7 Technology Startups Using Science to Create Healthy Meat Alternatives
Whether you are an avid meat eater, vehemently despise eating meat, or are somewhere in between, we can all agree that meat is a hotly debated topic, sparking passionate debates among the three groups.
Putting aside the discussions about the health effects of meat, all three groups could agree that meat production does have some impact on the planet. To feed the developed and developing world's growing demand for meat, we use 30% of the world's ice-free land to raise livestock.
Even more so, the maintenance and feeding of these livestock require us to cut down forests. Interestingly, pork has 20% more greenhouse production that that of chicken or beef. Cows are notorious for putting out an enormous amount of methane, causing approximately 10% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.
As mentioned above, the demand is only increasing. Developing countries that are becoming wealthier are also seeing a rise in demand for meat. Nevertheless, there are technology startups around the world, hoping to combat this trend with their meatless alternatives. You might have even seen some of these meatless alternatives at your local grocery store. The world of plant-based meats is rapidly evolving, with major food trends adopting and even marketing new plant-enriched meats. In 2019, Beyond Meat's IPO soared 800%, highlighting that there is money in fake meat.
Clean Meat startups are popping up all around the world. However, our future meat options may not be limited to just plant-based alternatives. In 2013, Dr. Mark Post of Maastricht University made headlines across the globe when he created a lab-grown beef burger that bled and even smelled like the burgers that you will be putting on your grill this summer.
The technology in the world of lab-grown meats has dramatically come down in costs. Today we are not only going to discuss companies using biology to create plant-based meat alternatives but companies that are growing cow parts in their labs (not literally). Let's get started.
1. IntegriCulture: Care for some foie gras?
Foie gras is a delicacy for people around the world, however, the practices used to create foie gras is highly debatable. IntegriCulture founder, Dr. Yuki Hanyu, wants to help limit these practices with his lab-grown creation. Founded in Tokyo, Japan, the technology startup aims at using chicken liver cells to create the delicious French dish.
The company is collaborating with the Tokyo Women's Medical University to help complete the project, with the aims of a better understanding of how to create textures and fat in cultured meat. However, the aim of the company is not simply to provide you with a guilt-free dish at home.
IntegriCulture hopes to create meat for astronauts traveling on long journeys or staying in space. You might even be able to grow your cell-based meat in your home, thanks to the companies open-source, Shojinmeat Project. How much would lab-grown foie gras cost you now? Production of the meat alternative costs anywhere from £150 and £1500 to produce, with the eventual aim of bringing costs down to as low as £1.50.
2. Impossible Foods: Making meat from plants
The idea of using plants to simulate meat textures and tastes is nothing new. However, anyone who has had this "meat before" can tell you that plant-based meat products rarely taste very good. Impossible Foods wants to change that stigma, not just with better foods, but by completely overhauling the process of creating plant-based meat. Impossible food's secret to success? Heme.
"Heme is what makes meat taste like meat. It's an essential molecule found in every living plant and animal -- most abundantly in animals -- and something we've been eating and craving since the dawn of humanity," says Impossible Foods. The company has created a plant-based heme via fermentation of genetically engineered yeast. The result is plant-based meat that tastes identical to something you can get at a butcher, and that is safe to eat.
3. Memphis Meats: A leader cell-based meats
Memphis Meats has made waves over the past few years for its impressive selection of clean-meat based alternatives. Founded in 2015 by Uma Valeti and Nicholas Genovese, the dynamic duo has the ambitious goal of feeding more than 10 billion people by 2050, offering people a wide variety of cell-based meat alternatives in poultry and seafood. Memphis Meats has already produced the world's first cell-based beef meatball and has even created chicken and duck.
Similar to other meat companies on this list, they feed their lab cells with a range of nutrients that include amino acids, sugars, trace minerals, and vitamins, with the aim of creating a process identical to what you find in nature. Production costs of their meat has yet to reach their ambitious goals, but costs have dropped significantly over the last year. Some of the samples that they have produced to this day look absolutely delicious.
4. Finless Foods: Lab-grown sushi could become a thing
If you are a big seafood lover, then this one's for you. The San Francisco startup has used stem cell technology to produce fish meat. To accomplish this impressive feat, the team creates a serum derived from real fish. After, the serum has been created; the company multiplies the cells of the fish in a very controlled environment. Researchers at Finless Foods then work to structure the fish into a perfect fillet, something you might find at a restaurant. Their first clean-meat alternative led to the creation of the highly coveted bluefin tuna, a species of fish that is overfished.
"Finless Foods is a company with a mission: Bringing sustainable, delicious seafood to the world, without having to farm or harvest live fish from our precious oceans", says the company. That means no commercial fishing from our precious oceans. No fish farming. No contaminants. Just healthy, high-quality fish at prices we can all afford. The world of lab-grown sushi is not too far away.
5. Aleph Farms: Who doesn't love a good steak?
Based in Israel, the Didier Toubia, Aleph Farms wants to bring the deliciousness of lab-grown steaks to your table, a challenge that is not easy to complete. Most companies on this list are still trying to get the texture right for beef patties, chicken, and sausage. This is a whole new frontier. If you have ever had a good steak, you know the importance of texture and taste, as this can make or break your steak experience.
The Israel startup not only believes that they can create their own steak, but that they can cut the time it takes to create a steak down to just three weeks, compared to the two years needed for raising cattle. Expect to see Aleph Farms steaks around on more tables around the world in the near future.
6. Higher Steaks: Scalable and affordable cultured pork
The United Kingdom startup Higher Steaks wants to create cultured pork that is scalable and affordable. Similar to Finless Food, Higher Steaks is utilizing stem cell technology to create delicious clean-mean alternatives. To do so, the company uses state-of-the-art cell culture techniques. Researchers take small samples of cells from an animal, which will then be expanded upon by feeding these cells a rich and animal-free growth media.
"When these cells have grown we can then use different methods in order to form the desired meat product. This is a much more sustainable solution, and the best part is that it will be of even better quality", says the company. Like our other contenders on this list, clean meat alternatives are eco-friendly, reducing CO2 emissions, as well as land and water usage. Even more so, clean meats could be healthier for you.
7. Shiok Meats for seafood lovers out there
Founded in Singapore, the South East Asia Company wants you to bring dishes like shrimp, crab, lobster. Though the production of these clean-meats is still very high, the company is making a lot of progress. Currently, five seafood dumplings are going to cost about $9,000 to produce. Excitement for the company is still very high with Ryan Bethencourt, CEO of Wild Earth and Partner at Babel Ventures, stating, "Shiok Meats is powering the future of food and clean protein in Asia. As an early investor in Memphis Meats, Finless Foods (the two clean meat leaders in the US) and now Shiok Meats, Asia's leading clean meat company. I'm certain Shiok will transform the food industry in Asia and globally."
Would you eat lab-grown meat? Would you switch to lab-grown meat if you are currently a vegan or vegetarian? Leave your comments below.
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