial potential around the common dinner dilemma where only one person around the table doesn’t eat meat.
Reporter Kate Burt describes a visit to The Vegetarian Butcher:
Korteweg, also a farmer, used to be a keen hunter.
“I love meat very much,” he says, explaining his motivation. “But I had problems with how we produce it.”
He is passionate about creating products so convincing, that there will be no need to eat real meat. His theory is to cut out the ‘middle man’ – the animal – from the grain-to-plate story.
Korteweg is also working on dairy substitutes, but he doesn’t like soy milk – or American-style soy burgers.
Soya is also an environmentally tricksy crop, as vast swathes of rainforest are often cleared to grow it. Debates rage about how healthy it is, too: the Asian diet has used soya for centuries, but in its fermented form – which is not, typically, the way it is processed to make fake meat.
The Netherlands is more friendly to animal protection issues than many countries. It is the first country in the world to have a member of parliament for animal rights. Korteger’s business partner and friend Niko Koffeman is a member of the senate for the Party for Animals, and Korteweg’s wife is its leader.
But the country is also ground zero for factory farming in Europe.
“No country in the world has as much livestock as Holland: 500 million chickens and 12 million pigs,” says Koffeman. “We are the milkman and the butcher for Europe. And the impact of the animal disease crisis in Holland was very big.”
In a 10-year period, swine fever, foot and mouth, avian flu and Q fever, a bacterial infection, resulted in millions of animals being culled.
Koffeman suggests this is why “more than 80 per cent of [Dutch] people now don’t eat meat every day”.
You can read the whole story in The Independent.