Mikko Karell CEO of Meeat - Helsinki
Twenty-five years in the meat industry have taught me a lot. Maybe the biggest thing I have realized during those years is that we need to change how we think about food, what we eat and how we produce it. We need to upgrade our choices and the industry in order to create a more sustainable future. A future that's kind to our planet, our bodies, and our economy. The future of food is quite clear — it's plant-based. And my focus now is to create the best plant-based products in the world.
“We need to upgrade our choices and the industry in order to create a more sustainable future.”
Something else I have realized is that people in my position and with my opportunities have a big responsibility in changing the way we produce and consume food. That’s why Meeat Food Tech was launched. The mission of Meeat is to be a driving force and create a positive impact on the planet and people's health by creating amazing plant-based products with great taste. I'm excited to see where we can take Meeat and the changes we can make with great-tasting and plant-based foods.
“...create a positive impact on the planet and people's health by creating amazing plant-based products with great taste.”
I grew up playing hockey in Finland. As a child, I was a goalkeeper in the local little league team on the west coast. Nowadays, I mostly just watch hockey games from the comfort of my home. I am a real home-loving person, I enjoy spending time with my family, cooking, and playing golf. I think it comes from having worked so much throughout the years. I started working as a chef at the age of nineteen. I have always loved cooking and coming from a family where good food was important, it was a pretty natural choice for me to start culinary school. After my studies, I moved to Switzerland to work in the restaurant business. Back then, a lot of Scandinavians did the same thing since the pay was better in Switzerland than in the Nordic countries. It was an amazing and vibrant time in my life. You worked non-stop and hard in a hot kitchen for very long hours — it was exciting. I feel like everyone should try to do something like that for at least a year.
“The future of food is quite clear
- it's plant-based.”
After my years as a chef, I came back to Finland where I worked for a while longer in the restaurant business until I applied for a job in marketing where a meat company was looking for a chef. It got it and stayed there for ten years, working in different areas and constantly moving up. That's where I learned the ins and outs of the whole meat industry, where I was schooled. I learned everything there was to learn and from there on I went to different companies within the industry. My latest position was as the CEO of one of Finland's biggest meat producers, Pouttu — which now is Meeat’s production partner. One of the ideas behind Meeat is to abstain from building our own factories, the planet doesn't need more factories. Instead, we create the possibility to rent space inside existing ones. This approach is giving meat producers a new stream of revenue as well as giving them an option to transform their business.
“One of the ideas behind Meeat is to abstain from building our own factories, the planet doesn't need more factories.”
So as I was saying, seeing the meat industry from within I knew that something had to change. I knew that the plant-based meat market was huge in Los Angeles so I went there with my son to do some fieldwork, to taste and try out new flavors. We bought a ton of plant-based meat to take back to Finland. To do so, we had to get some dry ice to keep the produce fresh for the plane journey. If you ever find yourself buying dry ice in a sketchy area in L.A, from an 80-year-old woman who asks you to go down to the storage unit where her son is wearing nothing but dungarees and holding a scary hook to break the ice — then you're probably buying it from the same place my son and I bought it from. A very Tarantino-esque moment to say the least. Anyway, we took all the goods back to Finland and I realized that there were amazing products that tasted delicious, even better than meat. And that is coming from me, having grown up with a father that was a butcher and eaten meat my whole life.
I decided that we were going to start changing things on a serious level. But we were going to do so in an inclusive way, keeping the Pouttus factory and the job of the employees. All while leveling up and producing plant-based products with a taste and texture that makes it easy for people to upgrade. That upgrade is Meeat and if you've read this entire story all the way down to this part I want to say thank you and welcome to the future! / Mikko