How food scientists are reinventing meat – and how it can benefit everyone.
Meat consumption worldwide has doubled in the last 20 years, and it is expected to double again by 2050. This is happening in large part because economies are growing and people can afford more meat. That's all good news. But raising meat takes a great deal of land and water and has a substantial environmental impact. Put simply, there’s no way to produce enough meat for 9 billion people. Yet we can't ask everyone to become vegetarians. We need more options for producing meat without depleting our resources.
Over the past few years I've come across a few companies that are doing pioneering work on innovations that give a glimpse into possible solutions. To be sure, it's still very early, but the work these companies are doing makes me optimistic. I wanted to share with you a look at their work on creating alternatives to meat and eggs that are just as healthful, are produced more sustainably, and taste great.
Read on to learn how their work can benefit everyone.
By 2030, the world will need millions of tonnes more meat than it does today. But meeting that demand with animal products isn't sustainable. The meat market is ripe for reinvention.
Food scientists are creating healthful plant-based alternatives that taste just like eggs, chicken, and other sources of protein.
Companies like Beyond Meat and Hampton Creek Foods are experimenting with new ways to use heat and pressure to turn plants into foods that look and taste just like meat and eggs. I tasted Beyond Meat's chicken alternative and was impressed. I couldn't tell the difference between Beyond Meat and real chicken.
Beyond Eggs, Hampton Creek Foods' egg substitute, doesn't contain the high cholesterol of real eggs. Even spices are getting re-made: a company called Nu-Tek Food Science has found a way to make potassium chloride taste just like salt, with only a fraction of the sodium.
Learn more about this fascinating process, and the innovative companies behind it, in the video gallery, up next, followed by my Q&A with author and food activist Michael Pollan.
Michael Pollan: Three principal motivators: health, because we know high consumption of red meat correlates with higher chances of certain cancers; and the environment, because we know that conventional meat production is one of the biggest drivers of climate change, as well as water and pollution; and ethics, since the animal factories that produce most of our meat and milk are brutal places where animals suffer needlessly.
Michael Pollan: As a legitimate option for a conscious carnivore – though it must be said that growing more soy is no boon to the landscape either. It won't help us diversify our farms.
Michael Pollan: Mock meats of various kinds have been around for years, but the quality has been questionable and, perhaps just as important, the price has been high: higher in many cases than real meat which, when you remember they're mostly made from soy, makes little sense. But the market was small and specialized, and the economies of scale probably weren't there. Also, these products were not designed to appeal to meat eaters – rather, to vegans and vegetarians with low expectations and, perhaps, little basis for comparison.
Michael Pollan: I've tried a few, and have not yet been overly impressed. There's still a lot of work to be done.
Michael Pollan: I think there is great potential for meat alternatives, and the industry deserves a lot more investment and R&D than it has thus far received. If decent alternatives for cheese can be developed, I see no reason why frozen pizzas – which have become a tremendous global business – wouldn't try to use them, especially if they reduced costs.
Click on Grain, Land or CO2 to see the surprising impact of 1 kg of protein.
I love to visit the Modernist Cuisine Cooking Lab – the way they combine cooking and science is fascinating! I asked the chefs at Modernist Cuisine to create recipes with Beyond Meat's chicken-free product, and the results were indistinguishable from the real thing. Get the recipes for their Chicken-Free Tikka Masala and Grilled Chicken-Free Strips and Vegetable Salad with Sunflower Seed Pesto next, and try it for yourself.
We're just at the beginning of enormous innovation in this space. For a world full of people who would benefit from getting a nutritious, protein-rich diet, this makes me very optimistic.
If we shift our thinking about what we eat, and how it gets to our plates, we’ll be more open to the food innovations that are out there.
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