Plant-based Meat: Will it make the cut among vegans?

Amidst a rising global movement for veganism and the growing significance of plant-based foods, the debate on vegan meat assumes a crucial place. With several countries across the world working on lab-grown meat, India too has now joined the race. The Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad and National Research Centre on Meat (NRCM) will now be working a Rs. 4.5-crore project on developing clean meat which is “nutritionally equivalent to conventional animal meat and it tastes, smells, looks and feels the same,” say scientists. 
This project is a follow-up on the decision taken at the Future of Protein and Food Technology Revolution Summit in 2018, being spearheaded by Union Minister Maneka Gandhi. This “Ahimsa Meat” could be an attractive option for folks who are not quite ready to eat solely whole food plant-based diet. According to Deepika, owner of vegan store, Plantarium, a large group of people visiting their store for vegan meat are non-vegetarians. “Though they are conditioned to the taste of animal meat since childhood, they want to reduce animal harm and hence, are willing to try vegan meat to make it less harmful for the environment,” she reveals. 
Reflecting on vegan meat versus plant-based meat, Yeshwanth M, a filmmaker who has worked as the director of post production for a documentary feature “Slice of Life,” says plant-based meat is different from vegan or ahimsa meat. “While the term ‘meat’ might lure people into trying vegan options for meat, there’s a dire need to educate people about a whole food plant-based diet and its efficiency in reducing carbon footprint and ecological balance,” he opines, adding that “lab-grown meat is GMO. So, how healthy would that be for us is something we ought to know.”
In lab-grown meat or clean meat, there are no antibiotics which are given to animals (like the meat we consume) and it is cleaner, highly nutritious and a healthier option, says Dr. Brinda Poojary, a vegan activist. She believes that Ahimsa meat will make it easy for those willing to transition to vegan options as the word “ahimsa” will connect directly with people as it doesn’t involve animal harm. From a business perspective, Deepika adds, that “ahimsa or vegan meat” generates curiosity from people because they have known only animal meat all their life. “We get asked about how can meat be vegan. So, it is also an opportunity for us to create awareness and educate people about veganism,” she explains.
But, some vegans believe that selling a vegan product by using the word ‘meat’ might not help people alter their meat-eating instincts. “Ahimsa meat might sell for hardcore meat eaters who are otherwise religious or humanitarian, in terms of animal harm. Overcoming the desire to eat meat is the key I guess. Coming up with a better name and introducing it as a new form of healthy and ecologically efficient food might be a better choice,” believes Yeshwanth. 
Satya Ch, copywriter at Radio Mirchi, who is transitioning from a vegetarian to a vegan says that it has been challenging for him as he is used to dairy products but is getting used to plant-based foods gradually. “I wouldn’t try even lab-grown meat because I have been a vegetarian all my life. But, I’m being careful about my food choices now and learning more about them to contribute my bit to a sustainable future.”

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