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Leon Kaye headshot

Going Beyond Burgers, European Startup Makes the Impossible: Plant-Based Steak

By Leon Kaye

If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck, right? You could say something similar for burgers, though brands like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have done well in putting such assumptions to rest. But if it looks like a steak, sizzles like a steak and is marbled like a steak, it’s got to be beef from a cow, doesn't it? Well, not any longer, says one startup out of Slovenia that has just brought to market a plant-based filet mignon.

No, Juicy Marbles isn’t the name of a video game that should be vetted to gauge whether it’s appropriate for kids or adults. It’s a legit company out of Slovenia that recently rolled out what its founders say is the world’s first plant-based steak. 

The company’s work has resulted in a product that very closely mimics the texture and marbling of a cut of beef, and the company says its technology will allow it to produce these plant-based “steaks” at scale.

So, what are the base ingredients comprising what the company describes as its patent-pending “Meat-o-Matic 9000” technology? The steaks are derived from a relatively short list, which includes soy protein concentrate, wheat protein isolate, sunflower oil, beetroot powder, kappa carrageenan, methylcellulose, yeast extract, iron and vitamin B12.

As is the case with plant-based products made by brands including Gardein, Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat, a tried-and-true meat eater will be able to tell the difference. One isn’t going to be fooled into believing that they are dining on a $100 entre at the likes of Morton’s or Fleming’s. But an exact plant-based imitation isn’t the point, a Juicy Marbles representative told TriplePundit earlier this week. “Some of the founders are meat-eaters themselves, but they are aware of the impacts that the meat industry has on the planet, and they are determined to do something about it,” she said.

This plant-based filet includes ingredients like soy protein concentrate, wheat protein isolate, sunflower oil and beetroot powder
This plant-based filet includes ingredients like soy protein concentrate, wheat protein isolate, sunflower oil and beetroot powder

The company cites statistics that have been behind its mission, such as estimates that beef production alone uses almost 60 percent of all agricultural land on the planet but provides less than 2 percent of calories consumed across the globe. Further, about 2 billion people struggle daily with food insecurity as a result of systemic inequalities across the world’s food production systems — a number that increased during the pandemic.

Further, critics of the global meat industry have long decried its ties to deforestation worldwide, which certainly applies to Juicy Marbles’ home country. While more than 60 percent of Slovenia’s land is covered in forests, the country has lost approximately 4 percent of its tree cover since the turn of the century. 

“What’s interesting about the challenge of fixing our food system is that solutions need to protect the environment and culinary traditions at the same time," Vladimir Mićković, one of Juicy Marbles’ co-founders, said in an emailed statement to 3p. "The culture around meat is beautiful and needs to be preserved, as it brings us together in celebration of life and just being together, present and alive. If we keep the culture, and just remove current means of production, we’re going to have a good time in the future." 

On that point, don’t expect that exact filet mignon mouthfeel, but if one considers replacing a cut of beef with Juicy Marbles’ plant-based cut for a recipe that usually requires shredded beef, have at it, said the company’s spokesperson.

Currently, the plant-based steaks are available online, and Juicy Marbles expects to launch in restaurants and retailers later this year. Future plans include more “cuts” such as tenderloin, ribeye and sirloin. For the company’s filet mignon, one pack of four, four-ounce steaks retails for about $40. Larger orders come with free shipping. The company’s current capacity explains the price, but within one or two years, Juicy Marbles says it could meet — and even, pardon the pun, “undercut” — the price of conventional meat. 

Consumers have responded in kind: Juicy Marbles sold out its inventory eight hours after the filets launched. The company anticipates its next shipments to drop mid-June.

Image credits via Juicy Marbles

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

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