In recent years, there has been a steady growth in consumer demand for alternative sources of sustainable proteins. This growing demand is driven not only by concerns over animal welfare but also by environmental considerations.
The consumption of meat from traditional livestock sources poses a massive environmental threat. It is estimated that the processes needed to meet the annual consumption of 350 million tons of meat are equivalent to 7.2 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions.
This is almost two-thirds of the carbon dioxide generated due to food-related reasons. It is essential to know that international soy can exert less damage on the environment. At the same time, it can decelerate climate change and provide enough sustenance to feed our growing populations.
It is known that alternative proteins can carry sustainable and ethical advantages over the regular meat we consume. Sustainable proteins are vital for the future of food. Though it has been on the market for hundreds of years, the popularity of sustainable protein continues to grow. In addition, investment in sustainable protein companies has risen sharply in recent years.
Defining Sustainable Protein
Sustainable protein refers to the production of new sources of protein. This could be cell-based foods or protein-rich plants such as mycelium, algae, and microbes. Most of these new approaches towards conventional meat and dairy farming provide significant opportunities to reduce the env impact. Today there is massive potential for innovation in this space.
Why Do You Need Sustainable Protein? Do you know that protein is one of the building blocks of life? It is essential for a balanced diet and the growth and repair of your damaged tissues.
As you may be aware, the demand for protein is rising as the world’s population is projected to reach 10 billion by 2050. Out of which, 1 billion people worldwide do not consume enough protein. Without innovation in food production, it will be impossible to provide enough protein to meet the demand while meeting the targets.
What Do You Mean By Sustainable Protein?
Plant-based protein crops like peas, soy, and other legumes are plant-based protein alternatives. You might find supplements made from these ingredients readily available in the market. But more than they alone may be needed to solve the protein problem.
Not because their issues are linked to deforestation. If you derive protein from algae, the fermentation of microbes is also a rapidly-growing field. Another alternative is the cultivation of cell-based meat and dairy protein. Most of these dairy proteins are nutritionally identical to their conventional cousins but are far less resource-heavy to produce.
Sustainable proteins only sometimes mean meat-free. Some companies are developing feed supplements that can reduce cattle’s methane emissions.
What are the key challenges?
Consumer reliance on traditional meat protein sources is already established and will take time to shift. There are also some types of conventional meat that can be difficult to recreate. But companies today are making great leaps in modulating texture, taste, and mouthfeel.
It is essential to understand that some plant proteins lack the complete set of amino acids, while others do not compete with meat and dairy on price. In addition, regulatory approval regarding the labels also needs to be revised.
Sustainable Protein From Under the Sea
Do you know that one popular source of sustainable proteins is aquaculture farming? The process involves rearing aquatic organisms in controlled environments. It often includes fish and prawns, which can then be sold off for consumption as seafood. Interestingly, the seafood industry is making great strides, with global fish production likely to reach 200 million tonnes by 2030.
Note that aquaculture farming is widespread primarily because it is an environmentally-friendly option. The feed usage in aquaculture farming is roughly 2x to 4x more efficient than the feeds used for livestock such as cattle and pigs. This significant cutback on feed production is linked directly to approx 45 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions in the case of livestock farming.
Cultivating Lab-grown Meat For Sustainable Protein
Another source of sustainable protein is cultivated meat. This is achieved by harvesting animal cells grown and multiplied in a controlled environment – eventually forming the muscle tissue you usually consume.
Lab-grown meat is famous for its sustainability benefits and is in high demand. It is predicted to become one of the largest alternative protein markets shortly globally. There has been a rise in lab-grown meat companies in recent years.
Can you produce meat like protein without killing or tearing down a tree? Yes, today, you can find consumers with a sustainable and ethical choice wherein they can still consume meat.
Interestingly, today cultivated meat is seeing growing acceptance and enthusiasm from people of all ages. It is primarily the younger individuals drawn to the fact that they can consume meat without indirectly being part of the animal slaughter process.
At the same time, older consumers view its benefits from a nutritional standpoint. The reason is that the meat is cultivated in a controlled environment and hence is less likely to have foreign microbiological entities.
Do you know that the consumption of plant-based proteins is increasing at an annual rate of 7 percent globally? The most common protein-rich plants are legumes, soybean, and oilseeds. If consumed in their raw state, protein-rich plants have comparable protein content to meat. Moreover, they also usually contain more fiber and less saturated fat.
Plant-based products are highly processed to mimic the meat’s taste, appearance, and texture. It is where high amounts of saturated fat and sodium are used. In addition, additives such as gums, stabilizers, and agents are also often needed.
Interestingly, companies today use 3D printing to tailor plant-based meat substitutes even further. These plant-based alternatives do not contain the usual hormones, cholesterol, or antibiotics usually found in real meat.
To sustain our food system, we must change how we eat. Incorporating alternative proteins into diets might be good, but we must maintain our health. The agri-food industry must take significant steps to continue research and innovation. In addition, we must ensure that health is a key priority when we increase the number of sustainable proteins in our diet.