Changing the Tide: Chinese Startups in the Plant-Based Meat Revolution
China is the world’s largest consumer of meat, including nearly half of all pork globally. In 2021 alone, the country of 1.4 billion people is expected to produce 7.05 million tons of beef and a staggering 43.75 million tons of pork, according to a recent study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Improvements in living standards and rising wages across the country in recent decades have expanded household grocery budgets, propelling China to the top of most measurements of the global meat industry. Meanwhile, shifting dietary trends and greater awareness of the role played by meat production in global warming has encouraged people around the world to cut back on their intake of animal products.
For some Chinese consumers, however, the call for reducing individual meat consumption is not a palatable subject. Earlier this year, a domestic celebrity named Gabrielle Guan sparked the ire of web users when she released promotional material for a domestic startup called Plant Plus, with many netizens turning to microblogging platform Weibo to voice their skepticism.
Also this year, Time magazine published an article entitled “How China Could Change the World by Taking Meat Off the Menu,” eliciting a response from the state-backed Global Times. In the rebuttal, the author accuses Time of perpetuating a double standard and “[glossing] over much higher levels of Western meat consumption,” when measured on a per capita basis.
It’s a daunting task, but a growing cohort of domestic startups in the meat-loving country, along with a few foreign firms, are on a mission to reverse the trend.