On July 4th across the country people will be celebrating the United States of America’s independence and birth. Many celebrations will feature hot dogs, hamburgers and other types of meat. As the past is celebrated, however, the future of Independence Day cookouts may not be present in people’s minds.
Recent innovation in biotechnology has allowed companies to develop alternative proteins using animal stem cells. Right now, there are only a few companies working with, producing and selling this type of meat, including Impossible Foods and Memphis Meats. A third company, Finless Foods, is even looking to produce fish without the need for tackle and reel. As these companies continue to innovate - and another object of forward-thinking innovation becomes reality - let’s have a look at some of the reasons why researchers are looking at biotechnology to develop alternative proteins:
- In 2050, the world’s population will reach about 9 billion people. As the population sky rockets so will the demand for protein. And in a world where the amount of land available is also decreasing (livestock already occupies 70% of the arable land), biotechnology can develop safe, consumable alternative protein that could help meet this increased demand.
- Raising livestock requires a lot of water and feed and releases greenhouse gases, which is detrimental to the environment. Developing alternative proteins would provide a more environment friendly alternative to current farming techniques.
- As the human population continues to grow, so does the diversity of diets. Becoming more and more popular are meat-less, vegetarian or other diets that do not allowfor the consumption of meat from animals. The introduction of alternative proteins could help meet demands for protein for an array of diets.
- Alternative proteins are made in sterile environments, reducing the risk for diseases or pathogens, like Salmonella or Listeria, significantly.
But, as with any new innovation there are initial drawbacks. High production costs may be a concern for those companies producing alternative proteins, but since 2013 the cost of an alternative protein burger has dropped substantially from $325,000 to a mere $11.36. Another potential drawback is the potential to scale up protein production to meet demand. However, new procedures are beingdeveloped that can grow a lot more meat by improving cell growth.
The innovation for alternative protein is happening rapidly Thirty years from now, people may be grilling and eating alternative proteins just like they grill hotdogs and hamburgers today. But ultimately, whether or not that will happen is in the hands of the consumer. Will consumers accept the benefits and idea of eating lab-grown meat or will this innovative biotechnology become another fad that flames out?
For more information and statistics on potential benefits check out this info-graphic from Labiotech.eu.