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CES 2020

'Impossible Pork' unveiled with China as high-priority market

US maker of meat substitutes touts way for Beijing to cut imports

Pig-free dumplings are on display at CES 2020. (Photo by Yifan Yu)

LAS VEGAS, U.S. -- Pork dan dan noodles and dumplings are not unusual fare at an Asian restaurant here, but seeing those dishes made without using pigs is startling.

The plant-based pork substitute serves as the latest creation by Silicon Valley-based company Impossible Foods. The company looks to offer the product outside the U.S. soon -- especially in China, which the CEO calls a "high priority" market and the epitome of fundamental problems in the human food system.

The company develops plant-based substitutes for meat. Having debuted the Impossible Burger in 2016, the startup has unveiled its second offering: Impossible Pork. Journalists from around the globe became the first taste testers Tuesday at a media event tied to CES 2020 in Las Vegas, the world's largest digital technology show.

The company did not specify when Impossible Pork will hit the market, but said it aims to push the product in China and globally.

"China is the world's largest and fastest-growing consumer of meat, so there's no way we can achieve our mission without introducing our products into China, which is a very high priority for us," said Pat Brown, founder and CEO of Impossible Foods.

"Plant-based pork" is the latest creation by Impossible Foods, and will soon be introduced to markets outside the U.S., including China. (Photo by Yifan Yu)

The average Chinese person eats a total of 74 kg of pork, chicken or beef annually, up 30% in 15 years, turning the country into one of the world's largest meat importers. The amount of land required to produce the meat consumed in China is four times greater than the total arable land nationwide, Brown said.

Plant-based meat substitutes offer China a solution to its dependency on imports as well as to the crisis in the country's pork industry, as an outbreak of African swine fever has ripped through hog herds and roughly doubled prices during the past year.

Meat production also is a leading cause of climate change. The growing demand for pork and beef in China has accelerated environmental damage, from deforestation in the Amazon to water shortages.

"China is a very interesting case because it encapsulates a lot of the fundamental problems" in the food system, Brown said. "We're super-interested in introducing our technology in China, and it will be a great thing for Chinese consumers, the world and the Amazon."

Brown said he wants to help China obtain "a meat supply that comes entirely from Chinese farmers and is produced in food production facilities in China by Chinese workers."

But Impossible Foods has yet to disclose a timeline for entry into the country, as the company works on production and distribution details.

Another California-based maker of meat substitutes, Beyond Meat, also eyes the Chinese market. The company has partnered with Hong Kong's Green Common to sell its products on the mainland. 

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