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In July this year, Eric Schmidt, executive director of Alphabet (Google’s parents company), ranked artificial meat as the most important trend in tech. Schmidt argues that replacing livestock with artificial meat would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change.
This should not be controversial; animal agriculture is the leading cause of global warming as well as species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution and habitat destruction. With global meat demand predicted to increase 73% by 2050 due to increasing wealth in countries like China and India, other projects and avenues will clearly need to arise.
For decades, people have attempted to make artificial meat, but the appeal has been limited, because the imitation has never been that convincing. But recently, there has been a meat replacement food tech revolution. Instead of trying to take a product like tofu and pass it off as real meat like before, companies are now figuring out what makes meat taste like meat, and are then rebuilding it from the molecular level using plants.
The results have been staggering. In 2013, Bill Gates couldn’t tell the difference between real chicken and Beyond Meat’s chicken substitute. Beyond meat were founded in 2009, and boast several high profile investors including Twitter executive director Biz Stone. Impossible Foods are a similar company also pioneering this new wave of meat replacement products. In 2015 they turned down a $300 million offer by Google and in July 2016, launched their first burger.
Lab grown meat is another type of artificial meat. This technique consists of harvesting a small sample of muscle tissue from an animal. Individual cells are separated and then placed into a culture where they start dividing and growing before being layered together to form meat patties.
In 2013, the world’s first lab grown burger was unveiled to the world by Dr Mark Post from the University of Maastrickt in the Netherlands. But it carried a tremendous price tag of $250,000. A little over two years later, Mark Post and his team came back with a burger being produced for a mere $11 dollars. Other groups doing similar work include companies Modern Meadow, Memphis Meats and Supermeat.
By the year 2020, the meat substitute market is predicted to be worth over $5 billion globally. With the urgency of the climate impact and ethical concerns of the animal agricultural industries, there is a ground swell for meat alternatives to capture market share and overtake the production of traditional meat.
Klaus is the editor and founder of Plant Based News.
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