Earlier this month, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a landmark report underscoring a stark warning to the world: To avoid disastrous levels of global warming, we must take “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”
One of the urgent changes recommended by the global authority on climate change? People need to consume 30 percent less animal products. ASAP. After all, raising animals for food has a serious and consequential environmental footprint. For instance, the livestock sector alone is estimated to account for 14.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions globally, more than from the entire transport industry. And with a rapidly growing global human population, if we don’t shift our eating habits now, we’ll only be making the situation exponentially worse.
The good news is that a small, but rising, group of food trailblazers is on the case to shift the tide in big ways. Here are some future food inventions they’ve come up with, which eliminate the animal from the equation (i.e. pollution). And, they could soon be coming to a supermarket or restaurant near you:
1. Lab-Grown Gelatin
Gelatin is a translucent, flavorless food ingredient. It’s derived from collagen, which is extracted from the body parts of animals, including their bones and hides. Gelatin isn’t the main reason cows and pigs are farmed, but it monetizes animal parts that would otherwise have been discarded as useless.
Enter: lab-grown gelatin. This is gelatin that is grown in a laboratory, without animals, by the companies like California biotech startup Geltor. Geltor scientists take carbon, nitrogen and oxygen and convert them into collagen via a microbial fermentation process. The final product has exactly the same properties and characteristics as animal gelatin. Pretty incredible, huh?
Animal gelatin is currently used in a wide variety of foods including candy, desserts and condiments. If cultured gelatin can eliminate the need for animal versions of these products, the results will be game changing.
A Berkeley-based biotech startup called Wild Earth recently unveiled its debut market-ready product: an animal-ingredient free, healthy, eco-friendly dog snack made from koji. (Koji is a type of fungus Japanese foodsmiths use, to ferment some of their country’s most popular cultural delicacies, like miso and sake.) But “clean protein” dog snacks are just the start of Wild Earth’s ambitious plans. Next up on the roster is a dry dog food, also made with koji?then a cultured meat for cats, using the cells of mice. Whoa. Now that’s forward thinking.
In the US alone, the pet food market will reportedly be worth a whopping $30 billion by 2022. But on the flip side, the environmental impact of this growth is also consequential. A recent study found, for instance, that companion cats and dogs in America are already responsible for 25 to 30 percent of the environmental impact of meat consumption in the country.
We’ll never stop loving and nourishing our beloved pets, so for the sake of the planet, we’ll have to root for companies like Wild Earth. Moving forward, we really do need a more sustainable pet food industry.
3. Cruelty-Free Foie Gras
Without a doubt, foie gras is one of the most cruelly produced food products out there. The French “delicacy” is made by force-feeding ducks and geese until their livers balloon up to 10 times their natural volume. This, of course, causes the animals great, prolonged pain and suffering. A number of countries have already banned the production, import or sale of foie gras due to animal welfare concerns. We applaud them.
For those of us opposed to this torturous and unethical practice, there’s still more hope around the corner. Some remarkable companies, like Integriculture and JUST, Inc. (formerly known as Hampton Creek), are working diligently on bringing a lab-grown foie gras to market. This type of gourmet product will allow fans of foie gras to continue consuming their favorite treat, with all of the same rich taste and texture?but none of the cruelty.
Another big player in the cultured meat space is Memphis Meats, which has received funding from the likes of Bill Gates and even the American meat industry giant Tyson Foods. Memphis Meats is focusing on culturing many different kinds of meat, including duck.
4. Hen-less Eggs
Humans consume a staggering trillion eggs for food worldwide?each year. The negative environmental and welfare effects of having to produce eggs from billions of live hens, at scale, are serious, far-reaching and well documented.
Clara Foods is a San Francisco-based cellular agriculture company working on a solution to this global issue. Starting with only two of the simplest ingredients out there?sugar and yeast?the company is making hen-less egg whites, from cell culture. Their low-fat, high-protein product is slated to hit the market by the end of 2019. For egg aficionados, cultured eggs will be the real thing, and not a substitute, that can be used for pasta, omelettes, meringues ? and a whole lot more. In the meantime, food tech company JUST has already debuted its mung bean-based egg replacer JUST Egg, which can be scrambled and eaten as is. Recently, the company reported that it outsold conventional chicken eggs in select grocery stores, which is certainly promising news.
5. Cultured Fish
Earlier this year, a “flesh-like,” plant-based alternative to raw tuna, made from tomato, went national. Fishless Ahimi tuna is available at 40 Whole Foods Market locations in 10 states across America. The company behind Ahimi, Ocean Hugger Foods, says its plant-based seafood is one step toward alleviating the increasing pressure on our precious oceans, caused by the global overconsumption of fish.
The next step towards this effort is as cutting edge as it gets. Seafood startups, including Finless Foods, Blue Nalu, Wild Type and Seafuture are striving to get their up-and-coming cultured seafood products to break into the $120 billion seafood market.
A more sustainable seafood industry can’t come soon enough. According to a recent government report, Americans are consuming 15.5 pounds of fish and shellfish per person, up nearly a pound from the previous year, making it the biggest leap in seafood consumption in 20 years.
Let’s face it. It’s highly unlikely billions of people around the world are going eat less meat ?or stop altogether?any time soon. Luckily for us, a whole new wave of animal-free products are about to hit the food marketplace. And they could actually be the miracle we need in time to save the planet.
If this cutting-edge field of food interests you, check out the upcoming Cultured Meat Symposium conference, taking place in San Francisco November 1. Some of the innovative brands we‘ve mentioned here will be there?including Memphis Meats and JUST?as well as many of the top pioneers and leaders in the space.
Contributed by Ulara Nakagawa and?Sharanya Krishna Prasad
Credit: Larry Hoffman via Flickr
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.
5 Animal-Free Food Breakthroughs (Including Foie Gras!)