- Two biotechnology startups, California-based Calysta Inc. and India-based String Bio, have separately found a way to produce beef-like products from methane, which is emitted from landfills, farms and oil and gas extraction, reports Bloomberg.
- The process starts with a methane-filled liquid that is fed to bacteria found in soil. This triggers a fermentation process that releases protein in the water, and a brown powder can be collected from that water to create animal feed. The next step is revamping the same process to create food that is fit for humans.
- According to Calysta’s website, its branded FeedKind protein is “a family of highly digestible feed ingredients produced by a natural fermentation.” Existing products include FeedKind Aqua fish feed, FeedKind Terra pig feed and FeedKind Pet food.
A burger made from methane probably has a much bigger “ick factor” to contend with than even products made from insects.
Many consumers claim environmental sustainability is priority for them. A recent Unilever study found 33% of consumers now choose to buy from brands they believe are doing social or environmental good. More than three-quarters (78%) of U.S. consumers say they feel better when they buy products that are sustainably produced. But to what extremes are they willing to go?
While this alternative protein production method would help cut down on methane, it could turn off even the most protein-crazed, environmentally conscious consumer. People demand products that are functional and particularly high in protein, but they’re probably more likely to turn toward the many plant-based proteins hitting the market over insects, methane-based ingredients or other options such as cultured meat made in a laboratory.
The large and lucrative millennial generation is more adventurous in their eating habits and could be willing to try new protein sources. A report published in 2015 by NPD Group, Midan Marketing and Meatingplace, a trade publication, found 70% of consumers who eat meat are substituting a non-meat protein in their meal at least once a week. And of that total, 22% said they are using non-meat proteins more often than the year before — a sign of the growth potential in the category.
Still, it’s hard to imagine ordering up a methane burger when consumers have the option of seaweed pasta, cricket-based ramen, kelp jerky and even honey bee larvae. These dishes are delicacies in many parts of the world. Several countries, such as Mexico, Thailand and Australia, often use bee brood in soups and egg dishes. Whether or not they will be able to gain traction in the American market is another matter.
With experts predicting there won't be enough food to go around by 2050, scientists and entrepreneurs will continue to seek innovative ways to try and feed the world’s growing population. It remains to be seen whether landfill gas-based burgers will be the menu.