Soy used to be the go-to choice for vegan meat products. But now, as the alternative protein sector booms, food scientists can take all manner of ingredients (like fungi, peas, sunflowers, and even cells from living animals) and create realistic-tasting, plant-based or slaughter-free meat products.
But what about meat made from thin air? It seems way too futuristic to be true, but it’s real.
Inspired by old NASA research, which focused on innovative ways to feed astronauts on long space missions, California-based food tech startup Air Protein uses carbon capture to literally turn air into protein.
Put (relatively) simply, the brand uses microbes to recycle purified food-grade CO2 and combines it with water and energy to create protein. After that, in a process similar to beer fermentation, the protein is turned into a flour-like substance.
Oils, nutrients, and flavorings are added to turn that powder into the end product: Air Meat. The totally vegan product resembles either steak, chicken, fish, or pork.
Why we need Air Meat
According to founder Lisa Dyson, Air Protein is driven by an impact-focused mission to transform the food system.
Conventional meat products are the product of animal agriculture. The outdated and destructive industry not only slaughters billions of animals, but also contributes around 14.5 percent of global greenhouse emissions and destroys rainforests. (According to a study by the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, 80 percent of the Amazon has been cut down by ranchers.)
Some may be confused by the idea of using air to make products that taste like meat. But Dyson says it is an essential concept to explore. It doesn’t require anywhere near as many natural resources but gives those who enjoy meat products a credible, realistic-tasting alternative, she says.
Dyson told Dezeen: “We have a mission at Air Protein to accelerate the world’s transition to climate and rainforest-friendly meat. That mission requires us to make products that meat-eaters love.”
“We are focused on delivering taste, texture, and nutritional outcomes that will make the environmentally-friendly choice the easy choice.”
This article was originally published on April 20, 2022. It was corrected on April 27 to state that Air Protein uses food-grade CO2.