The pulled pork sandwich at Saus, a restaurant in Somerville’s Bow Market, is a feast for the eyes: A Portuguese sweet roll slathered with roasted garlic mayo, with pineapple salsa perched on a pile of Teriyaki-spiked shreds. It’s a marvel in the mouth, and even more of a miracle when you realize it isn’t meat at all.
Saus in Bow Market is a vegetarian restaurant. So its pulled pork is plant-based, and the company that creates that doppelgänger meat is just down the street: Tender Food.
Developed in a Harvard laboratory, Tender is hoping to fight climate change by creating a version of plant-based meat that tastes, well, meatier, mimicking the striated muscle tissue in a sirloin steak or chicken breast.
Working out of Greentown Labs in Somerville, its scientists use a technology that’s similar to a cotton candy machine, spinning plant proteins into strings that can be designed to replicate different cuts of meat. The result is an eating experience that feels different from the faux burgers, nuggets, and sausages currently on the market. Whether you’re a carnivore or not, you can still can actually tear into Tender’s “meat.”
In the latest episode of Bold Types, Boston Globe business reporter Janelle Nanos sits down with Tender cofounder Christophe Chantre to learn more about Tender’s plans. Chantre says the company’s goal is to create a product that is “just better” — for the planet, for our diets, and that tastes better than other plant-based meats on grocery store shelves. Tender launched in 2020, and has been testing its pulled pork at Saus for the past few months. But it has bigger plans to help reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are given off in the process of raising animals for food.
Pork, beef, chicken, and seafood are all on Tender’s future menu, though Chantre says he’s not yet sure whether we’ll find Tender’s own label in grocery stores, or if Tender will provide the technology that other companies will use to create meatier versions of their own products.
Either way, he says, if they can make a plant-based meat “that’s delicious, that’s cheaper, that’s healthier,” it will be better for the planet. “Why would people eat anything else?” he asks.