The meat industry is a major contributor to carbon dioxide emissions and deforestation, and a major consumer of water. But can lab-grown vegetable alternatives to move away from our addiction to red meat? Silicon Valley tech companies are banking on.
Evan McCormack, 19 years old, is a look at a big juicy burger on his plate at a local cafe. It looks like meat. It smells the meat. He even bleeds like meat. But it is not.
“I love how juicy and crunchy, it is, compared to a lot of other veggie burgers,” he said. “I think that the texture is a big part of that.”
Made from ingredients such as wheat, coconut oil and potatoes by Impossible Foods in the Silicon Valley, this burger can even fool meat-loving friends at the college, he believes.
The office of the chief executive officer of the Pat Brown has ambitious plans to replace animals completely as a “food production technology” in 2035.
Its main motivation? The environment.
He is of the opinion that the breeding animals such as small factories, and seethes on the meat, fish and dairy industries.
“This technology is the most destructive technology on earth – more than the production of fossil fuels, the transport system, mining and logging,” he claims.The BBC World Service: The Food Chain, Should We All Be Vegans?
“It is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, and the largest user and polluter of water.”
He has a point. Livestock production is responsible for 18% of total greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). And animal protein requires 11 times as much fossil fuel to produce compared to the production of plant proteins, says the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International.
Former forests in the Amazon and elsewhere are being decimated to make way for pastures and forage crops.
But on the other hand, the industry employs over a billion people and provides one-third of the protein, the FAO says. The production of meat has been 229m tonnes at the turn of the Millennium, but is forecast to double to 465m tonnes by 2050.
So, Mr. Brown has his work cut out for him.
The Impossible Burger can be proving popular with environmentalists and vegetarians of the Silicon Valley, but for the moment, it is only available in a selection of restaurants across the united states.
The company produces about 500,000 pounds of burgers a month at its Oakland plant and plans to increase production to the supermarkets by 2020. He is also working on fishery products.
Mr. Brown is a team of biochemists has found a way to mass-produce the haem – a vegetable protein, which looks like blood. It is literally the “secret sauce” that gives the burger its competitive advantage.
The team has adapted existing technologies, such as gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and the texture of the probes, to analyze the smell, the taste and the texture of the meat. It replicates in the laboratory using plant proteins.
Impossible claims tests among the meat lovers have shown their burger is not distinguishable from the meat, 47% of the time. They are striving to break the 50% barrier.
“We have to produce products that do a better job of appealing to consumers than the current technology or we fail,” said Mr. Brown.
Scaling is a challenge of size, so that the company is eagerly looking for partners.
Another way of producing meat is literally to be grown in a laboratory from animal cells. This “in vitro” or “clean meat” approach is pursued by two companies of the Silicon Valley, Memphis and Meats Fair Inc.
In the laboratory, automation engineer Chingyao Yang introduces me to robots to speed up the analysis of the molecular interaction. Essentially, they are fast-tracking molecular recipes.
“We are using data and algorithms to increase the probability of discoveries,” says Mr. Yang.
Then, a principal investigator at the Vitor Espirito Santo shows the shelves of the fridge-like containers, agitation of the vials filled with cells marinate in an experimental “growth cocktails.”
An artist rendering shows a Brave New World the view from the top of the tanks and slabs of steak on the conveyor belt.
“It is our firm for the cleaning of meat production,” said Mr. Espirito Santo. “The scale corresponds to the largest slaughterhouse in the united states, but instead of cows, it has 200 000 liters [50,000 gallon] in bioreactors. More Technology of Business
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“Bioprinting is going to make products such as steaks, chicken… anything you can imagine in terms of meat.”
He said that the company will release its first meat, minced, no later than 2018, with a greater complexity of the products to come over the next few years.
“The Kobe beef and the chicken breast is at the end of the road …we’ll get there,” he says.
Across the Bay from San Francisco, and Memphis Meats is famous for its 18 000 $to “clean up” the meat patty. Chief executive of the Uma Valeti tells me his mantra is: “better meat, less heat!”
By growing meat in the laboratory, he hopes to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases from the production of meat up to 90%.
With funding from Bill Gates, Richard Branson, as well as suppliers of meat from Cargill and Tyson Foods, Memphis Meat has serious money behind it.
And the meat substitute general, the market is expected to grow 8.4% a year from 2015, says Allied Market research, reaching a value of $5.2 billion by 2020.
But these start-ups really take on the formidable power of the world of the meat industry?
Back at the cafe, Evan McCormack, the father of Richard, who has been a vegetarian for decades, is less enthusiastic about the Impossible Burger as his son. He thinks that it is impossible to distinguish from other patties of vegetables.
“It’s three dollars more than the standard burger!” he complains. “Why? Because it has a little red flag?”
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