As global demand for meat increases, it's clear that future protein production will require incredible innovation. Our global population is set to reach 9 billion by 2050, and both demand for meat and meat prices are expected to double concurrently. Given these trends, researchers project that it will be impossible to fill bellies all over the world via traditional meat production.
The good news is that scientists and entrepreneurs - backed by venture capital funds like Kleiner Perkins, Khosla Ventures and Founders Fund - are now developing more sustainable, healthier and cheaper protein alternatives. Do crickets, mealworms, or lab-grown burgers sound appetizing? Maybe not today, but read on to find out how these protein innovators hope to change your mind and catapult a more sustainable food supply chain. And check out the video from the Food Startups Future of Protein Meetup below.
Lab-grown beef burger patty photo: david parry / PA wire
Cultured-beef gained notoriety with the bite heard round the world--the first public tasting of Mark Post's $300,000, Google founder backed, lab-grown burger in early August. Today, nearly 1/5 of all greenhouse gases come from industrial livestock production and roughly two thousand gallons of water go into a single pound of industrial beef. But a new study from Oxford University found that lab-grown meat would require just one percent of the land and four percent of the water of traditional livestock production. Post sees cultured beef as just one of many "radical transformations of production methods [that] are required to keep up with global doubling of demand in the decades to come." But while the first burger has been ketchup smeared and met with mixed reviews, commercially produced lab-grown burgers are at least a decade away. Post and his supporters must now shift the focus towards producing lab-grow meat in a more efficient and cost-effective way to promote wide-spread consumption and environmental impact. Check out Post's contribution to our Hacking Meat conversation.
Founded in 2012 to address the global market for entomophagy, Tiny Farms wants you to eat bugs. While they may not be popular in the United States, over 2 billion people worldwide use insects as a food ingredient. Tiny Farms aims to capitalize on the United Nations Food and Agricultural Administration stance that insects could be key to providing enough food for the word's growing population by replacing traditional meat production with more energy, space and time-efficient insect production. Still in its larva stage, the company is tackling the practical (people don't equate creepy crawly with dinner) and regulatory (food safety) obstacles that insect agriculture will face. In the future, it will supply the technology, training and expertise to scale edible bug production. Tiny Farms also hopes to eventually create retail products, such as mealworm brittle, and infiltrate the supply chain by providing restaurants with crunchy recipes and bug-based know-how.
Photo: Hampton Creek Foods
HAMPTON CREEK FOODS
"Where doing good actually tastes good," Hampton Creek Foods aims to wean the world off of animal-based products by creating cheaper, healthier and more delicious replacements. Its first product, Beyond Eggs is a plant-based replacement for eggs to be used in baked goods (not just on its own). However, its second product is a plant-based replacement for good old-fashioned scrambled eggs. The company hopes that by developing "functionally superior" alternatives that are even cheaper than industrial eggs, it will be able to convince both corporate food giants and every day consumers to make the switch. But changing consumer perception will not be easy--would you be willing to supplement your morning yolk-filled ritual with plant-based powder? Hampton Creek Foods has raised a total of $4.5 million from Khosla, Founders Fund, Kat Taylor and the Collaborative Fund to date.
Exo wants you to trade in your cliff bars for cricket bars. This month, the company successfully raised over $46,000 on Kickstarter, more than doubling its pledged amount. With the money they raise, the team hopes to build a factory that churns out the bug-based bars for the masses. “Exo will introduce to the West one of the most nutritious and sustainable protein sources in the world: insects," reads its website. By combining cricket flour (slow roasted and milled crickets) with other organic additions like raw cacao, dates, almond butter and coconut, the company has created a low sugar, gluten, soy and dairy free, nutrient rich bar, packed with more protein than beef. Riding on the coat tails of the date-based, General Mills-acquired, Lara Bar, Exo hopes to convince mainstream consumers to go one step further and reach for the cricket-laden snack when their next work-out induced protein craving hits.
This meal alternative shake is designed to supply a person's daily nutritional needs and can be customized based on an individual's body type and personal goals. Initially developed by Rob Reinhart, of Y-Combinator backed Level RF, as a low-cost personal food hack, Soylent recently raised $1 million in pre-orders through its Indigogo campaign. Costing $65 for a week's supply, the shake is made of starch, whey protein, olive oil, and raw chemicals and contains a plethora of carbs, amino acids, proteins and vitamins. The product's aim is not to supply an alternative for every meal, but rather to replace those meals that we don't really care about. Until now the company has had 50 Beta testers, but it plans to ship 140,000 orders in September, reports TechCrunch.