IMAGINE a plant-based hamburger patty that not only looks and tastes just like meat but bleeds as well. Or how about trying some meatless chicken strips with the same fleshy and fibrous texture as cooked poultry. There is a strong chance that the above scenario may soon become a reality.
Several Silicon Valley funded companies are on a mission to change the way people eat by creating new plant-based food that they say will be healthier, less expensive and tasty as real meat, egg, dairy and other animal-based products. More importantly, these healthier option all have a much lower environment impact.
One of a handful of tech startups that has embarked on a programme to develop animal products as well as cheese and eggs from plants is Impossible Foods. The company’s founder, Dr Patrick Brown says that its mission is to “give people the great taste and nutritional benefits of foods that come from animals without the negative health and environmental impact.”
The Standford University biologist and physician founded Impossible Foods because he knew that people would never give up the foods they love. Generally, many people are not keen on eating vegetables. They prefer to eat meat or dairy products. He believes that the answer is to mimic the taste of meat and other animal-derived foods with plants and take the animal out of the equation.
Animal farming, he says, is not only destructive but unsustainable. “Yet the demand for meat and dairy products is going up. What we are doing is reinventing the entire system of transforming plants into meat and milk.”
According to the United Nations, livestock uses about 30 percent of the world’s landmass and produce about 14.5 percent of greenhouse-gas emission. Furthermore, animal farming is also one of the biggest consumers of water. With the world’s population expected to rise to more than 9 billion by 2050, the demand for meat and other food production are expected to increase.
It is interesting to note that the crop of Silicon Valley funded startups are not targeting vegetarians and vegans but those who love meats and dairy products. This means, the companies have to replicate the meaty flavours and textures that meat lovers prefer.
The secret to a burger’s taste is haem, a compound found in all living cells, including plants. It is especially abundant in haemoglobin in blood and in muscle tissues as myoglobin. It also gives a burger its red colour.
During the cooking process, haem acts as a catalyst that helps transform the amino acids, vitamins and sugars in muscle tissue into numerous volatile and flavourful molecules. To create the meaty flavour in its burger patties, the company uses a heme protein equivalent to one found in the roots of legumes. According to Dr Brown, this is “the molecule that makes meat meat.”
According to a recent article in The Economist, a study by the Humane Research Council in the US states that about most vegetarians and vegans (about 2 percent of American’s population) go back to eating meat. As the article points out, this may not be an option in the future as there will come a time when it will be impossible for food production to meet the needs of the growing population, unless there is a change in the way we eat.
This being the case, there is a strong possibility the people may eventually shift to plant-based foods.
Lastly, we hope readers can share your good practices and let’s make the world a better place. Till then 🙂
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Image 02 Designed by www.impossiblefoods.com