Today’s Solutions: December 08, 2023

Providing our readers with planet-saving tips and products is something we’re passionate about at The Optimist Daily. With climate change lingering over humanity’s head, people want to make changes in their everyday lives to slow this process as much as possible. This was apparent by the boost in demand for plant-based meat during the pandemic.

Many people are taking to meat alternatives, with big companies like Ikea and Denny’s also realizing the potential of plant-based meat and offering it at their franchises. There are still, however, many individuals averse to switching to plant-based diets, some missing the actual flavor or texture of meat or just not wanting change.

Here’s where precision fermentation comes in. Over the last three years, the investment in this sector has skyrocketed. From lab-grown dairy products, eggs, chocolate, honey, meat, and more, this technique has investors flocking.

What is precision fermentation?

The biotechnology – also known as recombinant protein production – works by reprogramming microorganisms to output meat, plant, and dairy proteins. If you were to compare the molecular makeup of the “real thing” and these microorganism cultured products then you would not be able to distinguish between them. Apparently, there is also no taste difference between them either!

How does it work? 

A DNA fragment of the target product is first planted into a host microorganism. This can be yeast, bacteria, or fungi, depending on which suits your desired outcome the best. The host then uses its natural machinery inside itself to replicate the foreign DNA like they would with their own and pump out large amounts of the desired protein.

This protein is then purified and processed to adjust its properties and flavor profile. And voilà, your lab-cultured alternative is ready to be consumed.

Why should we use this method?

This incredible technique diminishes the need for such high quantities of livestock. This means reduced carbon emissions, less land needed to keep livestock, fewer waste products created, a more ethical source of food, and better conditions in farms due to lower animal product demand.

This technique may sound weird and foreign, but humans have been recruiting microorganisms to pump out some of our favorite treats for centuries. Take beer and bread for example, the practice of using yeast to produce these delicious products date as far back to ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. Another more recent example is Quorn, where the microorganisms themselves are cultivated as the meat alternative rather than their products.

At the moment, this technology is not scalable when it comes to price. With precision fermented milk currently estimated to cost at least four times more than animal-derived milk. Scientists need to work on the production process to make it as efficient as possible before these planet-saving products hit the market.

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