FROM PLANT-BASED TO CELL-BASED
Trends in food production are changing in 2021. Some techniques were already used in the last decades, others got developed following an innovative and sustainable inspiration.
The fermentation process is more in vogue than ever. Today, we produce plant-based proteins in a simple, effective and flexible way by using genetically engineered microbes. Companies such as Perfect Day or Clara Foods are producing dairy-free products or egg substitutes through fermentation. According to a “Prepared Food” report, there were 44 new fermentation companies launched in late 2019 and early 2020 in the US, a 91% increase compared to 2018. Not to mention investors such as Bill Gates or Al Gore investing massively in the field. As of 2021, fermentation technology will become one of the main alternative protein supply chains.
Non-allergenic substitutes developments are another major trend for 2021. As statistics show an increase in diverse intolerances and allergies to products such as nuts, gluten, soy and many others, the industry adapts.
But the major development that we are looking forward to is cellular agriculture.
Cellular agriculture is the production of animal-based products from cell cultures rather than directly from the animals. This alternative to conventional animal agriculture offers huge potential for solving some of the most pressing environmental problems such as the contribution to climate change, methane emissions, expanding land use, rainforest destruction, loss of biodiversity and soil pollution. It is a field that has grown considerably in the past five years through research and optimised methods to address food sustainability and security with technology. Cellular agriculture aims at creating a better food system in which animal products are produced in a sustainable way.
In December 2020, Singapore approved cultured chicken bites for sale. “Eat Just” was the first company to get regulatory approval for a cultured product.
In Tel Aviv, the company “SuperMeat” opened the first cultured mean restaurant in order to test and get feedback on their products in the development stage.
The production of cultured products is considerably more efficient than animal production. It takes 10 weeks for a 250gr burger patty, but only 12 weeks to produce 100 000 patties of this kind. On the other hand, it takes 18 months to raise a cow and produce 1 500 patties.
The costs of production are still expensive today. Nevertheless, it is expected that producing cultured products becomes more affordable than conventional meat production with the current developments and initiatives.
An important question is raised regarding these products: are cultured products genetically modified?
European startups are aiming for a production that doesn’t include genetic modification. This is the reason why, they opt for the usage of fermentation from microorganisms processes, which is no surprise since rennet, vanillin, amylase or pectinase have been commonly used for decades already.
Cellular agriculture has the potential to positively impact our health, animal welfare, social justice and global economy.
The “New Food Conference” will take place in October 2021 in Cologne, Germany, with a specific focus on cellular agriculture, developments of fermentation technologies such as microbe fermentation, and the potential of hybrid products like the usage of carbon dioxide to create protein.