Why we should care about plant meat

When we are eating meat, what are we eating?

Why do people need to eat meat? One important reason: protein is needed.

Before farming civilizations, meat was pretty much the only way we got protein from nature. In a sense, the development history of the entire human civilization is a history of struggles to continuously transform nature and obtain protein.

For example, if we add up the total amount of carbon contained in all the animals in the world today, then among terrestrial mammals, domestic cattle are ranked first, with a carbon content of about 61 million tons; ranked second The number one is domestic pigs, about 21 million tons. Together with chickens, ducks, sheep and horses, the total weight of all “livestock” is about 100 million tons of biocarbon. In contrast, all the remaining 6,000 wild mammal species combined have a total carbon of only 0.07 billion tons.

You must know that such a “peculiar” ecosystem has only been formed in the past 10,000 years; and the main purpose of its existence is to “ensure that humans can obtain enough protein.”

In order to be able to eat meat, behind the long industrial chain of “livestock” is huge resource consumption and waste. For example, all the chickens and pigs in the world eat about 75% of the world’s processed feed that would otherwise be eaten by humans. However, after the digestion and absorption of the livestock at the upper level, the loss in the middle is very large, and an average of 5 to 6 kilograms of feed can be converted into 1 kilogram of live chickens or pigs.

In contrast, cattle and sheep do not compete with humans for food, but their problems are “land occupation” and “greenhouse gas emissions”. Cattle and sheep are ruminants that emit large amounts of methane through burping and farting, so livestock contributes 26% of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than all cars, planes, trains and ships combined. In addition, grazing requires vast grassland space, so animal husbandry also uses more than half of the world’s agricultural land – also to feed one person, the land use efficiency of pasture is less than one tenth of that of arable land.

So, can people not eat meat? Yes, but difficult.

First, humans have been eating meat for at least 300,000 years. The so-called “no meat, no love”, the preference for meat has been deeply embedded in our genes, and it is almost impossible to change in the short term.

Second, the nutritional value of meat is difficult to completely replace. Among the dozens of amino acids that maintain life activities, there are 9 kinds of amino acids that cannot be synthesized by the human body and can only be ingested externally. Historically, the main source of these 9 amino acids is animal protein. Of course, plant proteins represented by soybeans can partially replace these amino acids – which is why East Asian people consume less meat than Europe and the United States.

However, there are quality differences between proteins. The ratio of amino acids in protein contained in various natural foods is different from the needs of the human body to varying degrees: as long as the ratio is close to the ratio required by the human body, the utilization rate is relatively high; otherwise, the utilization rate is relatively low – and meat Classes have an innate advantage in this regard.

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“Alternative plant protein” is the trend

From 1950 to 2018, global meat production increased from 5,000 tons to 340 million tons, an increase of nearly 7 times in 70 years; if you include China’s new demand, plus Africa, India, and Bangladesh, you will not be considered With population growth, global meat consumption must at least double for all countries to pass the 70kg threshold. In reality, animal husbandry has taken up more than 40% of the world’s food production (mainly processed into feed), about half of the agricultural land on the surface and about 10% of the world’s energy consumption.

If we consider the environmental protection and public health costs caused by “environmental pollution”, “greenhouse gases” and “overuse of antibiotics”, it is destined to be an “impossible task” to make “everyone have meat to eat” for the world’s 7 billion people in the future. ”, even if the resources of the entire planet are exhausted. Therefore, just as clean energy will eventually replace fossil energy – in our opinion, “artificial meat instead of animal meat” is the general trend. Whether it is accepted in the short term or not, this will be the next stop of human civilization. technology tree.

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The increasingly popular artificial meat.

At present, artificial meat is mainly divided into two technical paths. One is “plant meat“, which uses plant proteins such as grains and beans as the main raw materials; the other is “cellular meat”, which extracts and isolates muscle stem cells from animal bodies, and then proliferates in bioreactors to produce muscle tissue. To put it simply, “vegetable meat” needs to solve “how to make vegetarian meat taste more like animal meat”. The core technology is the deodorization and wire drawing process of vegetable protein, and the path is closer to “food technology”, so It started the earliest and the industrialization is the most mature. On this track, many well-known technology companies such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have been born.

And “cellular meat” needs to solve “how to make cells grow into a piece of meat”, which is more inclined to “biotechnology”, so it starts later and the technical path is more difficult.

However, with the rapid changes in the world environment, people’s awareness of environmental protection and health awareness has gradually become clear. More and more people are choosing to replace animal meat with artificial meat or plant meat. There are also more and more companies developing new products. Therefore, plant meat will be a very popular mainstream product in the future.