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Sep 01, 2023

Plant-based meat is having not such a stellar moment these days. Chefs won’t use it in their cooking, Beyond Meat keeps shrinking, and there just hasn’t been much innovation in the space recently. Sure, we’ve seen more plant-based products released in sausage form, but aside from that, the format has remained stubbornly in ground beef and chicken tender territory.

Enter Juicy Marbles, a company taking a decidedly different approach to plant-based meat replacements. Since its inception, the company has focused on shockingly realistic plant-based imitations of whole beef “muscle” cuts, like filet or loin, but its current project goes even deeper into the simulation by adding one grisly detail: bones.

Juicy Marbles has developed plant-based ribs, bones and all. Obviously the company has always targeted meat eaters with its products, as it aims to recreate plant-based versions of carnivorous dishes—but adding bones into the mix is new territory. And yes, the bones will be edible.

The Guardian reports that the bones are soy-based, meant to be baked or fried (once the meat has been eaten) to enjoy as a crispy snack. This whole thing feels like a scientific magic trick, or maybe the world’s best gag gift.

I’ve previously encountered mock bones in vegetarian dishes such as seitan-based chicken wings, but in those cases the bones were made of fibrous sugar cane stalks and weren’t technically edible; they were just there for the structural integrity.

Juicy Marbles, based in Slovenia, is certainly being cheeky with this whole thing. Co-founder Vladimir Mićković told The Guardian, “To some, bones from plants may be an ideological provocation, but we shouldn’t take these things too seriously. It’s just fun. Bones invite you to eat with your hands and share [food] with the whole table.”

Juicy Marbles will release 500 packages of its new plant-based ribs on August 28. You have to sign up for the email list on the website to get a chance to purchase them. A link will be emailed out on the 28th to those who signed up, and it’ll be a first-come, first-serve deal, so you’ll have to get your clicking fingers ready.

Fifty packages of the plant-based ribs will be given away for free, but the catch is that you have to be a top 50 referrer to the launch by sharing a link provided by Juicy Marbles and getting other people to sign up. Because this is essentially a test run of the new ribs product, the company will be seeking customer feedback after the drop. Tweaks might be made to the product in terms of price, name, and packaging before hitting the wider market.

While meat substitutes are starting to head away from plant-based protein and toward cell-cultured products made from animal tissues, there’s apparently still innovation to be had in the plant-based space—all the way down to its unlikely bones.