Plant-based pork ribs with a twist – edible vegan bones – will soon make their debut on diners’ plates, a vegan food company has announced.

The idea of the edible bones, produced by Juicy Marbles, began with the manufacturer wanting the bones to be compostable, but then realising they could also be eaten. The first products will be available from the end of August in the UK, EU and US.

The price has yet to be set and the company will gather customer feedback from the first batches to tweak the product’s recipe, name and packaging before the full launch. The cost will be higher than regular ribs, which are generally a cheap meat product.

Makers of plant-based meat are continuing to innovate, but some big companies in the sector have had a slump in sales as the cost of living crisis pushes shoppers towards cheaper regular meat.

Cutting traditional meat consumption in rich nations, where people already eat more red meat than is healthy, is vital to tackling the climate crisis. Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture are dominated by those from livestock, particularly cattle, which make up 15% of all global emissions.

Plants cause far lower emissions. Cutting meat and dairy consumption also slashes pollution, and land and water use, with scientists saying it is the single biggest way for people to reduce their impact on the planet.

“To some, bones from plants may be an ideological provocation, but we shouldn’t take these things too seriously,” said Vladimir Mićković, co-founder of Juicy Marbles, which is based in Slovenia. “It’s just fun. Bones invite you to eat with your hands and share [food] with the whole table.”

“There is a culture of celebration, sharing, and belonging around meat [and] anyone cutting down on meat can feel excluded from cultural traditions,” he said. “That’s why we chose ribs as our next product.” The company started selling a marbled plant-based steak and a tenderloin in 2022.

The bones, which have the same amount of protein as beef jerky, need to be baked or fried to produce a crispy snack, after the plant-based meat has been eaten. “We started off just by not wanting the bones to be garbage,” Mićković said. “My hope is that we can also infuse the bones with flavour, so you could also cook them in a broth. The most important thing is that we see how people react.”

The first batch of the soya-based ribs will go on sale in late August. “We want to gather as much feedback as possible because friends and family can only take you so far with honest criticism.” The ribs would be on general sale in early 2024, he said.

Earlier in August, the vegan burger pioneers Beyond Meat reported sales had fallen by almost a third, with its stock market 90% down on its 2019 peak. Vegan specialists such as Meatless Farm and Plant & Bean in the UK went bust earlier this year.

The cost of regular meat does not reflect its environmental impact and many plant-based meat companies are still scaling up production and reducing their costs. But as well as the price factor, Mićković said the sector had had lots of “copycat brands” trying to take market share without a focus on quality.

“The stock market performance of one company does not make the category viable or not, and nor does a couple of plant-based companies dying,” said Mićković. “Business is hard and companies, including meat and dairy, die. Our sales are only going up, although we are a new company.”

Other meat alternatives are continuing to expand. The Israeli company Aleph Farms recently submitted an application for sales approval to the UK’s food regulator for its steak, cultivated by growing real meat cells in vats. It was the first such application in Europe and followed approval of two cultivated chicken products in the US in June. The Czech company Mewery unveiled a burger made from cultivated pork in June.

Meat and dairy production uses 83% of farmland around the world and causes 60% of agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions, but provides only 18% of calories and 37% of protein. A 2022 report from the Boston Consulting Group said plant-based meat was by far the most effective climate investment.

Original source: https://www.theguardian.com