Interview: Franklin Yao of Z-Rou Meat Talks Plant-Based Pork
By Cristina Ng, That's Magazine (China) †
February 10, 2020
Thereís a new plant-based brand on the market called Z-Rou Meat 株肉, a pork alternative that consists of 100% plant-based ingredients such as non-GMO soybeans, shitake mushrooms, konjac and coconut oil. You are going to start seeing the innovative item on menus around town, so we caught up with veteran China-based entrepreneur Franklin Yao to learn more about his motivations.
Letís begin with your plant-based journey. How long have you been eating this way?
It began with secular meditation, which helped me to clear my mind and be present in the moment. It also made me more conscious and empathetic. From that starting point, I learned more about Buddhist philosophy and how my decisions affect the world. The teaching is Ďdo no harm,í and I took that as a challenge to Ďdo more good.í
I began to question what I ate, while making decisions in line with my values. Thatís where Iím coming from, not the dogma of being vegan and wanting to convert everyone. If Iím with friends and they are proud of the meat theyíve prepared, I wonít exclude that. But, if Iím making a conscious choice and in control, I prefer plant-based options.
How did changing your diet lead to starting this company?
You get to a certain point where you start to think about what you want to do with this life. I have two children, and I want to leave this world in a better place. It is an encouraging trend that the number of vegans globally has grown from 0.25% in 2014 to 1.28% in 2018.
That is a dramatic transformation, but we can also make a huge difference if we get 10% of meat-eaters to halve their consumption. We think that eating plants is good. Itís healthy, sustainable, humane and safe. Thatís why we are introducing a delicious and familiar product that gives people another choice.
††† ďYou get to a certain point where you start to think about what you want to do with this lifeĒ
How important was it to make Z-Rou delicious?
I think thatís the number one priority. You canít do more good if you donít bring the customer in. If I can give you a better product that is yummy and doesnít feel like a sacrifice, thatís where the power comes from. It was also important to create plant-based ground pork rather than a finished product like a burger or lionís head meatball, so chefs Ė and ultimately home consumers Ė can create dishes.
A big part of the food experience is eating foods that invoke childhood nostalgia. For me, thatís my momís zha jiang mian, and this product works really well in that dish. One of our restaurant partners, Canton Table, does an eggplant dish in a clay pot that resonates with a lot of people.
Speaking of restaurant partners, where else can we try Z-Rou? ...
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