Plant-Based Protein: Alternative Approaches
When the topic of plant-based protein arises, most will immediately conjure mental images of Beyond Meat and Impossible’s red, meat-like burgers and sausages. This should be of no surprise to anybody; massive media coverage driven by mainstream restaurant adoption as well as the 6-month boom-and-bust of Beyond Meat’s stock. However, not all media coverage has been positive, as lobbying/advocacy group Center for Consumer Freedom has expressed concerns about artificial chemicals present in these alternative meats (or in the words of CCF, ‘Fake Meat’). Most prominently, the CCF took out full-page attack ads in the Wall Street Journal and New York Post to spread their message. Although it’s agreed on that plant-based meat creates fewer emissions (up to 90% fewer!) than traditional meat products, there’s still discussion on how much better, if at all plant-based meat is in health terms.
However, the plant-based protein market isn’t just soy and pea protein burgers. In fact, according to Cargill, alternative meats are actually the category of plant-proteins consumers are least privy to trying.
Here are a few different, innovative ways companies are attempting to integrate plant-based protein into the modern food-chain:
Protein Out Of Thin Air: Solein
Solar Foods uses microbes, air and water to produce Solein, a protein powder that allegedly looks and tastes like wheat flour. Established in 2017, the company attempts to create food without using any agricultural land and ‘unlimited scalability’. The product is still undergoing testing and targets late 2021 for a global launch. Given output and consistency of agricultural land is at risk due to climate change, a soil-independent solution to food is a step forward in increasing sustainability in food production.
Methane to Meal
Indian start-up String Bio and Menlo-Park based startup Calysta are both innovating a biotechnology which ferments a bacteria in a methane-dissolved solution that yields a protein powder that can eventually be consumed by humans. Also a few years away from being on the market, this solution is notable as it methane, one of its key ingredients, is a greenhouse gas 30 times as potent as CO2. A stark contrast to livestock farming, which produces about 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions, this technology would decrease greenhouse gas emissions while producing protein.
Present Day Protein: Pasta
If you’re hankering for a plant-protein option to add to your pantry without the few-years wait, there are a number of options that are simply made from high-protein plants; no additional science needed. Banza‘s chickpea-based pasta packs twice the protein of regular pasta, along with twice the fiber and fewer calories. Barilla has also released their own line of Chickpea pastas with similar nutritional contents.