Most plant-based meat, such as the Impossible Burger or the Beyond Burger, uses protein made from soy or peas. The newest meat alternative uses protein made from air instead, in a process that transforms CO2 into an ingredient with the same nutritional profile as the protein you find in animals.
Air Protein, a Bay Area-based startup, unveiled the first prototypes of “air-based” meat today. The technology behind it comes from an idea first explored by NASA in the 1960s, when scientists trying to figure out how to feed astronauts in space discovered that it was possible to use microorganisms to convert CO2—breathed out by astronauts—into food. Using a similar process on Earth, inside fermentation tanks, could help radically improve the environmental footprint of food.
[Photo: Air Protein]
The company calls its technology a probiotic production process, similar to making yogurt. Inside a fermentor, naturally occurring microbes consume CO2 and a secret blend of “mineral nutrients” to produce an ingredient that is 80% protein. Unlike soy or other plant protein, it’s a “complete protein,” with the same amino acid profile as protein in beef or chicken. It also has vitamins such as B12 that aren’t typically found in vegan food. Unlike some animal protein, it doesn’t have any antibiotics and hormones. And the process runs on renewable energy. ...