💸 Problem solved:🍖 alternative proteins 🍃 — Be the solution with Atlas.
What is the connection between a rock climbing world's champion & the solution our meat craving? The answer is in this month sustainability tech investment opportunity!
About 50 years ago, a number of technologies came about and would revolutionize our world. Everything from automobiles to plastics, to electronics to satellites: All this sweet technology worked together to improve the lives of billions of people around the world and brought what we call the modern age, which I'll be honest: Having experienced it firsthand, I can say is pretty great. We all got to live in a time where distances could be covered quickly, unlimited food accessible in a matter of minutes, disposable products could be made cheaply, and best of all, we got to read knowledge from blog posts like this one, on a personal computer, which, as you are reading, is receiving information from outer space.
There's no denying it. That's awesome. But there's also isn't the full story something we don't talk about nearly as much as these flashy new machines but was nevertheless an equal part in shaping the world we know today is how technology impacted agriculture, what we eat and hence our human activity.
Sustaining our drug addiction to protein
There's a reason why most of humanity is seeking to consume proteins on a daily basis: It simply gives us super powers!
Energy metabolism is the general process by which living cells acquire and use the energy needed to stay alive, to grow, and to reproduce. How is the energy released while breaking the chemical bonds of nutrient molecules captured for other uses by the cells? The answer lies in the coupling between the oxidation of nutrients and the synthesis of high-energy compounds, particularly ATP, which works as the main chemical energy carrier in all cells.
There are two mechanisms of ATP synthesis: 1. oxidative phosphorylation, the process by which ATP is synthesized from ADP and inorganic phosphate (Pi) that takes place in mitochondrion; and 2. substrate-level phosphorylation, in which ATP is synthesized through the transfer of high-energy phosphoryl groups from high-energy compounds to ADP. The latter occurs in both the mitochondrion, during the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle, and in the cytoplasm, during glycolysis. In the next section, we focus on oxidative phosphorylation, the main mechanism of ATP synthesis in most of human cells.
In short, along with reducing appetite, eating protein temporarily boosts metabolism. The body uses energy to digest and make use of the nutrients in food. This is called the thermic effect of food (TEF), and protein’s thermic effect is much higher than at of carbohydrates and fat. This is why athletes are in need of consuming proteins to reach high performances.
This is why SensFood, one of our Atlas Ventures sponsored the world champion Adam Ondra, to provide him with daily high protein snacks… that are actually sustainable for the planet. You will discover how by reading this blog post…
You will kill 7000 animals in your lifetime.
We really do a lot to sustain our addiction to proteins.
In a precedent article in this blog, we looked through the problem of limited landscape and the opportunity of aquaculture as a solution to feed mankind.
Now do you know that today, 60% of the food fishes eat in aquaculture comes from land animal proteins? Fishes eating cows to feed humans? This doesn’t make sense.
Meat has always been part of the human diet for over 2.6 million years. It is a big part of our diet today; whenever we’re eating a meal or a plate full of food, most of the time, there’s always a certain type of meat/protein on it. To no surprise, meats and animal products provide approximately 36% of the calories of the food supply, in which out of the 36%, red meat provides the highest proportion of calories at 15%, followed by dairy products (10%), animal fats (4%), eggs (1.6%), poultry (3.5%), and fish (0.9%).
Though the 36% might seem small, animal products actually provide on average approximately 45% of the total calories of all individuals (in which meat contributed 28% within the 45%). Sure, animal products may provide slightly less calories on average per individual compared to plant-based products; however, animal products provide more than 70% of zinc content, more than 80% of calcium content, and almost 100% of vitamin B12 content in our diet. This goes to show that regardless of the amount animal products, let alone meats contribute to food supply, they play a vital role in providing necessary nutrients to the human body, perhaps certain nutrients one wouldn’t be able to ingest from plant-based products.
One of the factors, perhaps, why animal products (meats) contribute to less than half of the total calories of an individual’s diet on average is due to higher costs. When going into supermarkets, we would also notice that meats are going to be more expensive than vegetables. Sure, certain individuals are vegans or vegetarians, so meat wouldn’t be an option for them, but these groups are small when looking from a global perspective. The majority of the individuals still consume meat, so the market for meat still has a very high demand. Why? The fact that the majority of the people still consume and crave meat is due to the fact that it’s engraved into our brains and genetics. The consumption of meat marks it as a pivotal point in the evolution of the human brain. We are still wired to seek protein sources, in which meat is a very rich source of protein. Not only does our genetics and ancestors contribute to why we crave meat so much, but it is what I would consider as a “luxury commodity” in the market. Throughout history, we see that the demand for meats such as pork, chicken, and beef, typically rises along with higher income. Below is a graph which illustrates the meat supply per person with its relation to income.
Here, we see the relationship between meat supply person and GDP per capita of different countries around the world from years 1990-2017. Looking at the graph overall, we see a trend that the higher the GDP per capita is, the greater the meat supply per person is. This goes to show that indeed, the demand for meat typically rises along with higher income, although some factors may affect such as a person’s religion, diet type, etc;.
Whenever we want to buy meat or any other grocery produce, one big thought always goes on in our head- price. And based on the statistics and common knowledge, we know that meat tends to be pricey. And of course, there’s a variance to prices of meats, to no surprise. Factors that influence those prices include the quality/grade of the meat, the way the livestock was raised/treated, and of course, branding. Let’s take a look at how the price of meat has changed overtime.
The graph above illustrates the average prices of beef per kilogram (in USD) worldwide from 2014 to 2025. We see that the year 2014 had the highest price and has seen a decreasing trend overall; however, it started increasing again in the year 2019 and will remain relatively stable till 2025. Sure, we see that the price dropped from 2014, but there are cons associated with such. One thing we know for sure is that ordinary vegetables (excluding premium organic vegetables) are much cheaper compared to meat, so meat can still be deemed as an expensive commodity in the market. In addition, there has been inflation throughout the years, causing meat prices to increase from last year by approximately 3.3% for beef and veal. Due to the pandemic, a lot of people are encouraged to stay home. In turn, employed people working from home have substantially more disposable income, earning more money to purchase those meats. Demand for meats went up approximately 2% from last year, and this year alone, it went up by 5.7%
This leads to an even bigger problem- the increase in consumption of meat. Why is this bad? I’m sure quite a number of people are unaware of this problem, and some do not see it as a problem, but the consumption of meat in itself is detrimental towards the environment.
The two graphs go hand-in-hand; one shows the change in global GDP at current prices in 2020.
Sure, the prices of meats such as beef have decreased from 2014, but that decrease in price may lead to greater meat consumption. Above shows just that. We see the forecast of global meat consumption from 2020 to 2029. From the graph, we see an increasing trend. And the more meat we consume, the more detrimental it is to the environment. According to the BBC in an article which lists seven reasons why people are going vegan, one of the reasons was “going green”. What does that mean? They believe that consuming meat is not exactly “environmentally sustainable”. Huge amounts of land are needed to support and feed livestock, which leads to deforestation. In addition, it is estimated that approximately 8% of global human water use is used for irrigation systems for livestock crops. This process requires huge amounts of pesticides and fertilizers, which in turn, leads to water pollution. Not only the activities that are required to maintain livestock that are affecting our environment, but the livestock’s themselves also contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. How? Let me give an example: cows? A lot of people may be confused about how livestock such as cows contribute negatively to our environment.
Throughout the day everyday, cows emit a greenhouse gas called methane, which is very potent to the environment. In fact, methane is 28-34 times stronger than carbon dioxide in terms of its global warming potential. As a result, livestock and animal agriculture contributes to approximately 14-18 percent of human-caused gas emissions, even higher than transportation itself! This is very high and actually very problematic. This leads to more negative externalities. The more these greenhouse gases are emitted from livestock and deforestation, it leads to climate change, leading to more wildlife habitats being lost which contributes to extinction of various species.
As a result, more people are looking into converting to veganism; however, meat is still meat. It’s insatiable going vegan when one has to completely go vegan. In a survey of 11,000 Americans, within approximately a year, 84% of the sample returned to eating meat. In fact, approximately a third don’t last over three months after completely quitting meat. One of the possible reasons why certain converts end up reverting back is due to their lifestyle of eating meat prior to converting to being vegans. As stated before, our meat cravings are buried within our genes for millions of years.
They searched for alternatives. And it’s working!
However, is there really a solution to mitigate pollution while satiating our cravings for meat? If one says “going organic” or “eating organic” is a viable solution, in my humble opinion, I believe that isn’t the way to go.
Above shows the climate costs comparison between conventional meat products and organic meat products. Conventional livestock emissions arise from excretion of methane, manure, and deforestation. As for organic livestock, although they are often grass-fed, it leads to less meat being produced as they grow slower, which leads to a longer time to maintain these livestock’s before being slaughtered. In turn, this leads to similar climate costs between the two types of meat. As you can see, from my perspective, supporting and consuming organic meat is just as bad as supporting conventional meat. According to research available, consuming meat is a very inefficient way of eating due to its repercussions it poses on the environment. For 1kg of chicken we consume, it takes approximately 3.2kg of crops to produce. In some countries, in order to prevent climate breakdown by 2030, we need to consume 70% less meat and dairy from now.
So what would be considered a viable solution to solve all this? Meat-substitutes! I believe that a lot of people are aware of meat substitutes, specifically plant-based meats. Plant-based diet is the way to go if one wants to lead a sustainable lifestyle. What exactly is a plant-based diet? The name itself is quite self-explanatory. Products such as meat are being created from non-meat ingredients such as soy, peas, mushroom, beans, wheat gluten, etc;. One pro is the fact that absolutely everybody can eat this! Vegans and vegetarians can enjoy these products, satiating their meat cravings while consuming exactly 0 percent meat! Not only does this satisfy various diet cravings, it also satisfies the environment and its fanatic counterparts. Forests are no longer being destroyed. In fact, if everyone went on a plant-based diet, we’d need 75% less farmland than we actually use today, an area equivalent to Europe, Australia, the US, and China combined!
A lot of people might be thinking why would anyone buy plant-based meat when it has a chance to have different textures and not taste authentic? Is there really a market for plant-based products? In fact, there is a market for these goods. In fact, quite a big one at that!. In 2019, the plant-based meat market was valued at approximately $3.77 billion and is expected to reach $9.43 billion by 2026. In addition, the global plant-based meat market is expected to grow at a compound growth annual rate of 14% between 2019-2026. That is a huge leap, I would say. In addition, dollar sales of plant-based meat grew 45% the past year and 72% over the past 2 years, showing it’s likeliness to grow even more. To grasp a better visual of the market value of plant-based meat worldwide, I have provided several graphs to see the market growth potential for the plant-based meat market.
Based on the graph, we see that in 2019, the market value for the plant-based meat market worldwide stands at $11.1 billion, and will continue to rise throughout the years. By 2027, it’s expected to reach approximately $35.5 billion, over triple what it was 8 years ago! Seeing this as a great opportunity a lot of businesses have jumped into this market. Another graph shows how the value of the market has increased throughout the years 2018-2020. Between 2018-2019, the value jumped up by 19% whereas between 2019-2020, it jumped up by 45%! Not to mention, in the US, 98% of the people who purchase plant-based meat also purchase conventional meat, The tremendous increase in growth truly proves the market’s promising future.
The Protein Economy Watchlist:
Of course, as the market for plant-based meat is growing, more companies are having a take and are joining the growing market. Let’s take a look at some companies currently operating in this particular market.
Beyond Meat: A Los-Angeles based plant-based meat company founded in 2009, which started launching its plant-based meat product in the US in 2012. With the mission to address and solve growing global issues (e.g. global warming, climate change), Beyond Meat has various plant-based meat products which include meats, sausage links, burger patties, beef crumbles, and breakfast sausages! Based on their website, they claimed that the environmental impact of their Beyond Burger is a quarter of what a US beef burger would do. If you want to find out, click here!
Impossible Foods: A company that develops plant-based meat substitutes based in Redwood City, California, founded in 2011. With its mission of addressing global issues at hand, Impossible Foods offers packages of meat and patties on its website. Coming soon, the company will launch its Impossible Burger that will cost 20% less of what is offered online in grocery stores nationwide. If you are interested, click here to find out more!
But wait, it’s not only the plant-based meats that are offered as conventional meat substitutes. This may sound apprehensive, but there’s also INSECT-based proteins available in the market! It is very similar to plant-based meats, but instead of using plant products, insects are transformed into various meats! Per kilogram, insects offer roughly the same amount of protein compared to cattle. In addition, in order to grow 1kg of cattle meat, it takes 200 square meters of land whereas it only takes 15 square meters of land to grow 1kg of insects! This is also proportionate to the amount of water needed (22,000 liters needed to grow 1kg of cattle where it takes roughly 165 liters of water to grow 1kg of insects). With lower resources needed, it is safe to say it’s more sustainable to be farming for crickets rather than conventional livestock. In addition, the market for insect-based proteins is projected to grow too! For example, this year, the demand for insect protein is approximately 10,000 metric tons, but it is projected to grow up to 500,000 metric tons by the year 2030! To top things off, Charoen Pokphand Foods (CP) and Chiang Mai University have also signed a memorandum of understanding to develop insect proteins to encourage the agriculture sectors towards sustainable growth. Although of course, it’s still in its early stages so the prices for these proteins are quite high compared to its counterparts, but nevertheless, it’s a growing market! Below are some companies that are currently involved in the insect-protein based market!
Ynsect: Founded in 2011 in Paris France by scientists and activists, Ynsect transforms insects into various protein goods for pets, plants, and human beings. With their purpose-built state-of-the-art farms, the company aims to reduce carbon footprint and encourage sustainable consumption. With the usage of their patented vertical farms for Molitor and Buffalo worms currently produced in France and Netherlands, they enable themselves to produce their products worldwide, even generating $425 million from its investors. They recently got funded by Robert Downey Jr’s Footprint coalition, have been awarded the B Corp certification in 2021, and have met the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance with its carbon negative activities. To find out more about their products, click here!
Entobel: a Vietnam-based biotech company developing the potential of the Black Soldier Fly – Hermetia illucens, an insect species well known for its bioconversion capacity and potential as a resource for various industries including animal feed and animal health.
Protenga: Singapore-based insect startup specialized in harnessing the power of Black Soldier Flies to produce sustainable, reliable, and high-quality protein, oil, and frass products for feed and fertilizer at affordable prices
Sens Foods: A company founded in 2016 which specializes in cricket-based protein! Through collaborating with local universities about cricket farming, the company chose to farm in Thailand due to its extensive knowledge of cricket farming. With their mission of “maximizing the good” and “minimizing the bad”, Sens Foods offers various products that enable sustainable consumption which includes flavored protein bars, chocolate, chips, pasta, and more! And yes, currently, they’re sponsoring Adam Ondra, defined as the best professional climber in the world! To find out more about its products and how good it is, click here!