A university course is teaching students how to produce plant-based meat products, Yale Climate Connections reported. The class was designed to address environmental and ethical issues associated with the current meat and food systems.
The class, titled the Alternative Meat Lab, is offered by UC Berkeley’s Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology. The class provides students with knowledge from industry experts surrounding the production of ‘meat substitutes’ and the potential challenges involved. Students learn how to “create the next generation of healthy, delicious, and affordable plant-based meat replacements, to sustainably feed the world”, the course’s description details.
Those enrolled then develop their own prototypes by applying ideas from life science, biochemistry, chemistry, biotechnology, plant biology, chemical engineering, design, and mechanical engineering.
These are “complex food engineering problems”, Yale Climate Connections said. However, Ricard San Martin, a visiting professor at the university, commented: “[The students’] minds are really fresh and curious, and so they come up with solutions I would have never thought of. We learn together”.
The class was designed to help pupils “engineer the food of the future”, a descriptor of the course reads, in order to address “the most pressing environmental and ethical issues of our time”.
Increasingly, awareness about the ecological impact of current meat and dairy systems grows – animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of global warming, water use, desertification, deforestation, and ocean dead zones. February data indicated almost half of young people were troubled by the environmental impact of meat. Additionally, one in ten people who signed up for this year’s Veganuary noted environmental concerns as their main reason behind the decision.
Ethical issues associated with meat production are of similar concern. A new study found that swapping out meat for vegan food could address world hunger issues by feeding an additional 350 million people.
In regards to the university class, San Martin said: “We try to teach topics that are emerging, that have interest from investors here in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, and among these topics came the creation of alternatives to meat”.
Vegan meat products – including plant-based beef, pulled pork, bacon, and even calamari – are becoming increasingly available around the world. A recent report stated the growing popularity of these items meant vegetarian and vegan meats were now “mainstream” – no longer considered niche.
Further, a report from last year revealed the plant-based meat market is set to see $5.2 billion in sales by 2020.