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The Future of Protein: A Look at 3 Alternative Protein Sources
Plant-based, cultivated meat, and fermentation-based
We need more solutions for protein production because as the global population continues to increase, the demand for protein will also increase. We will need food tech-enabled alternative protein sources to support the population because we don’t have enough natural resources to meet the rising demand for animal protein. So, today let’s look at three alternative protein sources that could help us feed the world more sustainably.
As a meat lover, have you ever thought about the environmental impact of traditional animal-based meat production (I sure have)? Plant-based meat offers a solution that not only addresses these issues but also delivers a delicious, protein-packed meal that is similar to traditional meat in taste, texture, and appearance. By using plants as the main ingredient, plant-based meat eliminates the need for animals in the meat production process, making it a more sustainable and efficient way to enjoy the meat dishes you love.
Traditionally, plant-based meat was made from a combination of vegetables, beans, and oats. However, companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat are using more innovative ingredients to mimic real meat’s taste and texture. Common ingredients in plant-based meat include soy protein concentrate, pea protein, and legumes such as tempeh, tofu, and lentils. Other ingredients may include jackfruit, chickpeas, quinoa, and vegetables.
(Further reading: How Plant-Based Meat is Made).
Also known as lab-grown, cell-based, cultured, or in-vitro meat, this type of meat is produced using animal cells grown in a laboratory, rather than using whole animals. The process of producing cultivated meat involves taking a small sample of cells from an animal and using them to grow muscle tissue in a laboratory setting. This process is similar to the natural process that occurs within animals, and the resulting product is identical to traditional meat at the cellular level. This tissue is then harvested and processed into meat products such as burgers, sausages, and chicken nuggets.
Imagine being able to enjoy a delicious burger, sausage or chicken nugget knowing that you’re not contributing to the negative impact of traditional animal agriculture and that the meat you’re eating is just as delicious. And the best part is that you can have it all without compromising your values or taste buds!
(Further reading: How Cultivated Meat Is Made)
The third and final type of protein that you can use to diversify the protein source in your diet is fermentation. This ancient technique utilizes microorganisms to produce proteins and has been used for food production for thousands of years. From preserving food and creating alcoholic beverages to making yoghurt and tempeh more nutritious, fermentation has been a staple in many cultures throughout history.
But, fermentation is not just limited to traditional uses. It’s also been applied in various areas of the alternative protein industry. You can categorise fermentation-based protein into three different forms: traditional fermentation, biomass fermentation, and precision fermentation. Let’s explore them.
Have you ever wondered about the magic behind the delicious taste and texture of fermented foods like beer, wine, yoghurt, and cheese? The secret lies in the process of fermentation, which uses microorganisms to convert food into these delicious products. Not only that but fermentation can also be used to enhance the flavour and functionality of plant-based proteins, like tempeh, which is made through traditional fermentation methods.
Think about it, you can enjoy a savoury tempeh patty or a tangy slice of cheese, knowing that it was created by the natural process of fermentation using soybeans and lactic acid bacteria.
Have you ever thought about exploring the world of microbial-based protein production? This innovative process utilizes microorganisms that have a high growth rate and protein content to effectively produce a substantial amount of protein-rich food. Imagine being able to enjoy a delicious and nutritious meal, while knowing that you’re supporting a more sustainable and efficient food production method. In this case, microbial biomass is the main ingredient of the food product, and it’s an exciting new way to enjoy food without compromising on taste or nutrition.
Precision fermentation involves using specially-designed microorganisms to produce specific functional ingredients, such as proteins, enzymes, flavour molecules, vitamins, pigments, and fats. This method is similar to how insulin and rennet are produced for medical and food uses and allows for efficient production of these ingredients by alternative protein producers. In precision fermentation, the microorganism acts like a factory and churns out the necessary ingredient.
Precision fermentation offers a sustainable and efficient way to produce functional ingredients that can make your meal more nutritious and delicious without compromising your values. For example, you can design a microorganism to produce milk proteins so you won’t be needing cows anymore.