By Bronagh Loughlin
With livestock production being responsible for roughly 51 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, as claimed by the Worldwatch Institute, it is no surprise that forward-thinking entrepreneurs are boldly reimagining the way food is made.
Founder and CEO of Impossible Foods, Pat Brown said at Web Summit, “it’s game over for the meat industry – they just don’t realise it yet,”. Our food choices can greatly impact the environment.
The entrepreneur is confident that replacing the use of animals with food technology will come into place as soon as 2035. Impossible Foods claim that every time you choose to eat an Impossible Burger as opposed to chowing down on meat from a cow, you are using roughly 96 percent less land, 87 percent less water and 89 percent less carbon emissions.
With these statistics in mind and consumers actively seeking out ways to live more sustainably, it is enough reason to convince people to make the change to their diets.
Just a few decades ago, there was poor selection of plant-based alternatives and brands on the shelves in supermarkets. Today, there is an overwhelming surge of plant-based and vegan-friendly products. There has been steady growth in virtually all plant-based products too: chicken alternatives, red meat substitutes, sausages made from soy protein, the list goes on.
Today, many consumers are embracing plant-based foods on a regular basis, and even if they don’t identify as vegan, they are moving toward a more plant-based diet with healthier habits. Food technology is what is fuelling and meeting this demand.
Although there are some established, on-the-shelf food technology companies making waves in the space, there are others just getting started on the journey. For example, the Israeli start-up, Redefine Meat, who are working to create a meatless steak using just 3D printing.
Alongside 3D printed meatless steaks, other food technology companies are diving into Clean Meat, also known as Cellular Agriculture. The term refers to a method of creating foods that conventionally come from animals, but without using those animals. It is based on looking at the biological processes that happen on a cellular level, such as milk being made from a cow, and then replicating that process.
When speaking about meat, this can mean growing muscle cells in a tank to create clean meat, while for milk, it could be making milk proteins in an organism such as yeast by using recombinant DNA Technology.
Fermentation is an additional tech-forward critical pillar of plant-based food technology and innovation, but one that is not spoken about much. Whether you realise it or not, fermented foods are delivering plant-based alternatives that you consume today.
Fermentation uses microbial species to transform a food ingredient or product and can be harnessed in a lab to produce dairy, eggs and meat, or as a primary protein source. Perfect Day are a great example for this, they are a non-animal dairy company. They say they make plant-based cheese indistinguishable from the real thing, using microflora. Microflora is a microorganism like yeast, bacteria or in their case, fungi.
They use it to make proteins. By utilising fermentation tanks, they can grow flora and then create milk proteins that serve as the base of vegan cheese, ice cream and other traditional animal-dairy products.
While it is uncertain whether food technology will replace the use of animal meat and products, the rise in popularity in plant-based alternatives has certainly shown that the meat industry has some competitors in the food technology space.
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