Thanks to breakthroughs in the tried and tested technique of precision fermentation food innovators have now unlocked the keys to make animal-free proteins and fats that are biologically identical to(and just as delicious as) those we currently get from cows, pigs, chickens, sheep and fish.
With other incredible 21st century innovations across the world of agriculture, we are now standing on the cusp of a revolution as big as the dawn of farming 10,000 years ago.
Precision fermentation is just like brewing beer, but for protein and lipids (aka fat).
It is a next-level form of brewing that uses microorganisms, like yeast, to make ingredients we currently get from animals or plants.
how does it work?
Choose a specific microorganism such as a yeast or bacteria.
Genetically programme the microorganism with the DNA sequence for the ingredient you want to create - such as the proteins found in cow’s milk, casein and whey.
Put the microorganisms in a fermentation tank with some simple nutrients and sugars.
(btw, did you know we’ve used fermentation to produce foodstuffs and beverages since the Neolithic age!)
Harvest perfect food grade ingredients that are biologically identical to those you’d get from an animal and mix them up into sellable products (like milk, or cream, or cheese…)
precision fermentation is already a tried and tested success
In the first half of the 20th century, insulin - used to treat diabetics - was harvested from the pancreas of cows and pigs. This process required an awe inspiring 50,000 slaughtered animals to produce just 1 kg of the hormone!
But in the late 1970s a company called Genetech found a way of creating human insulin using precision fermentation. Being cheaper and better in quality it quickly captured the market. Today PF insulin accounts for 99% of insulin demand worldwide, saving millions of lives - both of diabetic humans and of cows and pigs!
A similar story happened with rennet, a crucial ingredient in cheese.
A mountain of pig pancreases were needed to provide life saving insulin to diabetics.
99% of global demand now supplied by precision fermentation
The crucial ingredient for all cheeses, today 80% of global demand now supplied by precision fermentation
precision (and regular) fermentation milk, ground beef, egg whites and cream are already making their way onto the market
Perfect Day is a Californian company producing animal-free versions of the two crucial proteins in milk: casein and whey. You can buy milk made from this through the USA under the Bored Cow brand.
Formo is a start up from Berlin using precision fermented milk proteins to make a range of cheeses that melt, stretch and cook just like ‘real’ cheese.
The Every Company has used precision fermentation to crack the codes to create identical egg whites - just without chickens. In March 2023 they launched their first PF enabled macaroons with leading French pastry chef Chantal Guillon.
Brave Robot makes a range of ice cream flavours using animal-free milk proteins created by Perfect Day. Already trading in the USA, it has plans to expand internationally.
Impossible Foods make ‘burgers that bleed’ using a precision fermentation product called heme. Heme is the molecule that makes meat taste and smell like meat. Widely available in the USA it has recently been cleared for market in the UK.
Solein by Solar Foods in Finland is making a complete protein powder with a microorganism that metabolises air itself. Initial life cycle assessments suggest this could be the most environmentally friendly protein ever produced.
Paleo is the first heme manufacturer able to offer a portfolio of the most popular meat and fish tastes. Making heme proteins from an extinct species is the ultimate proof that we can produce animal proteins without ever touching one.
And so much more...
Scientists around the world have now cracked the code of the vast majority of animal proteins in the lab meaning everything from PF butter and sausage meat to PF fish fingers and chicken nuggets are now technically feasible. Just as PF insulin quickly did away with animal insulin, with the right government support, precision fermentation could transform the global food system.