A meat alternative implies that the product in question — for example, a burger — is made with ingredients that do not come from an animal. For the most part, meat alternatives are plant-based ingredients that impart a texture, taste, look, smell and/or nutritional quality that resembles the meat-based product being replaced.
For example, soy is often used as a meat alternative since, similarly to meat, it has an excellent amino acid profile with protein that is highly bioavailable. Other plant-based ingredients used as meat alternatives include legumes, macroalgae and protein isolates that come from vegetables, such as peas and potatoes.
In addition to plant-based ingredients, microorganisms provide another class of ingredients that can serve as meat alternatives. These include yeast — either whole yeast or yeast extract — and fungus, such as species of Aspergillus. These ingredients are often used as they are both highly nutritious as well as impart a savory taste that provides satisfaction in the absence of meat.
Microorganisms can also serve as a technology platform to produce animal protein isolate without the animal. One example of where this technology is currently applied is in making cheese. Rennet — which are a class of enzymes found in the stomachs of some animals — is responsible for curdling milk and ultimately producing cheese. Traditionally, this process involved extracting these enzymes from animal stomachs following slaughter. However, with the advent of cloning technology, such enzymes can be recombinantly expressed using microorganisms such as yeast.
Although not yet commercially available, a number of companies are currently in the process of creating more foods — including pet food — made with animal protein produced from yeast rather than the animal.
In the case of each of these it’s important to understand that while they serve as a kind of meat replacement, none of these options is meat. It’s simple to recognize how plant- and microorganism-based ingredients might replace some function of meat, but that they’re not meat themselves. But whether or not an ingredient is actually meat becomes a little less clear when we’re talking about an animal protein produced without the animal.
However, meat is much more than protein. Especially when it comes to our pets, protein is only one vital nutrient found in meat. Meat naturally contains not only protein, but also free amino acids such as taurine, essential fatty acids, and a number of vitamins and minerals.
Our cells are fed the same nutrients that cells growing inside of an animal receive - vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Whether those animal cells are growing inside or outside of the whole animal, the nutritional needs of those cells are the same. Among the biggest differences between cultured meat and animal-grown meat is the source of those nutrients: rather than nutrients coming from within the animal, the nutrients used in Because, Animals’ cultured meat come from plant and microbial sources.
This proprietary medium addresses the scientific, ethical, and supply challenges of FBS, and reduces the cost of production — a key step towards commercialization of the technology.
To read everything you could ever want to know about our cultured meat, check out our White Paper, Cultured Meat: The Future of Pet Food authored by our CEO & Co-founder, Shannon Falconer, PhD.