COVID-19 has impacted lives in many ways, and when it comes to peoples’ diets, consumers are becoming more concerned about their daily intake.
This is a trend that is likely to benefit food tech startups like Green Acres, a company dedicated to providing a healthier meat consumption option by producing antibiotic-free animal products such as organic feed additives.
Until COVID-19 struck, meat consumption was actually on the rise, and the types of meat eaten were changing, with more poultry consumed, and less beef and pork.
Antibiotic-free meat has faced increased demand from consumers all while gaining more acceptance in the industry. In 2019, half of the fast food chains surveyed including Chick-fil-A, KFC, McDonald's, Burger King, and Wendy's have shown consistent commitment to serving antibiotic-free chicken, something that Shane Yang, Technical Manager of Green Acres, also noticed in his home town of Taipei, where the company is based.
According to Yang, some international food corps like McDonald have contacted the Council of Agriculture (COA) in Taiwan to search for antibiotic-free chicken meat for their products.
Many countries around the world have already vowed to stop using antibiotics in their meat, with Denmark leading the way. In Taiwan, bans have been introduced to limit the types of antibiotics that could be used. However, there is still a long way to go to increase local awareness about antibiotic-free meat, as “the idea is not as mature as compared to western countries,” Yang said.
However, “since the outbreak of COVID-19, a lot of our friends and clients are talking about wanting to eat more healthily. I think this could be another big opportunity for us,” Yang told SparkAmpLab in an interview.
In 2006, the EU prohibited the use of antibiotics to promote farm animal growth and the practice is also rigorously regulated in the US.
Seeing as antibiotic-free farming technology is part of the EU’s “One Health” plan, Green Acres plans to emulate that by bringing more awareness to Taiwan with their own healthy solution. “As a provider of an antibiotic-free farming solution, we aim to eliminate antibiotics usage from the animal farming system. Combining traditional herbal remedies and modern scientific approach, we invented unique formulas for both broiler and laying hens.”
When you bite into a hamburger, chances are that you don’t spare much thought when it comes to what is used to make that juicy patty. But the truth is, antibiotics in food production have become so commonplace that many issues have risen regarding their usage: namely the worrying increase in AMR, or antimicrobial resistance.
The EU report, ”AMR: A major European and Global Challenge” estimates that AMR causes losses of 1.5 billion EUR each year, due to multi-drug resistant bacteria. Yet, as awareness for the environment continues to grow, so have peoples’ concern over the quality and origins of their food. According to Consumer Reports, “a recent nationally representative Consumer Reports survey of over 1,000 people found that 43 percent say they always or often buy meat raised without antibiotics at the supermarket.”
Antibiotics are seen as an essential in farming, as they promote growth and prevent disease. But the organisms that cause infections are gradually becoming more resistant to their usage, springing concern about potential impact on consumers. For instance, microorganisms that grow resistant to the antibiotics used on animals may be passed onto humans through methods such as direct contact or the food chain. Thus, the antibiotic-free trend in farming came to be as a result of these worries.
Founded in 2017, Green Acres is far from the first startup to take part in antibiotic-free farming. With a goal of eventually replacing the traditional chicken supply chain, they have proven to be unique due to their innovative feed formula made from natural Chinese herbs.
Green Acres’ solution hosts a slew of benefits, including better survival rates in local poultry and no need for a withdrawal period. As feeds are made from natural herbs, they avoid the problem of environmental pollution, without the worry of AMR. With just one feed, multiple different antibiotics are replaced and covered at once, saving costs.
To achieve their goal of replacing the chicken supply chain, Green Acre has a 3 step plan in mind. First, they will target people or restaurants that care about food safety and want to buy healthy food. Secondly, after building a stable revenue cycle, they will lower the price for the middle class. And when they achieve economic scale, they will lower their cost to be as cheap as antibiotics.
Forging onwards with their mission, Green Acres plans on cooperating with other e-commerce brands to develop new antibiotic-free chicken products.
“I think in the next decade we will see an uprise in the antibiotic-free trend.” says Yang, when asked how long it would take for Taiwan to become an antibiotic-free farming industry. “Because more and more people are caring about their health and food safety.”
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