Agriculture has come a long way in the past century. We produce more food than ever before — but our current model is unsustainable, and as the world’s population rapidly approaches the 8 billion mark, modern food production methods will need a radical transformation if they’re going to keep up. But luckily, there’s a range of new technologies that might make it possible. In this series, we’ll explore some of the innovative new solutions that farmers, scientists, and entrepreneurs are working on to make sure that nobody goes hungry in our increasingly crowded world.
Animal agriculture has quietly become a huge contributor to climate change.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, global agriculture — dominated by livestock production and grains grown as animal feed — accounts for roughly 30 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Another study, conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, found that 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions are “directly attributable” to livestock production. That’s more than the emissions generated by the entire transportation sector. The problem is cows, not cars.
Despite growing evidence that animal agriculture is damaging the planet, the Western diet isn’t likely to change anytime soon. In fact, studies suggest rising incomes and urbanization are actually fueling a global dietary shift toward consuming even more meat and dairy in the future.
How do we reconcile our insatiable appetite for meat with our duty to protect the environment?
It’s quite the predicament: On one hand, it’s increasingly obvious that addressing animal agriculture should be a big part of our efforts to mitigate climate change. On the other hand, meat is absolutely delicious and demand for it is steadily increasing.
So how do we fix this issue? How do we reconcile our insatiable appetite for meat with our duty to protect the environment?
The answer: highly convincing fakes. Over the past few years, a handful of enterprising startups have sprung up with the goal of creating animal-free meat. There are several big players in this space, with some growing meat in petri dishes and others developing new and innovative ways to use plants in meat-substitute products. In this article, we’ll take you on a tour of some of the biggest players in the space, and explore the innovative ways they’re hoping to solve the carnivore’s conundrum.
Despite what your mother may have taught you when you were young, eating insects isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Most people tend to find the idea a bit unsettling, and therefore don’t look at insects as a viable source of nutrients. That’s where Exo Protein comes in. The idea was born of an attempt by several college students at Rhode Island’s Brown University to make a food product out of insects that actually tastes good.
Co-founder Gabi Lewis already had a concept for a protein bar that dealt with the nutrition versus taste trade-off that many protein bars suffer from. With 2,000 crickets – yes, crickets – a recipe for cricket flour, an oven, and a blender, Lewis and co-founder Greg Sewitz created a protein bar that makes insects palatable.
Why cricket flour? Well, even with just 40 crickets per pound, you get flour that consists of 65 percent protein. That’s more than twice the protein content of other commonly lauded healthy protein sources like beef jerky, chicken, and salmon. It also contains all essential amino acids, and twice the iron content of a comparable serving of spinach.
But perhaps the best reason to start eating crickets is its environmental benefit. Crickets produce one hundred times less greenhouse gas than cows, and require 0.05 percent (that’s five one hundredths of a…