The Lowdown: air-based meats

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Photo credit: Wahlburgers
Photo credit: Wahlburgers

Related tags: Meat, Plant-based

A Californian start-up claims to have created the world’s first air-based meat alternative.

Air pie and windy pudding all round…
Not quite. Or, at least, not yet. But give it time and that may well become an actual, tangible menu option. Not because we as a nation are returning to Victorian-era destitution (although with Brexit on the way, we wouldn’t rule that out), but rather because of this latest innovation to meat-based alternatives.

What’s the deal?
Well, to add a little context, California has recently birthed two major players in the plant-based meat market: Impossible, and Beyond, the latter of which is used as a vegan alternative by several burger operators in the UK. But Bay Area-based company Air Protein is reportedly doing something different; using carbon transformation techniques to create a substance with an ‘amino acid profile comparable to meat protein’ that can be used in burgers, tacos and sausages.

Sounds delicious…
Curiously, there’s no word on how it tastes. The ‘meat’ has been created using technology developed by Kiverdi, a sustainable science company that specialises in pairing advanced biotechnology with carbon recycling to create food, clothing, and personal care items. Kiverdi has drawn inspiration from NASA’s closed-loop carbon cycle concept, which involves converting the carbon dioxide exhaled by astronauts into protein during long-journey space missions. Unlike with other meat-based alternatives, the process is said to take ‘hours not months’, and occurs in fermentation tanks hooked up with carbon dioxide and various nutrients.

Hardly sounds like it’s worth salivating over, does it?
Well, no. But, the speed at which the protein can be created could well be cause to celebrate.  Population growth means farmers will need to increase food production by 70% with only a 5% land increase, according to The United Nation Food and Agricultural Foundation. Air Protein says it is working to supply a ‘much-needed’ resource in a form that’s ‘more sustainable’ than plant-based meats (according to Kiverdi, the technology uses 10,000 times less land and 2,000 times less water than existing agricultural processes to produce similar proteins).

Ok, I’m intrigued. When will it become available?
It’s set to be purchasable from next year, although how long it will take to reach these shores is impossible to know. We actually suspect it may already be here, though, in the form of the literal impossible burger pictured above, which bizarrely formed part of the Wahlburgers press pack when the chain launched its debut UK restaurant earlier this year…

Related topics: Trends & Reports

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