Beer has been around forever. It’s one of the world’s oldest beverages, and many attribute mankind’s ability to grow civilizations to early experiments with beer and bread. (We could probably name more things we’ve broken and built due to beer, but that’s just us.) That being said, fermentation, the process that gives us beer, isn’t anything new. What fermentation is, though, is trendy. The future of food production just so happens to have a lot in common with how we make beer.
Fortune’s Beth Kowitt cites fermentation as the future of food as we know it. In her article on the topic, Kowitt covers how finding natural ingredients is becoming increasingly difficult.
Because of this, scientists are finding alternate methods to produce natural food. They’ve found a way to take certain genes in order to create more natural food options. How? They insert the genes into yeast and ferment them. Neil Goldsmith, CEO and co-founder of Evolva, chimes in on the topic.
“Companies want to go more natural, but they’re running into constraints,” says Goldsmith. His company, Evolva, provides other organizations with yeast to necessary for fermentation. “Fermentation offers a way to make ingredients without being reliant on a challenged supply chain.”
So what does this mean, and how does it relate to beer? What Evolva and similar companies are doing is “tweaking” yeast. This is what we’ve done to create beer and bread and wine for generations.
What we’ve found now, though, is that there’s more to this than just bread and booze. In effect, you can use this yeast-altering process to make milk without having cows. (Yeah, our minds are blown too.)
Utilizing a 3-D printer, the DNA sequence of a cow is inserted into yeast. As this yeast ferments, casein and whey protein are made. These proteins are paired with fats and other nutrients from plants, resulting in a cow-free milk.
Similar processes are being implemented in order to take the molecule that makes meat taste like meat and insert it into plant-based foods. Calorie-free sugar substitutes, such as erythritol, can be made this way, too.
The idea behind this sounds great to us; truly, it does. But we can’t help but be a little skeptical of meat-free meat and cow-free cows.
Since the natural supply of these products isn’t meeting demand, we do see how this is a great business opportunity for companies like Evolva. Is it ethical, though? Do you want to drink “milk” created from a 3-D printed sequence of cow DNA? Can we really call this food natural?