Sustainable food, organic farming and nature development

What was the challenge for this project?

To unshackle animals from the food chain was the motivation for organic arable farmer, Jaap Korteweg, to start the Vegetarian Butcher almost ten years ago. He realised that we keep lots of animals for one purpose only: to eat them. Animals are often seen as meat-production machines. In addition, intensive animal farming regularly leads to crises, such as avian flu or swine fever epidemics prompting massive slaughter programmes.

These problems can be avoided because, according to Jaap Korteweg, we don’t need animals to produce meat. The Vegetarian Butcher produces vegetable meat. Better still, he makes products like sausages, meatballs and croquettes from vegetable ingredients – but with the taste and structure of meat.

How is the project’s approach innovative?

The Vegetarian Butcher is a classic example of an innovative business, both in its recipes for the products and the way in which they are marketed. The business produces the meat substitutes on the basis of lupine and soy. It uses lupine and soy beans to make fibres with a firm ‘bite’. These form the core ingredient of the products, which has the taste of meat.

The company won third place in the battle for the Gouden Gehaktbal [golden meatball] held by a national Dutch newspaper among 43 participants who used real meat. The Vegetarian Butcher is a rapidly-growing business. Their products are widely available and can be found on the shelves of both organic food outlets and regular supermarkets in The Netherlands.

What impact does Triodos Bank have on this project?

Triodos Bank has financed the construction and fitting-out of the Vegetarian Butcher Factory in Breda since the beginning of 2017. Up to now, the company had its vegetable meat produced by external parties. But because of its rapid growth, it is important that production remains in the company’s own hands. That’s the reason for the new plant, which opened its doors in 2017. Apart from the loan from Triodos Bank, the company also organised a successful crowdfunding campaign, which raising 2.5 million euros for the factory’s construction.

What impact does the project have on the sector?

Jaap Korteweg is a successful entrepreneur whose influence as a vegetarian butcher is inspiration to the wider agricultural and food sector.

Korteweg started as an organic farmer in a family business that has been handed from father to son for generations. But he had a dream: to produce vegetable meat. The growth of his business shows other organic farmers that you can realise your dream with hard work and inspiration. This inspiration is key in an often conservative and protective sector.

What impact does the project have on society?

The ecological pressure caused by meat production is much larger than that of arable farming. Cattle, swine and poultry, for instance, create a huge manure surplus, which pollutes soil and ground water. Poultry farming also emits a lot of fine particles, which cause air pollution that are harmful to the public health. The production of vegetable meat from a social perspective therefore has enormous added value. It simply avoids major problems.

How does the project share the vision of Triodos Bank?

Triodos Bank finances entrepreneurs who work with their heart and their head. Jaap Korteweg is an excellent example of just that. His drive is a social ideal: producing healthy meat in an environmentally, and animal-friendly, way. He successfully gives shape to that ideal. This combination of idealism and pragmatism aligns perfectly with the mission and vision of Triodos Bank.