The main question raised by Match's detractors is why there exists a need for fake meat — even sustainable and nutritionally balanced fake meat. "There are so many ways to cook plant products. I don't feel a need for a meat substitute," says Alanna Kellogg, a St. Louis food columnist who writes the blog A Veggie Venture.

But the Royale's Johnny Branze, a lifelong vegetarian, thinks it is human nature to be carnivorous. "Everyone still has their eyeteeth," he points out. "They want the texture of meat to tear into."

Burgess agrees. "There's a very pragmatic side to me. Could I really go through the rest of my life without eating a burger again? Now, I don't have to. There's a very selfish aspect to this whole thing."


Allison Burgess, founder of Match Foods, at her farm in Dittmer, Missouri.
Allison Burgess, founder of Match Foods, at her farm in Dittmer, Missouri.

Location Info

Map

Vin De Set Rooftop Bar and Bistro

2017 Chouteau Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63103

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: St. Louis - Lafayette Square

Terrene

33 N. Sarah St.
St. Louis, MO 63108

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: St. Louis - Central West End

Lucas Park Grille

1234 Washington Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63103

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: St. Louis - Washington Avenue

Schlafly Bottleworks

7260 Southwest Ave
Maplewood, MO 63143

Category: Attractions and Amusement Parks

Region: Maplewood

Chris' Pancake & Dining

5980 Southwest Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63139

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: St. Louis - Dogtown

The Royale

3132 S. Kingshighway Blvd
St. Louis, MO 63139

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: St. Louis - South City

Duff's Restaurant

392 N. Euclid Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63108

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: St. Louis - Central West End

The Market at Busch's Grove-CLOSED

9160 Clayton Road
Ladue, MO 63124

Category: Grocery Stores

Region: Ladue

Helen Fitzgerald's

3650 S. Lindbergh Blvd.
Sunset Hills, MO 63127

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Crestwood/ Sunset Hills/ Sappington/ South Lindbergh

Whole Foods Market-Town and Country

1160 Town and Country Crossing Road
Town & Country, MO 63017

Category: Retail

Region: Town & Country

Details


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One week every month, Allison Burgess rents out the Lucia's Pizza factory in an industrial park in Fenton, near Gravois Road and I-270. There, a small crew of Lucia's employees, supervised by Holland, mixes up 7,000 pounds of Match meat. They alternate monthly between retail and wholesale packaging.

"We schedule the production well ahead of time," Burgess says, pausing to pull a hair net over her chin-length blond hair. "We're hyper-efficient. We send Lucia's the ingredients and tell them how many pounds we want, and they package it according to our instructions. They've been phenomenal."

Though Match is still a relatively small company, Burgess has planned for its expansion since the very beginning. "We do everything as if we're a $100-million company," she says. "We had the option not to put the nutritional information panel on the packaging. There's an FDA rule that it's not required for small businesses, but we did it anyway. We wanted to get set up for significant growth. We know exactly what we'll need to do when the time comes."

Burgess walks briskly down the hall past an industrial chopper. The shiny metal box looks innocent enough, but inside are several blades sharp enough to sever a person's hand. "I don't let anyone operate that one but me," she says.

At the front of the factory, a large room dominated by a twenty-foot-long conveyer belt used to make pizza, four workers pull one-pound chunks of Match pork from an industrial mixer and stuff and seal them into plastic bags. From here, they will go to the freezer, which, Burgess says, is kept at 1 degree Fahrenheit, and then to the trucks for shipping.

Fifteen feet away, Holland peers into another 200-pound capacity industrial mixer, checking its progress.

"Are you ready to collapse?" Burgess greets her chef cheerfully.

Holland grimaces. Production began today at 5 a.m. Now it's nearly 3 p.m., quitting time, but he still must finish up a special order of bratwurst for the Royale. Burgess, meanwhile, needs to pack up twenty cases of Match to ship to Whole Foods stores in Chicago for cooking demonstrations and deliver an order of Match pork steaks to Schlafly Bottleworks.

The product inside the mixer contains the ingredients that give the meat its density and nutritional value. It looks like dog food. From one of the buckets, Holland pours in a golden gel that resembles applesauce. As the machine churns, the gel breaks down into tiny globules interspersed throughout the meat.

"That big blob is the body of the product," Holland explains. "That's what gives it its meaty texture. It'll freeze, and then when it's cooked, it will dissolve and make the meat juicy."

Later he'll add a mixture of spices for flavor, and then he'll use a sausage stuffer to jam the meat into vegan casings. This box, three feet square, will produce 200 pounds of meat in just a few hours.

"Imagine the amount of land it takes to raise animals," he says. "All that water. Imagine how much waste they must produce. Where does it go? I was raised on a farm in southern Illinois, and we butchered. Here we have all the elements of a slaughter. There's gore and tissue and muscle that goes into it, but it's all vegan. Our blood is red from beet juice. [Burgess] did it instinctively without knowing what she was doing."


The walls in Burgess' home office are decorated with portraits of animals. She has three horses, a dog and four cats — some who live with her in Westwood, and some on the farm in Dittmer she bought five years ago with her husband, Roger Kepner.

All were rescue animals. She and Kepner plan to eventually convert the farm, which lies 40 miles southwest of St. Louis, into a rescue facility. "Originally, [Match] was about saving the animals," Burgess says, "but now it's also about sustainable food."

Very little in Burgess' background prepared her for a career in food production. Raised in Ladue, she attended Washington University and got an MBA in corporate finance. For 21 years, she owned and operated Medical Video Productions, which recorded and sold video demonstrations of surgeries by some of the world's top doctors.

Now 56, Burgess had planned an early retirement. "I was going to spend the rest of my life doing community work," she says. Her mother, Louise Golman, had been a philanthropist and recently, posthumously received the Legacy Award from the Saint Louis Planned Giving Council for her prodigious fundraising.

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