Peas pass the chicken

As demand for sustainable protein soars, Swiss start-up Planted develops a plant-based chicken substitute made from peas – with both the texture and taste of poultry.

Lukas Böni, who studied food sciences at ETH Zurich, and his two colleagues Pascal Bieri and Eric Stirnemann feel it’s high time to provide a local alternative to cheap meat from intensive livestock farming. They are the first Swiss start-up to study purely plant-based meat.

“We know how to do it, and we have the technology to do it”, he says with conviction. The three began crafting a plant-based meat imitation over one and a half years ago, and have been operating as the start-up Planted since early 2019 in a pilot plant at ETH Zurich. “Ecological rather than ideological imperatives are what motivate us”, he asserts.

Planted not butchered

Meat production generates around 18 percent of global greenhouse gases, requires large amounts of land and fodder, entails excessive use of fertilisers, and leads to resistance to antibiotics. Soy protein isn´t ideal either, as it comes with the cost of clearing rainforest. “This is why we want to offer consumers an environmentally friendly and animal-friendly substitute. A product that satisfies the cultural dimension of meat eating too, by tasting just as good,” says Böni.

Their plant-based chicken made from pea protein comes amazingly close to the real thing in appearance, texture and taste. “We’re set on offering an eating experience without any compromise,” says Böni. And their product should be more ecological, more animal-friendly and cheaper in the long term than chicken meat, too. “We’ve already met the first two criteria, but it’s not yet cheaper,” he admits.

Positive feedback

Compared to normal chicken meat, Planted saves a good two-thirds of greenhouse gases and land-use, and requires about half as much energy. “What’s more, our meat contains neither cholesterol, hormones nor antibiotics. And no animals suffer,” Böni adds.

The initial feedback has been very positive. The fledgling company’s chicken is aimed primarily at flexitarians – people who eat meat but want to cut down on it and therefore often chose a plant-based meal. Böni identifies a growing social interest; an ecological re-thinking is underway.

Planted currently supplies around ten selected restaurants in Zurich, Lucerne and Geneva, whose locations can be found on their website. The founders want consumers to experience their product as a fine dish, and are working together with the catering business to keep pushing up the number of establishments serving their planted.chicken.

More products in the pipeline

If sales grow, the meat planters will soon have to set up their own production facilities. They already have ideas for other imitation products. With the technology at hand, it’s possible to adjust the fibre lengths of the proteins and so potentially imitate various types of animal meat – ranging from fish, to chicken to beef.

Image credit: mamzelle fçe via flickr

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