Yes, we love meat. But protein increasingly poses a challenge. The staple grains that provide proteins to people in the developing world are actually losing protein and other nutrients. Livestock production is a major contributor to climate change, especially in wealthier countries like the U.S., and won’t be able to keep up with population growth. So the race is on to develop new proteins to feed the nearly 10 billion people who will inhabit the planet by 2050. Some of them are already recognizable. Others… well, you won’t be seeing them at Five Guys anytime soon. Here are some options in the works:
Yeast-Based Meats and Dairy
Genetically engineered yeast is becoming a key tool for turning plant materials into meat-like substances. Consumers can already chow down on a plant-based burger that bleeds and tastes like beef, thanks to an ingredient made from bioengineered yeast. Another company uses yeast to produce non-dairy milk that tastes like the real thing.
Strains of algae that are high in protein are being bred as a replacement to soy and whey-based protein powders. Algae have the advantage of being high in omega-3 acids and other nutrients, and lack the allergen issues of soy and whey.
Companies are looking at culturing meat in a lab from livestock cells in order to create the meat products consumers expect without the environmental consequences of actually raising large numbers of animals. While no lab-grown meat products have hit the market yet, investors are spending a lot of money on the hopes it could provide a sustainable source for chicken, beef and pork.
While lentils, peas and chickpeas have been around for eons, researchers are looking at new ways to use the protein-dense plants in food products. Products include high-protein flours and an egg substitute in vegan mayonnaise.
Soybeans are both high in protein and a commonly grown crop in the U.S., making them an attractive option for food companies looking for meat alternatives. As a result, there is a range of protein powders, soy milks and soy-based meat substitutes available to consumers.
Tank-based fish farms are increasingly being eyed as a more sustainable source of seafood following growing concerns over fish farms in natural lakes and oceans. Fish is high in protein and has beneficial fats and other nutrients. One company has even genetically modified a salmon to grow faster, which makes it easier to produce fish for consumers.