Article by Joanna Sarah-Freedman
“We don’t like to say fake meat, it’s new meat.”
That’s what Simon Owen, the UK head of Redefine Meat, tells us just hours before we’re set to try their most buzzed-about product for the first time.
It might sound like marketing jargon, but Redefine Meat is undeniably approaching the art of artificial meat in a novel way that UK consumers aren’t used to.
Their vegan steaks were born via 3D printing, and now, as they’re readying to land on supermarket shelves, are produced using the same technology sans the printer. This means dissecting the properties that make up a traditional cut of beef into three components – blood, fat and muscle – then melding them together to create a product promising to be more true to life than we’ve ever seen before.
We know what you’re thinking… it might not sound like every vegan’s cup of tea, to put it lightly. But there is certainly demand for hyper-realistic meat, not only amongst those who eat plant-based, but also veggies and flexitarians who want to cut out meat products for health, environmental, or animal welfare arguments, but still miss a steak dinner.
You can see this in the surge of customers at Le Petit Beefbar in Chelsea this month. Redefine Meat steaks saw weekly sales rise from one percent to almost 50 percent, showing that people are certainly intrigued and open to making the swap, even if Veganuary gave them the push to do so.
Simon makes no secret that it is these people they’re trying to target.
“There is a real desire, I think, for people to reduce their meat intake,” he says. “The latest Cantar evidence says that 31 percent of people in the UK said they were looking to [cut] their meat consumption, and I think that is a trend that's just going to continue to grow.”
But will that translate into supermarket sales? As Redefine Meat ready themselves to launch their bleeding ‘steaks’ on Ocado this spring, our editor, Joanna, ventured to try the product, and see if it’s worth adding to your weekly shop.
Twisted Tries Redefine Meat vegan steak
The first thing you should know about me is I’m a lifelong veggie, which means I’ve never actually had a steak in my life. Naturally, then, I don’t often frequent steakhouses, for fear of ending up with a sad-looking stuffed mushroom whilst my companion is presented with a full, meaty feast.
It’s for that reason that visiting Le Petit Beefbar was a rather big deal for me. Redefine Meat offered me the opportunity to go somewhere traditionally ‘meaty’ and order the same dish as anybody else – or at least an imitation of it. For that, I have to give them props.
There’s an important distinction between the novelty of eating vegan steak in a restaurant and making one at home, though. Was this a one-off experience, or would it invoke enough of a craving that I’d consider buying it from the supermarket, instead of my regular go-tos? Only time would tell…
Redefine Meat’s steaks have been in a variety of UK restaurants since late 2021, also notably appearing on menus across Michelin-starred chef Marco Pierre White’s steakhouses, so I could rest assured they were a pretty good meat replacement.
The thing is, there are so many of those about now. I knew I needed something more, especially if the protein was going to be the star of the plate, like a proper steak should rightly be.
Redefine Meat claims that’s where its products come out trumps – emulating not only a vague texture of meat, like some of their competitors, but the look, taste, and mouthfeel, too, they combine various proteins, like pea and soy, with ingredients like beetroot and coconut fat to get their final product.
You can watch a video on how they do that below:
The question is, can science really create ‘new meat’ that’s as good as the original?
To make this review as fair as possible, I brought along my friend Daniela, who eats meat, but is open to the idea of making plant-based swaps.
I was keen to see what she’d make of Redefine Meat, as part of the main demographic the brand is aiming to target. Plus, crucially, I also needed her to verify whether the product actually tasted like the real thing.
So, let’s get into it.
The verdict on Redefine Meat vegan steak
When the vegan steak landed on the table, the first thing we noticed is how similar it looked to the real thing, save for the slightly more uniform slabs it came in – you know, as a result of having not been carved from a chunk of meat.
Nine slices of ‘new meat’ were placed in front of each of us on metal trays, and then a herby, buttery ‘Beefbar sauce’ was poured on top (in this case, made using vegan butter, of course).
The Redefine Meat steak came in uniform slabs (Credit: Joanna Freedman)
Traditional meat replacements often make a habit of looking like caricatures of the produce they’re trying to emulate, rather than the real thing.
And whilst these definitely looked more fine-tuned than your typical, grainy steak slices, you could pointedly see the texture of the ‘muscular’ protein, which was immediately impressive. It bounced like flesh as you stabbed it with your fork, and was even tinged red, to emulate the blood – or more specifically the myoglobin, which is the blood-like liquid that seeps from meat when you carve it.
Curious, and a little intimidated, truth be told, I proceeded to break apart a slice of the ‘new meat’, and fibres of the protein clung together, like you’d expect with a real steak.
The plant-based steak had a *very* convincing texture (Credit: Joanna Freedman)
It’s true what they say – you eat with your eyes, and Redefine Meat’s unique approach to crafting their products definitely comes across here. Such a realistic textual integrity was something I’d never seen from a meat replacement before, and you could tell that as much effort had gone into the aesthetic as it had the actual bite.
Before we go any further, the mouthfeel is worth talking about, too. As someone who has never eaten meat before, the seared exterior chewed down into something that had pull and give, quite unlike anything I’d consumed. This was something Daniela noted was “satisfying,” and very similar to actual steak. So far, so good.
As for the taste itself? That’s when I really had to lean on her expertise.
To my untrained palate, it tasted pretty similar to other meat alternatives I’d tried. I wasn’t being bowled away by anything new. Although, that might have been indicative of how good meat replacements are these days.
“I would say it does still taste like fake meat,” my meat-eating companion agreed, however, we both noted it was probably a bit better than your average supermarket buy (sorry, Linda McCartney!).
A close up of the meat before it was slathered in sauce (Credit: Joanna Freedman)
It was fatty and salty, and there was a definite rich, savouriness to it, which I could only describe as beefy. However, Daniela claimed it ultimately lacked the complexity needed to frame itself as like-for-like.
You can see we are judging this strictly here, and that’s because Redefine Meat (rightly) claims to be different.
On meaty flavours alone, it has to be said that this product didn’t blow competitors out of the park, but taste is about the whole experience, and this product’s aesthetic, texture and mouthfeel undoubtedly gives it an edge over anything else that’s for sale right now.
So, would we buy Redefine Meat steak in the supermarket?
Occasionally, if I was having friends round for dinner, or wanted to get experimental in the kitchen, I can definitely see myself reaching for a Redefine Meat steak (certainly more so than other meat replacements about).
However, the truth of the matter is that whilst I truly enjoyed my vegan steakhouse visit, personally, as a lifelong vegetarian, I can’t say I crave meat replacements when I’m cooking at home.
Daniela agrees. “As a flexi, I would probably opt for more veggie stuff on the days I’m not eating meat, as opposed to meat alternatives,” she says.
The vegan steak is in lots of restaurants including Club Mexicana at present (Credit: Club Mexicana/ Redefine Meat)
However, it’s a really personal choice, and I’m well aware there are many who do want a ‘meatier’ alternative.
Food creator Giuseppe Federici, who goes by Sepps online and has been plant-based almost eight years, has also tried the Redefine Meat steak at Le Petit Beefbar, and tells me he’ll certainly be one of their consumers when it launches in stores.
“I’ve tried the Redefine Meat steak a few times now, and I genuinely think it’s one of the best vegan steaks on the market,” he says. “[The chew is] not too intense, but it has an animal texture, and it’s got a nice meaty taste, but isn’t too overpowering.
“I would definitely buy it, especially if I was trying to impress meat eaters, or if I really fancied something meaty.”
He’s not alone either. Simon tells me that those who have tried the ‘new meat’ at food festivals and restaurants have pleaded for it to land in retail, and their next move comes, in part, as a result of customer demand.
The steaks will soon be available from supermarkets (Credit: Getty)
Indeed, Statista notes that the meat replacement market is projected to grow over 10 percent in the next four years, and research shows that over half of those who do consume meat substitutes do so as often as once a week.
“People know it's better for the planet, people know it's better for the animal and people know that they should be doing it from a health perspective,” Redefine Meat’s Simon tells me, citing the fact that their plant-based steak notably boasts zero cholesterol, compared to its meaty counterpart.
“I think if you can have a product that tastes brilliant, then that's where we can really move the bar in terms of the amount of people that are willing to reduce their animal meat consumption and move into a plant-based, ‘new meat’ consumption.
“The more people that we can convert to a flexitarian diet [in this way], the better.”
I have to agree with him there.
You can currently buy a whole load of other Redefine Meat 'new meat' on Ocado, with the steak launching later this year.
Featured image: Redefine Meat/ Joanna Freedman