The future of food production has a become a global concern in recent years. With a rapidly growing population taking a massive bite out of global resources, scientists are starting to worry about how we will be able to continue feeding so many mouths if we do not change unsustainable fishing and farming practices.
While some companies are finding ways to grow meat in labs, others are finding natural ingredients that can provide mouth watering alternatives for things we love, like shrimp, fish, and burgers without harming the environment. In a recent panel discussion during the Wall Street Journal’s The Future of Everything Festival, Dominique Barnes from New Wave Foods, Kimberlie Le from Terramino Foods and Patrick Brown from Impossible Foods sat down to talk about how they’re each creating a sustainable solution that can alleviate the world’s food production problems by harnessing natural ingredients.
Although there may be many plant-based burger and milk options out there, plant-based seafood alternatives aren’t as common. As the founder of New Wave Foods, Dominique realized that was because it can be hard to properly replicate the texture of seafood. Luckily, her company cracked the code and figured out how to make delicious plant-based shrimp from algae and other natural ingredients. This sustainable shrimp is vegan, since it does not include any animal products, and is made without GMOs.
Despite growing up in Las Vegas, Dominque was passionate about marine conservation and her curiosity in sustainable foods was peaked when she starting wondering about how heaps of shrimp, once a valued and coveted delicacy, was finding it’s way to buffet tables in the middle of the desert. Not only is shrimp often overfished, but it is also commonly frozen and transported over many miles for consumption which can sometimes pose health and environmental problems.
Dominque explained the complicated process of developing a sustainable solution for shrimp which involved finding the right algae and plant ingredients to replicate the taste and texture profile of these little critters. She went on to discuss the sustainable benefits of this alternative food, saying, “We’re using large ground algae extract. You know, its wild but it grows up to two feet a day and its harvested off the top and that can be processed into a really amazing ingredient for our shrimp. So we’re really thinking about things that taste great, that are sustainable and going back to the building blocks that can make food even better for us than it is today.”
While she and her team are thinking about expanding to other seafood options down the road, Dominque shared that right now they want to perfect shrimp before moving on to other foods. You can take a bite out these faux shrimp at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, where they are served in the Cafe’s "Shrimp" Burrito. Living on the east coast? Orchard Grocer in NY also sells this shrimp alternative. If you’re located somewhere in between, Veestro.com, a vegan and organic meal delivery service, delivers to any physical address in the US and offers this sustainable seafood in their Shr'mp Jambalaya.
While algae might be the answer for better shrimp alternatives, Kimberlie believes fungi is our best bet for getting a good source of protein in other food alternatives, like fish. Before she co-founded Terramino Foods, Kimberlie studied food science and technology to figure out how to make food more sustainable without sacrificing taste. She found that Koji fungi is not only a sustainable source of protein, but it had the potential to naturally offer similar textures and nutrition, like traditional meat and seafood without needed to introduce GMO ingredients.
Through this alternative, people can get important nutrients like Omega-3 and all nine essential amino acids without worrying about consuming toxins like mercury. Kimberlie suggested this option is also better for consumers since it is more cost efficient than traditional meats and seafood.
Kimberlie goes on to discuss how this approach is not only a more efficient way to source food, but it’s also much more environmentally friendly since it relieves pressure unsustainable practices like overfishing and large scale farming, saying, “You have to feed an animal a lot of calories and a lot of protein just to get a source of protein out but there’s much better ways of getting protein from plant world. We believe it’s from the fungi world where instead of feeding an animal 30 calories to get one out, we feed our fungi two calories to get one so its a lot about efficiencies and that translates to natural resources like water, land, you name it, is affected by the way we produce protein.”
Right now Terramino Foods is working to scale the business as they continue to bring down their product’s price. Kimberlie and her team plan to have their alternative foods on the market by the end of this year.
While fungi and algae food alternatives are making their way to people’s plates, one of the most popular plant-based alternatives right now is the Impossible Burger. Patrick, a former Stanford University biochemistry professor, founded Impossible Foods to create meat and dairy products from plants which even the most die hard meat lovers could get behind.
Patrick made the shift because he wanted to address the environmental impact of animal farming, which he strongly believes is causing significant problems regarding biodiversity loss and human health. His research team decided to focus on making the perfect burger because they found that most of the meat consumed in the U.S. was ground beef.
One of the most intriguing things about these burgers is their ability to “bleed” like a traditional burger. Patrick discussed the intensive research his team did to learn how meat is built at a molecular level so they could translate that into their product. While the Impossible Burger is made from ingredients like wheat protein, coconut oil, and potato protein, it’s also made of heme which is the key component that helps things taste and smell like meat.
Although it might seem like a lofty goal, Patrick whole heartily believes people will eventually put down animal-based burgers and reach for plant-based ones as great tasting options are developed, saying, “We’re not going to solve the problem by talking people out of wanting to eat these foods or coercing them. The only way to solve the problem is by beating that technology in the marketplace.”
For now, Patrick and his team are working on making the best burger possible while perfecting the natural ingredients that go into it. While they’re not in grocery stores yet, you can try an Impossible Burger in one of the hundreds of locations across the U.S. that offer them like White Castle’s Impossible Slider.
With so many new alternatives to traditional foods, which would you try?