Recent studies show that improving fats may hold the secret to creating tastier meat-free goods. Many businesses believe that a successful substitute for animal fats would result in a breakthrough in the flavor of meat-free products. Hoxton Farms, situated in London, produces animal fat without using actual animals. They begin with a small number of animal cells that are brought back to life in a laboratory incubator. These cells are then grown for about three weeks in a stirred-tank bioreactor, which is essentially a laboratory mixer. During that time, a unique concoction of plant elements is administered to the cells. These include canola, palm, soy, and sunflower oils. Coconut oil has traditionally been the go-to source for animal fat, but it has a lower melting point, or the point at which fat transforms from a solid to a liquid. However, there are some benefits to using coconut and other oils: they are readily available and inexpensive. In the upcoming years, Hoxton Farms believes it can compete with conventional oils, but it will need to grow.

According to Ed Steele, one of the co-founders of Hoxton Farms, their product can help manufacturers cut costs by not having to rely on additives like flavorings and binders in addition to plant oils. Linda Ho, the head food scientist at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) Centre for Culinary Innovation, claims that the “meaty” flavor can typically be added by employing natural flavorings. “There is quite a bit of research being done to replicate, using plant-based ingredients, the umami and savory flavors experienced when consuming meats.”