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“If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.”
In 2010, Sir. Paul McCartney lent his face and this famous quote to a PETA film that took viewers behind the opaque walls of slaughterhouses and factory farms.
Although one of the most well-known quotes in the animal rights movement, it took the team behind Planted Foods—a Swiss food tech company dedicated to ending animal suffering through tasty plant-based alternatives to meat—to run with the idea.
Convinced the food industry needed to be more transparent about ingredients and processes, Planted made this literal by building an enormous glasshouse around their production in the heart of their Switzerland-based factory.
“We built our production under a greenhouse with glass walls and glass ceiling because we want to be transparent in the way we make meat today,” said Planted’s Co-Founder Pascal Bieri. “Unlike the animal meat industry, we have nothing to hide.”
Open, airy, and entirely transparent, the factory and ethos is a sharp contrast to the efforts of meat manufacturers to hide the horrors of their production processes from consumers.
As Planted goes from strength to strength, the team invites everyone to visit their glass-walled factory to take a closer look at what they do.
Beginnings and success
While working in the USA in 2017, Bieri became excited by the potential of plant-based meat replacement products coming to market and saw an opportunity to challenge the status quo of the animal meat industry.
Initially collaborating with his cousin Lukas Böni who was completing a doctorate in food process engineering, financial specialist Christoph Jenny and Lukas’ fellow Ph.D. student Eric Stirnemann later rounded off the founding team of Planted Foods.
United by a love of food, environment, and science, the co-founders spent 2018 deep in research and development at Lukas’ research university, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich.
Their goal was clear from the beginning: create plant-based options that could win over carnivores and vegans alike with clean, 100 percent natural ingredients and transparent processes.
In 2019, Planted received a Pioneer Fellowship, awarding access to infrastructure to fast-track small-scale production and create an early prototype of their first product, planted.chicken.
Fuelled by new technology and a drive to provide ecologically friendly alternatives that could satisfy the cultural desire for meat, the team was thrilled by how close their plant-based product came to replicating the taste and texture of chicken.
Off the back of their initial success, Bieri and the team founded Planted in July 2019. The same year, dozens of restaurants across Zurich, Lucerne, and Geneva put Planted’s chicken on their menus.
An injection of seven million Swiss francs powered construction of a production plant and offices in Kemptthal, Switzerland, and in 2020 Planted launched at one of Switzerland’s largest retail and wholesale companies.
Bieri believes the rise of Planted Foods is thanks to strict adherence to four core principles—natural ingredients, animal welfare, taste, and sustainability—nurtured by a team with complementary skill sets and a drive to change the world for the better.
Recently winning the top prize at the TOP 100 Swiss Startup annual awards2, Planted employs over 140 people and welcomes scores of consumers, schools, and groups to their production facility every month.
Planted is now available at restaurants and retailers across Germany, Austria, France, and Switzerland.
In the UK, products are available from the Planted webshop, and the company is rolling out its products at a range of venues, including the Elite family of pubs in Kent and Sussex.
In October, Planted received the Best Artificial Chicken Product award at the Plant-Based World Europe Expo in London.
“We’re super-excited about our launch into the UK market; consumer feedback has been fantastic,” Bieri enthused, “and winning the Award at the Expo makes our whole team proud too. We know that we’re on the right track and developing great-tasting products.”
The big idea
Seeking no less than to revolutionize how meat is perceived and consumed globally, Planted is set on initiating a fundamental rethink about the food we eat.
Aware that the need for action to reduce the devastating consequences of animal farming on the environment and the animals themselves is immediate, Co-Founder Bieri believes the solution is breathtakingly simple: skip the animal.
Instead of pouring resources and energy into animals slaughtered to access the proteins in their bodies, Planted leaves the animal out entirely.
The Planted way spares animal suffering while massively reducing water and land consumption and the emission of greenhouse gases3, using science to create sustainable, genuinely humane meat from plants.
While the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26 received heavy criticism4 for failing to tackle the severe impact of meat and dairy on the environment in plans to transform agriculture, Planted has been addressing this through their production from the start.
Using analysis from Eaternity—an independent organization giving precise assessments for the environmental footprint of foods—Planted has established that their chicken emits 74 percent less CO2 and uses 46 percent less water than the animal version. In comparison, their pork emits 81 percent less CO2 and uses 43 percent less water.
While the founders freely admit loving the taste of meat, they work on the basis that while this traditional flavor can no longer come at any price, taste is exactly where Planted must succeed.
Coining their movement the #TastyRevolution, the self-proclaimed ‘non-conforming taste revolutionists’ seek to radically change the way people consume and perceive meat. Triggering a switch to plant-based alternatives is central to Planted’s drive to create a world in which the wellbeing of animals and the planet’s health are central to the choices we make.
Alongside water, rapeseed oil, vitamin B12, and spices, Planted makes products from 100 percent plant proteins (mainly pea—no soy is used) and plant fibers. Carefully choosing raw materials that provide the taste experience required without artificial additives, the company uses local ingredients wherever quality allows.
Aiming to help consumers manage the switch from animal to plant proteins without compromising taste or nutrition, Planted now offers pulled pork and schnitzel, as well as kebab meat that comes loaded onto skewers ready to be theatrically sheared in front of customers.
The original chicken is still available and can be grilled, deep-fried, baked, or enjoyed straight from the pack in a salad or bowl.
In 2021 the company launched its schnitzel by crafting a 119-meter long version that broke the Guinness World Record5 by 20 meters. Preparing for three months, the team cooked for over 10 hours6, used nearly 400 pounds of plant protein topped with around 130 pounds of breadcrumbs, and gave the final record-breaking schnitzel to the public for free.
A huge hit, the schnitzel is now permanently on the menu at the historic and world-famous Figlmüller restaurant in Vienna, and is served in Kipferl, a traditional Austrian restaurant in London’s Angel district.
The Planted process
Aware that traditional food approaches no longer suffice in the face of animal and climate emergencies, Planted reproduces the texture and flavor of meat with no animals involved.
The company claims to recreate the textures, tastes, appearances, and nutritional value of chicken, pork, and beef almost perfectly through their process while leaving out cholesterol, hormones, antibiotics, and animal suffering.
The main protein used is yellow pea, which boasts a complete amino acid profile and can be grown locally in Europe without additional nitrogen fertilizers.
Sunflower protein used for the pulled pork has a subtle nutty taste and gives a darker color. Oat protein complements the amino acid profile of pea protein and helps diversify the raw materials used by the company.
Planted products also contain a high proportion of vegetable fibers, providing optimal texture and acting as essential roughage for the diet.
The protein flour and vegetable fibers are mixed with rapeseed oil and water to form a dough that is kneaded, heated, and pressed through a die in a process called ‘high moisture extrusion.’
Proteins arrange themselves in meat-fiber-like structures and solidify, and the team can tweak the end product to create a wide variety of different ‘meats.’ The products are shredded, ripped, cut to size, and marinated as needed before being packaged and distributed worldwide.
“To us, food should be tasty, sustainable, fun to eat, obviously animal-free and clean,” said Bieri. “We use only four ingredients for our chicken, and we do that with pride because it’s natural, reduces environmental impact, and, most importantly again, is very tasty.”
Science, innovation, and sustainability
Believing joint research is critical to rapidly improving the world food system, the work of Planted combines culinary and scientific knowledge with relentless innovation to develop products perfectly tailored to consumer needs.
A team of dedicated scientists studies the physical and chemical properties and interactions of raw materials, combining day-to-day learning with factory floor analytics, ongoing research, and the latest advances in process knowledge.
Planted works with suppliers and a range of academic and industrial counterparts to drive innovation forward, continuously assessing product quality to make their production process more efficient and minimize waste.
In the future, Planted aims to lead in the field of alternative proteins by using naturally occurring and unmodified bacteria, fungi, and individual cells combined with their growing process knowledge to deliver the next generation of clean, plant-based foods.
Believing in a world where producers use resources in a climate-friendly manner, the team attempts to source raw materials through a circular economy approach. For example, their pulled pork protein comes from a high-quality byproduct of sunflower oil production rich in macro-and micronutrients.
At the Swiss Kemptthal site, energy from the production process heats the building. At the same time, solar panels on the roof and a nearby hill will take over from the 100 percent renewable energy the company currently buys when the panels go live in 2022.
“We are very proud of our ingredients, the tech we use, the processes we have created and adapted, and the sustainable way we use energy in our production facility,” said Bieri.
Planted also places an enormous emphasis on workplace well-being and mental health, meaning consumers can buy their products knowing they are helping people and animals alike.
Mission and movement
As awareness of the need to protect the environment and the animals we share the planet with grows, Planted seeks to change consumer behavior, challenging entrenched ways of thinking and making the world a better place without excuses or compromise.
Planted is clear about its vision of a world where animals are respected as living beings, not commodities to be exploited at the expense of their lives and our environment.
It remains the case that animals visible to the public—dogs, cats, bulls, foxes, and the like—enjoy privileged legal protection, compared to the animals routinely hidden away to become slaughterhouse victims.
More vocal than most plant-based food companies about their direct opposition to the animal and environmental horrors7 of animal agriculture, the company is openly critical of ‘slaughter madness’ and “brutally shredded male chicks and unproductive hens.”
“Food production, especially within the protein sector, has been notoriously intransparent,” affirms Bieri. “Nobody wants to see a slaughterhouse, but other cleaner foods have not taken an interest in working on transparency about sourcing, ingredients, health, and working conditions.”
Working through Planted to end the plight of hidden animals, he believes transparency is the key to better-informed people making choices that lead to animals receiving dignity and love instead of exploitation and slaughter.
Slaughterhouses may never have glass walls, yet through the transparent production process at Planted Foods—exemplified by the symbolic glasshouse—Bieri wants to help the public make informed choices about the food they eat.
For Bieri, this is nothing less than the starting point for Planted to help change the world.
“We are solving the problem quite simply with love for animals. Those who love animals reduce or completely renounce the consumption of animal products. Fewer animal products, less slaughter, less animal suffering – it’s that simple.”
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