Image for Beyond meat: three pioneering alternative proteins

Beyond meat: three pioneering alternative proteins

Protein made from thin air? Slaughter-free chicken? It might sound too good to be true, but it’s coming to a dinner table near you

Protein made from thin air? Slaughter-free chicken? It might sound too good to be true, but it’s coming to a dinner table near you

alternative proteins
1. No-kill chicken

What if you could dig into a juicy chicken taco, entirely guilt-free? California-based Upside Foods takes cells from live poultry and cultivates them in laboratory conditions.

The end result is chicken flesh which Upside says is identical to conventionally reared meat – without the slaughter, or the planet-destroying carbon footprint. Following a green light from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in November, their chicken will soon be appearing on supermarket shelves.

In what could be seen as a sign of the times, major investors include Tyson Foods – the world’s largest poultry producer. Upside is already branching out into cultivated seafood, and where Upside leads, others will surely follow. The FDA says multiple firms are seeking their approval to bring cultured meats to market.

Image: Upside Foods

protein alternatives
2. Vertical insect farms

This French startup has lofty ambitions – to save the planet by breeding insects. It might sound icky, but Ynsect – which was founded by environmental activists and scientists in 2011 – offers an organic and sustainable way to feed the world and has attracted $425m (£349m) in investment.

The funding is helping the carbon negative company to build its third vertical insect farm outside Paris (pictured), which will be the world’s largest, helping it ramp up production of mealworms – the larvae of darkling beetles.

Packed with protein and requiring 100 times less land than conventional livestock, the mealworms are made into a range of textured proteins and powders for the human diet. If you’re not keen on swapping minced beef for minced bugs, you can feed your pet on its products. And farmers can swap environmentally damaging soya for the insect protein to feed their fish, pigs or poultry.

Image: Ÿnsect

3. Food made from thin air

It sounds almost too good to be true, but Solein is making protein from thin air. Developed by a Finnish biotech startup called Solar Farm, they claim Solein is the world’s most sustainable protein.

It’s made by cultivating an ancient bacteria fed on CO2 from the air – plus hydrogen bubbles produced using water electrolysis – in a process similar to fermentation.

These microorganisms make amino acids, fats, vitamins and carbohydrates. Come harvest time, excess water is removed and they’re dried into a protein-rich powder.

Solar Farm says the process is even more efficient than photosynthesis, and requires a fraction of the land and water required to feed livestock or grow crops. It can be made into a meat and dairy alternative, or used in snacks and drinks as a fortifying protein additive.

For now Solein is only approved for sale in Singapore, but Solar Farm is currently seeking authorisation in the UK, Europe and the US.

Image: Solein
Main image: Upside Foods

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