Jaap Korteweg (1962) has an ambitious goal: to become the biggest butcher in the world, without ever slaughtering an animal. Korteweg is a ninth-generation farmer in the Netherlands and co-founder of The Vegetarian Butcher. Large outbreaks of animal disease made him realize that radical changes are needed in our food supply. He became a vegetarian himself, but missing the taste of meat started searching for vegetable meat replacements with the bite and texture of animal meat.
‘Worldwide billions go around in the bio-industry. I wanted to provide an alternative. And if you want to have some impact, you need to be big,’ Korteweg explains. He recently opened a new plant in the south of the Netherlands, where 7 million packages a year are filled with vegetarian meat balls, ‘chicken’, and sausages. Locally produced lupin serves as the basic ingredient. The company has a turn-over of 12 million euros and exports its products to 15 countries. In the Netherlands the products are already available in supermarkets, an example soon to be followed by Finland, Germany and the UK.
His achievements have started a movement, Korteweg noticed. ‘All big meat companies have started investing in vegetables. At Wageningen University we participate in a research project to make a vegetable steak machine. Eight years ago, we were the only one. Now big companies including Unilever have joined in.’
The Vegetarian Butcher’s products are still more expensive than meat, but Korteweg is convinced that this will change. ‘For vegetable meat you need two to five times less water and arable land.’