The possibilities of protein and the market for meatless meat

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The possibilities of protein and the market for meatless meat



Wedged in between a toasted brioche bun with thick slices of red onion and tomato, the Beyond Meat burger looks like a respectable staple at a diner. Likewise Gardein's Crispy Tenders have the look and feel of breaded crispy chicken, golden brown on the outside with a crunch to the bite.

The difference is of course that they are not meat and are instead two products from the growing industry that produces 'meatless' meat. The Beyond Meat burger is made from pea protein and the Crispy Tenders from soy. But while they may look the part, and some say come close to the taste, they have one obvious problem: they are not meat.

As start-ups like Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods and Gardein try and replace animal-based 'meats', others are looking at reimagine how to create actual meat in order to satisfy what will be a growing demand in the coming years.

Several start-ups are working to culture meat cells separately from the animal to produce what the industry terms cultured or simply 'clean' meat. Amongst the leaders in the field is San Francisco-based Memphis Meats, which has already produced beef, chicken and duck meat in this way.


A Growing Demand

Turning to the laboratory for the future of meat is an attempt to try and satisfy the growing demand which is expected in the coming years. The world's population is expected to reach 9.1 billion by 2050, creating a 74% increase in meat demand.

This future projection comes following a century of increased consumption and ensuing problems. Factory farming has had to find ways to produce more meat without compromising affordability, affecting conditions in farms and slaughterhouses which have raised public concern. Meanwhile epidemics of BSE aka "mad cow disease", swine flue and bird flu have long lasting effects on the public consciousness.

Backers of cultured meat want to emphasise their production methods avoid all of these problems.

The desired meat cells are harvested – perhaps from a cow's sirloin, chicken's thigh or duck's breast. Only a few are needed, so this can be done without harming the animal. These cells are then cultivated in a natural medium containing all of the ingredients needed for the cells to reproduce. To further reduce the already low risk of contamination, the meat is regularly tested as it grows. Once ready, it is harvested and packaged.

For the environment, there are also claimed advantages. Memphis Meats estimates that they will be able to produce beef using 90% less land and water.

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The Challenges

The largest challenge is the "creep" factor. Although cultured meat claims to be cleaner, safer, and utilises natural ingredients to stimulate normal biological processes, it simply does not have the natural feel of raising and slaughtering an animal.

But many are willing to try it at least. Almost two thirds of Americans say they would be willing to try cultured meat, while one third say they would regularly eat it instead of conventional meat. Those figures lead backers to hope that the creep factor will eventually be eclipsed.


Backers

The established meat industry is not altogether shunning the idea of new competition. Cargill, one of the world's largest meat producers, has joined Richard Branson and Bill Gates in investing in Memphis Meats.

However, it can be expected that some of the existing agricultural players will try and push for legislative roadblocks to try and block the advance of 'clean' meat.

Important information

This document is issued by Bank Lombard Odier & Co Ltd or an entity of the Group (hereinafter "Lombard Odier"). It is not intended for distribution, publication, or use in any jurisdiction where such distribution, publication, or use would be unlawful, nor is it aimed at any person or entity to whom it would be unlawful to address such a document. 

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