Fermenting: the future of animal-free meat? | FT Tech

Silicon Valley venture capital is feeding a budding business in fermented, animal-free proteins, creating bacon, turkey and egg white from yeasts and fungus. San Francisco correspondent Dave Lee considers its potential over a few slices of fungus salami.

In the foothills of south san francisco perched above a silicon valley freeway is a test lab designed to hatch a new kind of egg farm no cages no conveyor belts and crucially no chickens we produce real animal protein without using an animal it is identical to what the animal makes the every company is refining its production of animal-free egg white and protein

Supplements backed by 233 million dollars in funding from investors as far afield as singapore it uses two very different technologies genetic engineering and the age-old process of fermentation so in the same way that brewers use yeast to convert sugar and alcohol to make beer and wine we use these to convert sugar into protein but what we do specifically

Is we can 3d print the dna sequence that codes for any protein known to man and feed that to the yeast and so as a yeast eats sugar it starts actually reading the dna sequence and then starts printing out the specific protein that was that it was encoded fermented protein is a budding industry within the alternative meat sector that’s found a home and plenty

Of capital in and around san francisco people here are willing to fund crazy ideas you have a huge critical mass of people who made their money you know being very early stage employees at some of the biggest tech companies in the world who had crazy ideas as well using fungus to make bacon and america’s beloved deli meats like salami and turkey might seem

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Like a crazy idea too but it makes perfect sense to investors who’ve stumped up at least 18.5 million dollars to fund another local startup prime routes to do just that hi i’m dave great to meet you americans on average eat 200 deli sandwiches per person per year and so it really is this everyday staple within conventional deli meats there’s a ton of baggage

So you know you have nitrates there’s a lot of hormones antibiotics salt the list goes on and on our ingredient list is really short and clean and that’s something we take a lot of pride in i’m invited into the test kitchen where deli meats like salami are made without meat the magic happen right the protein comes from koji a fungus with mesh-like filaments

Or mycelium such fibers from other kinds of fungi are also used in corn and other meat alternatives this is some koji we grew in a ball jar but it really lets you see the fibrous texture that the koji has it really replicates the microscopic texture of the meat once the sugary fermenting liquid has been drained a little bit so start the mixer the koji can be

Mixed seasoned pressed and baked into all kinds of forms and flavors watch how nicely it slices i’m sampling a slice or three of koji fungus salami it’s not just acceptable salami it’s good tsunami it’s very delicious as tasty as alternative proteins can be the industry still faces an uphill battle in convincing consumers to make the switch here in the u.s

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Conventionally reared animal proteins still dominate the market the value of the global meat market was estimated at up to 1.8 trillion dollars in 2021 dwarfing the 9.9 billion valuation of the meat substitute sector but that’s expected to change in the u.s per capita revenue in the substitute market is projected to almost double in five years from 3.90 in 2021

To 7.27 by 2026. journalist and author larissa zimbarov has documented the fusion of food technology and business especially around her hometown that it has to be more delicious and is an expert on alternative proteins so you’re gonna try the plant-based lamb today i’m gonna give it a go she believes younger generations and increasing concern over the emissions

And environmental damage from livestock industries will drive high demand for alternative more sustainable meat substitutes plant-based meat only has about less than one percent of the meat sector right and they have a huge way to go but once generation z and generation alpha pick up and once they have control of the wallet we will see changes happen faster

But i want to know how fermented protein makers can compete with the producer of the vegan lamb in our salad and establish plant-based brands selling burgers and nuggets in supermarkets and restaurants across the country fermentation is one of the the top dogs right now people want to call it clean it is a short ingredient list and you can wrap your head around

It unlike the plant-based alternatives which have you know 12 to 15 ingredients but the biggest advantage for fermentation may be cost cultivated or lab-grown meat makers are struggling to upscale production to make their outputs viable and agreeable to food regulators most plant-based protein contains pulses and grains many of which have soared in price and

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Often requires sophisticated and expensive equipment to make it look and feel like meat neither of those issues apply with a fermented protein that can be grown in a basic sugar solution and formed using conventional catering kit our timelines and our costs are less expensive than if you had to custom make equipment in terms of the cost right out of the gate

We’re actually pricing competitively with the middle of the market for animal free egg white manufacturer every the trick is to partner with established companies like brewing giant a b inbev and use their existing facilities to ferment the protein so there are companies around the world who have fermentation facilities where we can immediately plug and play

Into and that allows us to have maximum optionality and scale up very very quickly conventionally reared meat is still popular in the alternative friendly streets of san francisco but california is also one of many regions bearing the brunt of the changing climate that brings high emission industries like conventional agriculture into question and emerging

Sectors like fermented protein into the spotlight

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Fermenting: the future of animal-free meat? | FT Tech By Financial Times

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