Based on decades-old technology created for the US space program, meat made from air is about to be commercially available.
This article is based on scientific reports and accredited media. No dietary or medical advice is offered here from the author. Anyone considering a diet of this nature is recommended to consult their doctor or dietitian for professional advice. All of the theories and facts listed in this article are fully attributed to several medical, scientific and media experts, including Inc.com, AirProtein.com, CBS News, Forbes.com and Deezan.com.
A December 2021 article from Inc.com, written by Brit Morse and titled “This startup’s futuristic idea to fight climate change? Make Meat From Thin Air,” has received a lot of attention in recent months, in part due to reports of advances in older technology:
As an excerpt from the article: Using NASA technology dating back more than half a century, Lisa Dyson, along with fellow scientist John Reed, has found a way to whip elements taken from the air with live cultures to produce proteins that are combined with culinary ingredients to provide an “alternative to meat that does not require compromise between taste, nutrition and climate threat.” Apparently, the fight against climate change can look and taste like chicken.
The company covered was Air Protein, which has since been widely regarded as a pioneer in commercial airborne meat products, and received a nomination for Inc. magazine’s annual Best in Business award: Air Protein is a 2021 Inc. Best in Business winner. With the second edition The Best in Business, Inc. awards recognize companies that have had an outstanding impact on their industries, communities, environment, and society as a whole.
Since the Inc.com story, word of the California startup has spread. What hasn’t been noted in many follow-up stories, however, are the specifics of NASA technology upon which the creation of airborne meat products was based.
Let’s explore further.
1970 NASA Tech and Air Meat, 2022
“Newest meatless meat is made from air” is the name of an April 2022 CBS News report on the product that credits NASA with its basis: The concept behind Air Protein was inspired by NASA, which in the 1960s and 70s explored a way to recycle the carbon dioxide exhaled by astronauts and turn it into food. Dyson is now using technology to help fight climate change. “The food industry today produces more greenhouse gases than the entire transport sector. What will happen when we have 10 billion inhabitants?” she says.
For a full article on the NASA technology that gave birth to this industry, see the Forbes.com article here, titled “Food From Thin Air: The Forgotten Space Tech That Could Feed Planet Earth” by John Cumbers, who declares: However, the microbes NASA worked with in the 1960s were not just any microbes. These were bacteria that can harvest energy from little more than just the constituents of air, waste CO2 and water to make large amounts of nutritious protein. Unlike plants, these microbes don’t even need to use light. Instead, bacteria – known as hydrogenotrophs – use hydrogen as fuel to make food from CO2 – much like plants use the sun’s energy in photosynthesis.
Finally, Deezan.com mentions some potential competitors in the Air Protein market and also identifies a singular distinction between Air Protein and another similar company.
Excerpt from their April 22 article on the subject: Air Protein is one of a number of companies, including Finnish company Solar Foods, that make meat and dairy substitutes from captured emissions in a bid to mitigate the climate impact of agriculture. However, Air Protein’s process uses CO2 captured from factories rather than from the atmosphere. In the future, the company plans to use direct air capture units to remove CO2 directly from the air.
The article goes on to state that when carbon dioxide from meat eventually re-enters the atmosphere as exhaled through respiration, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is, in fact, not reduced.
As the piece approaches: Instead, Dyson says its climate potential lies in avoiding emissions and using resources elsewhere.
As air-formed food technology continues to evolve, the odds will likely increase that the carbon compatibility of subsequent models will also improve.
Thanks for the reading.