- Lab-produced food sales gain as health and sustainability concerns grow.
- Perfect Day, which produces dairylike products in a lab, recently raised $300 million in funding.
- Lab-grown meat, for example, could reduce the use of energy by as much as 45%, reduce the use of land by 99% and produce up to 96% fewer greenhouse gases, according to Science Daily.
For some breakfast eaters, nothing tastes better than fried sausage and eggs with buttered toast, washed down with coffee and cream.
Still, that “traditional” North American breakfast, borrowed from Great Britain, may be falling out of favor due to calorie, fat and cholesterol concerns. But if those health issues could be controlled, might that hearty combination make a comeback?
Time will tell as more companies produce lab-made foods, such as the Impossible Burger, made by Impossible Foods, which mimics the taste and texture of a juicy beef patty, or cell-based seafood from BlueNalu. Now there’s Perfect Day, which produces such dairy products as milk, butter, cheese and ice cream without involving animals.
Perfect Day says it takes milk’s essential genes and then adds them to micro-flora, which uses fermentation to convert plant sugar into whey and casein. To boost the company and bring its products to market sooner, Perfect Day recently raised $300 million in its Series C funding round, led by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.
Turning to lab-made foods may be one solution for tackling world hunger, caused by droughts, weakened supply chains and pandemics, and limiting the extreme waste, expense and animal suffering brought on by the agricultural business as a whole. Even with new lab-made food products on the market and others in the works, a lot needs to be worked out before most people will chow down on a complete meal that mimics real food.
”It’s unclear if [lab-made food] is healthier,” Sylvain Charlebois, director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University, told Karma. “Environmentally, of course, the case is very strong, but which option is healthier will be up to the science to decide.”
Charlebois said that because lab-created food is designed and not produced, “the potential of making a healthier product is there,” adding that more testing will determine synthetic meat’s safety and nutritional value. “Meat, though, is a natural, unprocessed product, so it’s difficult to compete against that,” he said.
Plant-based meat is making a go of it, though. Last month, Starbucks introduced the Impossible Breakfast Sandwich, made with plant-based sausage, in its U.S. stores. Earlier this month, Nuggs, the meat-alternative company that makes chickenlike nuggets out of soy protein, announced plans to change its name to Simulate and expand into making chickenlike patties and hot dogs.
Charlebois said that governments must first pass regulations before such ventures can scale up. Another hurdle is to gauge the public’s appetite for food not produced on farms and at dairies, which food producers tend to romanticize with marketing campaigns that tout the concepts of “happy cows” and freely roaming hens.
He believes younger generations are more likely to first adopt the new types of food, especially in the backdrop of COVID-19, which brought to the fore food shortages and supply-chain breakdowns. Then, older consumers may follow suit. “COVID-19 has not helped our livestock industry’s image overall, with plant closures, animals being euthanized and on-farm waste,” Charlebois said. “I would argue that many consumers will remember what happened during COVID-19.”
Documentary filmmaker George Monbiot believes that lab-produced food has come in the “nick of time,” writing in The Guardian that it will save the planet.
“By temporarily shifting towards a plant-based diet with the lowest possible impacts (no avocados or out-of-season asparagus), we can help buy the necessary time to save magnificent species and places while these new technologies mature,” wrote Monbiot, who made “Apocalypse Cow.” “But farm-free food offers hope where hope was missing. We will soon be able to feed the world without devouring it.”
In that case, pass the lab-made butter, please.