Australian food group JAT Oppenheimer—a partnership between Jatenergy and Oppenheimer—recently launched a vegan version of Wagyu beef.
Asian Australian supermarkets currently stock the vegan Wagyu beef under the name V Meat. JAT Oppenheimer aims to increase its distribution to include major supermarket chains such as Coles and Aldi.
Wagyu beef is traditionally a luxury meat product made from one of four specific Japanese breeds of cattle. A Wagyu steak can cost up to $100 and features distinctive fat “marbling” throughout.
The tofu-based alternative has prompted further debate over the use of traditional names for animal products on vegan alternatives. According to The Daily Mail, Australian Wagyu Association‘s Chief Executive Matt McDonagh says: “Fake Wagyu is just nonsensical.”
JAT Oppenheimer’s managing director, Wilton Yao, defended the vegan alternative. He said that V Meat’s plant-based Wagyu beef had a distinctive texture and smell, similar to traditional Wagyu. It incorporates ingredients such as soy, wheat, and pea proteins, primarily sourced within Australia.
Many Australian farmers want a ban on meat-related words used to advertise vegan products. These include “milk,” “seafood,” and “meat.” However, the Australian agricultural sector could lose up to $3.2 billion by 2030 if it fails to meet changing consumer attitudes to animal welfare.
JAT Oppenheimer established the V Meat brand in 2019 as part of a strategy to capitalize on increasing demand for plant-based and alternative proteins in Asia. Western plant-based meat brands including Cargill and Beyond Meat have also recently expanded into the Asian market.
According to market research company Euromonitor, China’s “free-from meat” market value could reach $12 billion by 2023.
JUST Wagyu Beef
JAT Oppenheimer is not the first company to explore alternatives to traditional Wagyu beef. In 2018, California-based food tech company JUST announced its intention to develop clean, cultured meat from Toriyama cattle cell lines.
“For decades, the Toriyama family has paired science and skill with a passion for achieving a superior flavor for all the meat they produce,” said Josh Tetrick, co-founder and CEO of JUST, in a statement.
“Precious few have had the chance to experience umami Wagyu,” he continued. “And we hope this partnership allows more restaurants to share Toriyama beef and its story in a new, exciting way.”
Cultured meat is produced in a lab using animal cells. It is traditional meat without the significant carbon footprint of animal agriculture. It can also bypass animal slaughter, but not animal-based ingredients. JUST Egg distributor Awano aims to market the clean protein to high-end restaurants.
Tetrick continued, “I’m thankful that Toriyama has entrusted our team with this project and we are fortunate to have a highly regarded distribution partner like Awano to help us bring this special meat to the world.”