Recent innovations in precision fermentation allow scientists to replicate, for example, the “exact fatty acid” that makes meat taste like meat, said Liz Specht, who oversees a research team focused on future of alternative proteins at the Good Food Institute. Experts say these developments will help bridge the gap between plant-based products and their animal-based analogues, making them nearly indistinguishable in taste and texture.
“It’s a tool in the toolbox to get these plant-based products over those next hurdles, from a sensory perspective and from a cost-saving perspective,” she added. “It’s very, very different from what was happening in the protein field, say, five years ago.”
These products, alongside lab-grown meat, could appeal to flexitarians or casual consumers of plant-based products that have not been sold on taste until now, enabling greater consumption of meat alternatives.
And that little bit could make all the difference, scientists say.
A recent study in nature found that replacing just 20% of global consumption of beef and other pasture animals withmicrobial proteinsor those made from fermentation, could halve annual deforestation by 2050. (Whether plant-based foods, many of which are highly processed, are healthier debate.)
“Replacing the milk, meat and, one day, even the eggs we eat would massively reduce the pressure on the planet,” Monbiot said. “It could also develop a whole new kitchen that we can’t even imagine right now. Just as the first farmers to capture a wild cow didn’t think of Camembert.
Enthusiasm for this innovation abounds. (“Precision fermentation is the most important environmental technology mankind has ever developed,” Monbiot said. “We would be fools to turn our backs on it.”)