This is an original article written by Dennis Tan and edited by Global Initiatives.
Last week, I received a text from a friend:
“TurtleTree Labs, a homegrown biotech company, has developed cell-based technology that can recreate milk from all mammals, including human breast milk,” it read.
Wait what?! Has science finally gone too far?
As I read about their unique innovation, I started to research a little on the different alternative proteins that seem to be taking the world by storm.
What are alternative proteins?
Globally, there are many different brands and labs that have started selling alternative proteins with most focusing on alternative meats. These meat replacements are designed to replicate the taste and texture of animal meat and largely fall into two categories: plant-based and lab-grown.
“They lie covered in their own urine and excrement, with broken legs from trying to escape or just to turn, covered with festering sores, tumors, ulcers, lesions.” – Matthew Scully, speechwriter for President George W. Bush
The meat industry has also earned a bad reputation for the treatment of its workers that has been thrust into the spotlight in recent months. Workers in slaughterhouses operate in dangerous environments that are detrimental to both their physical and psychological health, causing them to be in a constant state of pain.
An analysis of the Impossible Burger 2.0 found that its carbon footprint is 89% less than that of an average beef burger. It also uses 87% less water, 96% less land, and significantly reduces water contamination by 10 times.
Customers are also trending towards exploring these alternative meats and other alternative proteins. This growing consumer awareness and strong investments in some developed countries have created a booming US$2.2 billion industry that, as a fifth of respondents in a 2015 McKinsey survey of dairy-industry professionals believe, “[the investment in alternative proteins] will continue to grow”.
What about the lab-grown milk you mentioned?
While alternative meats have been receiving the lion’s share of attention and funding, other more innovative (read: quirkier) alternative proteins have been rapidly gaining traction.
While the notion of having to eat insects may be difficult to stomach for some, our recognition of the unsustainability of our meat-heavy diets has definitely been long overdue.
Personally, I can’t wait to embrace the range of novel alternative proteins that are rising up to make the world a kinder and more equitable place for humans and animals alike. In the meantime, while they scale up to become more ubiquitous and affordable for consumers, we can do our part by supporting only cruelty-free producers or simply consuming less meat and other animal products.