Black Sheep Foods says it has replicated the flavor and texture of lamb meat through a proprietary pea-protein blend that delivers a “juicy and meaty” experience.
The company, founded by tech entrepreneur Sunny Kumar and biochemist Ismael Montanez, says the idea came in 2019 after seeing a lack of lesser-known meats on the market, either animal or plant-based versions. The founders wanted to “democratize” heritage breed meats but with a healthier and more environmentally conscious approach. The company worked with chef Jason Dickerson and a team of food scientists to perfect the product.
“Our eating habits are supply chain led, meaning we eat animals that grow the fastest, not those that are the tastiest,” Kumar said in a statement. “At Black Sheep Foods, we want to speed up the adoption of plant-based meats by making plant-based alternatives tastier than commercial animal meat, not just mimicking them.”
Lamb and the environment
According to Black Sheep Foods, its use of tech, analytical chemistry, and high-quality ingredients, allows it to recreate lamb meat that is better for the planet. The brand says its vegan lamb meat saves more than 350 liters of water and reduces carbon emissions by 14.5 kg for every pound of its meat compared with traditional lamb meat. It also contains a healthier profile at the plate, offering zero grams of cholesterol versus lamb’s 82 grams. It also boasts 18 grams of protein per serving.
Lamb meat has the biggest climate footprint of any animal food; it produces 50 percent more CO2 than beef, according to the Environmental Working Group. “While beef and lamb generate comparable amounts of methane and require similar quantities of feed, lamb generates more emissions per kilo in part because it produces less edible meat relative to the sheep’s live weight,” EWG explains on its website.
Souvla will be the only restaurant serving the vegan lamb meat for the next six weeks. The vegan meat is part of the chain’s permanent menu and Black Sheep Foods will also announce other partnerships after the six-week period.
The vegan lamb meat is available for dine-in or via Caviar and Doordash for delivery. Black Sheep Foods says the spiced lamb meat will be available in any of the restaurants salads or sandwiches. It’s the first time the restaurant has updated its menu since opening in 2014.
“Since our inception, we have intentionally never changed the menu, so this is a monumental, forward- thinking moment for Souvla,” said Charles Bililies, Souvla’s Founder and CEO. “We had yet to find a plant-based meat that made sense for our restaurants, but when we tried Black Sheep Foods, we felt it was the right moment to add a plant-based offering to our menu. This will expand upon our vegetarian offerings, which we’re excited to offer our guests.”
Bililies has also joined BLack Sheep Foods as an advisor.
“We’re fortunate — so much of this innovation is happening right here, where we’re based,” Bililies told Eater. “We first were exposed to [the technology] years back with Impossible, and we did some experimenting with it on our end. But since we didn’t have beef on our menu to begin with, we kept looking out for new opportunities that were a better fit. Black Sheep came to us last year with this idea that they had been working on, and with lamb being such a signature part of the Souvla menu and being so synonymous with Greek cuisine, especially here in the States, it seemed like a great fit.”
While Black Sheep’s is a first in the U.S., vegan lamb meat hit India earlier this year, where the meat is consumed instead of beef. The company PlantMade launched India’s first vegan lamb seekh kebabs.