A meatless revolution has started, as novel technologies and disruptive innovations impact the traditional meat sector. So what does this mean for a 7 trillion dollar industry?
From plant-based and insect proteins to cultured meat, alternative proteins have truly rattled the meat industry. With increased media attention around the unsustainable and environmentally damaging effects of the animal sector forward-thinking start-ups, investors and scientists are challenging the future of traditional meat. This revolution could disrupt the entire industry and make slaughterhouses a thing of the past.
The question has now shifted from ‘if’ to ‘when’ the availability of alternative proteins will start to significantly impact the meat industry and what are the implications?
How do we feed future generations?
The challenge is clear, how can we feed the world’s growing population expected to reach more than 9.1 billion by 2050. To feed this larger population, food production must increase by 70%. With meat consumption showing no sign of slowing down and the unlikely event that society will become 100% vegetarian in the coming years, the search for sustainable alternatives to meat is needed before we reach crisis point. The world’s population of 7.5 billion is already pushing against the limits of the planet’s resources.
Feeding a growing population is only part of the problem as we need to consider the environmental impacts. The traditional meat sector uses 30 per cent of the planet’s surface for livestock contributing to high levels of greenhouse gas emissions, fresh water shortages, loss of biodiversity and deforestation. There are increasing health concerns about the amount of traditional meat in our diets which is leading to a reduced consumption of meat. This, coupled with proven links to diabetes and some cancers means more consumers are actively seeking alternatives.
Overall, these growing concerns beg the question of how society will sustainably feed future generations, and meatless companies are looking to fill the gap.
Butchering’ a traditional industry
Start-ups are reinventing the industry with new breakthrough food technology, allowing for the production of ‘bloody’ meatless burgers and cell-based steaks that closely resemble in taste and texture traditional meat. These products are no longer targeting vegan and vegetarian consumers, but the mass market, including the die-hard meat eaters who are opening up to the idea of meatless meat that tastes like meat.
Recently, Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat launched 2.0 versions of their plant-based burgers. Impossible Burger 2.0 was the undisputed winner at this year’s CES technology show in Las Vegas where it first launched its newly formulated burger. Impossible Food’s new recipe swaps wheat protein for soy protein as the blend works better with potato proteins to provide an overall meatier texture. Additionally, the nutritional profile has shown a significant upgrade with reduced calories, salt and fat and an increase the protein quality. Impossible Foods will continue pushing boundaries in the plant-based space as CEO, Pat Brown told cnet; “Unlike the cow, we get better at making meat every single day.”
Around the same time Impossible Foods launched their new burger, Beyond Burger 2.0was rolled out across the U.S. This new recipe uses a novel plant-based protein blend including peas, brown rice and mung beans. This second edition plant-based burger is now meatier and juicier as a result of coconut oil and beet ingredient inclusions. The new burger is also lower in saturated fat, kosher-certified, and, just like the original patty, is free of gluten, soy, and genetically modified ingredients.
In the cultured meat space, disruptive start-ups such as Aleph Farms and BlueNalu are working to create the meat of the future. The Israeli start-up, Aleph Farms, has developed the first prototype cell-based steak which is considered the holy grail in the cultured meat industry. This breakthrough has established a new benchmark in lab-cultured meat as it is said to have obtained a true texture and structure of beef muscle tissue steak, as well as flavor and shape.
Based in San Diego, California, BlueNalu is one of the main leaders of developments in the cellular aquaculture space. “Cellular aquaculture” involves the isolation of living cells from fish tissue, placing this into culture media for proliferation and then assembling into fresh or frozen seafood products. BluNalu highlights that it will carry out this process without any genetic manipulation. They will continue their research in the seafood substitute in-house and in partnerships with universities and other research institutes to achieve their long-term research objectives.