Eating less meat? Meatless butchers to mushroom burgers can help

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Oyster mushrooms are pictured on a substrate bloc in the "Bunker Comestible" (the "edible bunker") in Strasbourg, eastern France, in this February 21, 2018 photo. (AFP)
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Oyster mushrooms are pictured on a substrate bloc in the "Bunker Comestible" (the "edible bunker") in Strasbourg, eastern France, in this February 21, 2018 photo. (AFP)
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Oyster mushrooms are pictured on a substrate bloc in the "Bunker Comestible" (the "edible bunker") in Strasbourg, eastern France, in this February 21, 2018 photo. (AFP)
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Employee, Raphael Manet checks the growth of Oyster mushrooms in the "Bunker Comestible" (the "edible bunker") in Strasbourg, eastern France, in this February 21, 2018 photo. (AFP)
Updated 05 March 2018

Eating less meat? Meatless butchers to mushroom burgers can help

ROME: From juicy chicken chunks and sausage rolls to bacon and tuna, Dutch butcher Jaap Korteweg offers it all. But there’s a twist: None of the goods on display at his shop in The Hague are made from meat.
Korteweg, a ninth generation farmer, became a vegetarian out of concerns about animal welfare after millions of pigs were slaughtered to contain swine fever in the Netherlands in 1997.
But he missed the taste and texture of meat so much that he got together with scientists and chefs to create plant substitutes that capture both.
The reason there are relatively few vegetarians in many parts of the world “is not that people want to eat less sustainably, less healthily and don’t care about animal welfare, but because they are hooked on meat,” Korteweg told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Rearing animals is a major driver of climate change — making up nearly 15 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions — and raising meat makes less efficient use of land and water than growing crops, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.
While governments and scientists are looking at ways to cut back on emissions from animal farming, many experts say cutting demand for meat — particularly in wealthy countries — is what would make a big difference in combatting climate change.

Cutting back doesn’t necessarily mean giving up meat, seen as tastier than a plate of vegetables, researchers say.
If all hamburgers eaten in the United States could be made of a blend of 70 percent beef and 30 percent mushrooms, for instance, it would save as many emissions as taking 2.3 million cars off the road, according to research by the World Resources Institute (WRI).
It would also save water equivalent to that used in 2.6 million American homes, and reduce the agricultural land needed to produce the burgers by an area larger than the US state of Maryland, or the size of the nation of Belgium, WRI said.
“Because of the umami taste and extra moisture of mushrooms, you can end up with a better tasting burger — and it’s healthier,” said Daniel Vennard, director of the Better Buying Lab at WRI.
The part-mushroom burgers, pioneered in the United States, where WRI esimates about 10 billion burgers are eaten each year, are now available to buy in supermarkets, and are served in some schools and office canteens as well.
On Monday, the burgers will also launch at SONIC drive-in fast-food chains around the United States. The restaurant said it will roll out the part-mushroom burgers in all of its restaurants.
“It’s beginning to really grow in the United States. It’s getting a lot of industry and consumer traction, and we think it has the opportunity to be a global solution,” said Vennard.
Eating too much meat has been linked to obesity, heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers, pushing some governments, including China, to encourage people to cut back.
But labelling foods as “vegetarian” or “healthy” can put off shoppers and people in restaurants, some researchers say.
Linda Bacon, a behavioral scientist and former global strategy director at Mars, Inc, has studied how people’s choices in a restaurant depend on where vegetarian dishes are placed on a menu.
She found that when pea risotto and ricotta and spinach ravioli were clustered at the end of the menu under the heading “Vegetarian dishes,” people were 56 percent less likely to order them than if they were listed as the first and last dish on a unified menu — one that also included king prawns, fish and chips, steak, and hamburgers.
“This and other similar research shows that restaurateurs can influence their customers to eat more vegetables and less meat,” she wrote in a blog post. “All they need to do is change the design of the menu.”

Using decadent-sounding descriptions also boosts sales of vegetable dishes, according to researchers at Stanford University.
When the university canteen used labels like “sweet sizzlin’ green beans and crispy shallots,” “zesty ginger-turmeric sweet potatoes” and “rich buttery roasted sweet corn,” they sold significantly more than if the same dishes were given health-promoting labels, or simply called beans or sweet potatoes.
Meanwhile, Korteweg, the Dutch producer of vegetable-based chicken and bacon, now is selling his products across Europe, and in Israel and South Korea.
In Britain and the Netherlands almost all are sold by supermarkets, which are also beginning to use them in ready-made meals and salads.
His first client was a butcher near Rotterdam. “He tasted our products and said, ‘It isn’t necessary for me to use meat. I just want to use tasty products’,” Korteweg said.
The “meats” are made from wheat, beans, peas, soya and other plant-based proteins, which are fed into a machine that helps give them a meat-like texture. Natural flavours are added to create the taste.
“My dream is that in 20 or 30 years’ time we won’t need animals anymore, and we will feed wheat and peas not to animals but to machines that can produce very tasty meat products in a sustainable, healthy and more intelligent way,” he said.

A wellness interlude

The relaxation room at the Pearl Spa. (All images supplied)
Updated 20 September 2018

A wellness interlude

  • The Pearl Spa offers holistic wellness experiences
  • It is themed around the region's pearling heritage

DUBAI: Few things can give you that instant holiday feeling as much as a spa treat. Of course, it helps if it’s within the tranquil beachside setting of the luxe-Arabesque Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach. Walking into its sun-drenched lobby bedecked with fresh floral arrangements puts you into relax mode, with the dial being cranked up higher as soon as you enter Pearl Spa.

Themed around the region’s pearling heritage, the spa doesn’t just nod to the gem in its name but also references it in the opulent yet understated design with mother-of-pearl inlays and pearly finishes throughout.

And if the spa’s decor is impressive, the couples’ suite will wow even the most jaded. A proper hotel-suite sized affair, it has a generous living area with sofas, an outdoor courtyard with a bubbling fountain providing the perfect backdrop, and separate treatment rooms and bathrooms. Once holed up in here, anyone could be forgiven for not trying out the rest of the wet facilities, which include a steam room, sauna, Jacuzzi and a sensory shower.

However, a spa is only as good as its therapists, and in this case they are among the best in town. The signature massage, a 90-minute therapy, combines a variety of strokes and pressures, together with regionally inspired oud, rose and frankincense oil to make for a truly indulgent experience.

The treatment protocol is merely prescriptive, however, as the therapists really take it upon themselves to fix whatever is required — knots were teased out, muscle aches I didn’t know existed eased away, and tensions soothed as the masseuse kneaded, pummeled and stretched, hopping on to the table to maximize the impact of the massage.

I waddled out in an utterly relaxed state, making a mental note that this is one of the best massages anyone can have in Dubai, bar none (and I have tried most).

At the end, herbal teas are served in the private lounge as you are left to ease yourself back into the real world at your own relaxed pace. The quintessentially Four Seasons touch of thoughtfulness punctuates the whole experience, whether it’s in the beauty gear provided in the ladies’ dressing room, or the nuts and dried fruit snacks accompanying the post-treatment snack.

When you combine a superlative treatment such as this with a spa lunch, then it can turn a dusty urban afternoon into a complete retreat like little else can.

Offering a holistic wellness experience, their new spa menu features light and nutritious yet delicious gourmet dishes: Marinated tuna carpaccio with seaweed and cucumber yuzu dressing and sunflower seeds; avocado and Boston lettuce salad with shaved Parmesan and poached apple and perfectly cooked Loch-Fynn salmon with sautéed kale and asparagus; and fresh, mousse-like low-fat mango yoghurt with acai sorbet and granola crumbs. The pre-treatment lunch is usually served in the Pearl Courtyard, but during the hotter months can be taken indoors at the lobby side Shai salon.