Author: Hayden Leung | Category: Environment | Food | Date: 08-17-2020
Proteins are an essential part of our diet. However, they are also a major contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions. One solution to this problem can be found by using alternative proteins. By definition, alternative proteins are proteins that do not come from animals but are instead made using plants or artificially made using technology. Some popular examples of alternative proteins are made by Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat.
How are alternative proteins created?
One method of creating alternative proteins is to have bacteria produce Heme. Heme is the ingredient from which the flavor you usually associate with meat comes from. In addition, since fermentation is a CO2 based system, it can slightly reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Another method of creating proteins is cultivation. In the first step, different types of cells are taken from the target animal and are grown in a bioreactor. While in the bioreactor, the cells are fed nutrients (Fetal Bovine Serum) in order to have it correctly grow. The cells are then placed into an edible scaffolding which allows for the cells to mimic the shape and texture of the meat. One benefit to using this is that real animal cells are used which makes the end product almost identical to traditional meat. However, one major downside to this is that the cells have to be grown in a bioreactor which requires large amounts of time and resources which means that we do not yet have a way to mass produce the cells.
Why we should switch to alternative proteins
Reducing our consumption of meat is an important step in lessening our greenhouse gas emissions. Livestock produces large amounts of methane due to it being a byproduct of cellular respiration. Traditional meat is very inefficient as around 93-93% of the energy used to make the meat is wasted. In addition, more than 77% of our agricultural lands are used to provide feed for livestock. In many countries around the world, demand for meat is increasing at a rapid rate. Alternative proteins can solve this problem by allowing for the mass production of meat to solve food shortages.
There are also many problems that are associated with alternative proteins. One major problem is that large amounts of money, time, and research are needed before mass producing can be feasible. In addition, the environmental impact of alternative proteins are not yet fully understood. By introducing alternative proteins, we may also introduce new environmental issues. In order to prevent this, the protein must be studied and be approved by both the FDA and USDA before it can be released into the general public. Lastly, alternative proteins might not have the same taste or feel as traditional meats which may lessen its appeal causing more people to turn back to traditional meats.
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