Vegan meat may sound like an oxymoron, but it’s proving to be the future of meat as we know it. Through the work of scientists and chefs, it’s regularly dominating spots on plates millions of Americans long reserved for animal products. And it’s also dominating something else: the booming tech industry.
In 2016, Milken Institute Global Conference in Los Angeles, Eric Schmidt, executive director of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, listed plant-based proteins as the most important trend in tech. 3D printing, self-driving cars, mobile medical data, virtual reality, and education programs were all left behind.
According to the Good Food Institute, an organization that specializes in supporting the development of plant-based food products, Schmidt predicts we’re entering a “revolution of replacing livestock with plant proteins.”
“Shifting from conventional meat to plant-based foods would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change,” writes GFI’s Brian Kateman.
Schmidt explained that focusing tech industry efforts on developing plant-based vegan meat could significantly reduce the cost of food production, especially in developing nations. As the taste for animal products continues developing alongside the growth of these nations, the global environmental impact of animal production obviously will rise. But, writes Kateman, “a switch to plant protein will remove the animal from the equation and allow harvesting of plants for direct human consumption.”
So how is technology helping to build a better burger?
Computers aren’t exactly great chefs yet. But technology is advancing research efforts in plant identification and formulation that makes for delicious and highly nutritious foods. The best thing about this foods is excluding of the health and foodborne illness risks of animal products. It’s even being used in growing “meat” without the animal. A lab-grown burger was already tested in the UK to rave reviews.
Beyond Meat, a Southern California plant-based meat company, recently released the first veggie burger so meaty it’s being sold in the meat case alongside animal products. It was sold out in an under an hour on its first day in the store.
Pat Brown, founder, and CEO of the plant-based food startup Impossible Foods told “You’re not going to make anything that appeals to a hardcore meat lover by mushing together a bunch of vegetables. “We had to do a deep, molecular investigation into what it is that accounts for the desirable properties – texture, juiciness, the aromas, how it cooks.”
Why a vegan meat?
Impossible Foods, which has raised more than $180 million and an offer to sell to Google for $300 million, is committed to making a vegan burger so meaty that even the most devoted carnivore won’t be able to distinguish it from beef.
Just like Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods sees several benefits in simulating meat from plants. Some of the reasons are: It’s better for our bodies, for the planet, and most certainly for the animals.
“Delivering a pound of meat to the grocery store is a relatively inefficient and costly process in comparison with delivering a pound of many protein-based plants,” reports Fortune.
2016 was the Year of the Pulses (legumes and beans) according to the United Nations. They are highly nutritious and versatile in the kitchen or the high-tech lab, as it were. But they provide benefits to farmers, too. Lentils, for example, are nitrogen fixers that can replenish the soil. Raising cows, chickens, or pigs does the opposite. It damages soil (and air quality and water) beyond reparations, endangering communities for generations. It also requires the razing of rainforests and uses immense amounts of critically limited resources including freshwater and antibiotics. Animals raised on antibiotics also proliferate antibiotic resistance, which is now becoming an immense public health issue.
We all must agree that meat is more indulgent and more problematic than ever before.
How do we feed 9 billion people by 2050, and what can we do about climate change? These are the biggest questions. So, “Plant-based and lab-grown meat products or just vegan meat are the answer to both of these questions.”