Plant-based meat equivalents soon?

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Livestock agriculture is an obsolete technology, says Stanford researcher, Patrick O. Brown.

“Animal farming is by far the biggest ongoing global environmental catastrophe,” says Brown. “It’s an inefficient technology that hasn’t changed for a millennia.”

In a presentation to the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting here last month, the researcher and entrepreneur gave a provocative presentation in which he characterized the livestock industry as “a sitting duck for disruptive technology.”

When it comes to feeding the world, Brown claims livestock is the real population bomb. The current human population has just surpassed seven billion, but the global livestock population is greater than 21 billion.

“Population growth is an issue because humans are carrying a population of livestock that outnumber and outconsume us by a lot,” says Brown. “They are competing with humans for primary nutrients.”

Brown argues that the world’s four major commodity crops — corn, wheat, rice and soy — already produce enough food to meet the caloric and protein requirements of the projected world population in 2050. The problem is that many of the food crops currently produced are used for animal feed.

“If we could replace animal-derived foods with plant-derived foods, we could free up 26 per cent of Earth’s land surface for other uses, reduce water use and greenhouse gas emissions and reduce pressures on biodiversity,” says Brown.

Motivated by a passion for environmental conservation and sustainability, Brown has committed the next phase of his career to developing alternative technologies to compete with meat and dairy products.

“If you just look at the chemical and physical characteristics of foods that are traditionally animal-based foods, you find that it is in the repertoire of components that you can get from abundant, cheap plants,” he says

Financed by a Silicone Valley venture firm, Brown is developing a grain-based product line that will compete head on with meat and dairy products. He claims to have a product that will satisfy the cravings of even the hardcore meat and cheese lovers.

“We have a class of products that totally rocks and cannot be distinguished from animal-based product that it replaces, even by hardcore foodies, and that’s something that we’re now in the process of scaling up so we can manufacture and distribute it,” says Brown.

The new products are expected to be available in the United States within a year.

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