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The Future of Meat: David Yeung on Eating Plant-Based For Positive Change

"It is greener, healthier, and more humane – a win-win for people, animals and the planet." Ahead of the launch of Green Common in Singapore, we speak to David Yeung, founder of Green Monday and environmental advocate, on the future of plant-based meat and easing into a plant-based lifestyle.
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It’s the start of a new year, and for many of us, that calls for resolutions. If one of them is to cut back on meat this year, well, you’re in luck. While traditional meat may well and truly be the main source of protein (for now), alternative and plant-based meat has seen a steady rise over the years. Once seen as bland and undesirable, today’s plant-based meats come with a host of delicious offerings to pick from, finding its way into menus, local supermarkets, and onto our dining plates.

The rise comes in large part to the general increase in health and environmental concerns as well as animal welfare amongst the public. Matter fact, this demand is only projected to rise further - earlier in 2019, McKinsey estimated that the global market for alternative protein has risen to about US$2.2 billion, against a global meat market of US$1.7 trillion. 

A recent, significant entrant is the OmniMeat Luncheon, a cruelty-free, non-GMO alternative to our beloved luncheon meat, packed with all the flavour and less guilt - yes, really. Yet another thing to look forward to? Green Common, a hugely popular plant-based concept store and cafe from Hong Kong, launching in Singapore January 19, for a host of Asian-inspired plant-based dishes and a wide variety of plant-based international brands.

These green initiatives were brought in by the Green Monday Group, a Hong Kong-based social enterprise co-founded by David Yeung to address sustainability. Named Social Entrepreneur of the Year by the World Economic Forum and Schwab Foundation in 2018, Yeung is an environmental advocate who has also been a vegan for more than 20 years.

Ahead, we speak to him on tips on easing into a plant-based lifestyle, common misconceptions about plant-based meats, and its future in Singapore’s F&B scene.

Why is a meat-free lifestyle all the more important in the context of 2021? 

The widespread impact of the pandemic last year has caused people around the world to become more educated about food and sustainability. We are fast beginning to realize how fragile and  risky our current food supply chain has become, and that animal factory farming is simply not sustainable with our growing population. COVID-19 has become an unexpected catalyst in terms of  shifting people away from traditional meat and dairy. In 2021, I believe consumers will be increasingly  drawn to the benefits of meat-free lifestyle; it is greener, healthier, and more humane – a win-win-win for people, animals and the planet. 

 

What are some common misconceptions about plant-based meats that you’d like to dispel? 

There are a lot of misconceptions about plant-based meats. People wonder if they taste good, if they are nutritious enough or how much healthier are these alternatives compared to real meat.  

The quality of plant-based meat has evolved tremendously over the last few years. Most meat eaters that I meet are pleasantly surprised by the variety, quality and taste of plant-based choices today versus 10 or 20 years ago. There is a longstanding myth that vegetarians or vegans do not get enough protein in their diet but this is completely not the case nowadays; a vast majority of plant-based  products are loaded with all of your necessary nutrients. And, if you ask me exactly how much healthier  are these plant-based alternatives compared to real meat, I would take this opportunity to remind you that meat nowadays is laden with hormones and antibiotics, as well as is high in fat and cholesterol,  which are directly linked to cancer, heart disease and countless other health complications.  

Through our food tech innovations and a grassroots education approach, Green Monday is trying to change these common misconceptions about the plant-based diet and encourage people to make a conscious decision to live more sustainably and eat kinder for themselves and for the environment.  

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Asian-inspired dishes using OmniMeat, available at Green Common. Image: Courtesy

You have been vegan for more than 20 years now. How did your own plant-based journey come about? Was there a trigger, and what keeps you so strongly committed to this lifestyle  today? 

In 2006, the United Nations released a report on the shocking negative impact of the meat  industry on the environment; that year, Al Gore also released his “An Inconvenient Truth”  documentary. A vegetarian at the time, I thought people must know the disastrous consequences of  unsustainable animal farming, not only on the planet but the collective survival of humanity. Yet, back in those days, awareness of the correlation between sustainability and food, particularly meat consumption, was almost non-existent. So, in 2012, I just said to myself this could not wait any longer and decided to kick off Green Monday, a mission-driven venture and a plant-based movement. Over  these eight years, we have expanded to offices and advocates across Asia, the UK and USA, and created and continue to innovate revolutionary products such as OmniMeat that both educate and provide practical solutions to sustainable living. 

 

Going completely vegan can seem quite daunting for regular meat eaters. Advice for people who are considering a vegan lifestyle/diet this New Year? 

It all starts with one meal! The reality is that many people are not ready to become fully vegetarian or vegan. That’s why we advocate a ‘flexitarian’ diet at Green Monday and encourage people to gradually go plant-based, whether it’s one day a week (the reason why we coined our name)  or just generally making a more conscious decision to limit your overall meat consumption. We can’t set the bar too high by demanding everyone converts to the vegan lifestyle overnight to save the world;  such a dramatic change in lifestyle is usually hard to commit to. But, to reduce meat consumption meal-by-meal for our own health and that of the plant, that’s something that everyone can do almost  immediately. 

The plant-based diet is new way of eating that is kinder for us and for our planet – there is simply no  reason to say no! 

We can all vote our dollar and choosing plant-based over meat is to vote for a more humane, sustainable and healthier future.  

Tell us more about Green Common. What can we look forward to for Singapore’s very first  launch? 

We are opening our first Green Common in Vivo City this January. This 3,000 sq ft concept store and café will be an innovative, food hub and one-stop destination for all things plant-based. In addition to our very own OmniFoods, there will also be a wide collection of innovative brands and products from  all around the world, including Beyond Meat, JUST and Alpha. Green Common will showcase some of  our most popular menu items from Green Common Hong Kong and also introduce new plant-based dishes catered to Southeast Asian tastebuds.  

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Image: Courtesy

What sets OmniMeat apart from other alternative meat sources? 

OmniMeat is the first plant-based “pork” that is highly versatile and caters to the growing  demand of Asian plant-based cuisine without compromising on taste and texture. It is made up of a  proprietary blend of plant protein from pea, non-GM soy, shiitake mushroom and rice that fulfill nutritional needs, contains 0mg cholesterol and is antibiotic-free, hormone-free and cruelty-free.  Compared to traditional meat, the fibrous OmniMeat is 86% lower in saturated fat, 66% lower in  calories, 260% higher in calcium and 127% higher in iron. 

At the end of the day, we are trying to shift people away from eating meat and dairy. Consumers need  options and I’m thrilled by the milestones the plant-based industry has made in innovating and  introducing alternative meat sources to the market. Sustainable living has never been more accessible  to the everyday person. 

 

What are some of your favourite recipes or dishes with OmniMeat? 

I have an endless appetite for dumplings and dim sum, both of which I am able to indulge in  using our highly versatile OmniMeat mince. Over the years, there is one dish I have always craved – luncheon meat. A sinfully delicious and very unhealthy food that I can now enjoy guilt-free with the new OmniMeat Luncheon!

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OmniEat, a range of ready-made vegan meals, now available at Green Common

What do you envision the future of plant-based meat to be like, especially within the context of Asia and Singapore?

Despite growing consumer awareness of food sustainability problem, most Asian countries and cities are still lagging behind in providing practical solutions when compared to vegetarian-friendly  cities such as LA, London and New York. I am a huge believer that food must be localized and that  developing meat-free ingredients that allows us to maintain our cultural heritage and enjoy beloved  recipes that we have been eating all our lives will be instrumental in motivating Asian consumers to become more plant-based. By opening the Green Common in Singapore, we hope to provide the much needed one-stop hub that offers a wide variety of plant-based options to make sustainable living more  accessible for all. 

 

Green Common is located at VivoCity, 1 HarbourFront Walk, #01-169/170, Singapore 098585, open daily from 10.00am – 10.00pm.

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