The fake meat business has been around for decades, of course, but it has never really taken off. That is because the products out there, usually based on some sort of reconstituted soy or fungal gloop, taste as disgusting as they look. They are usually expensive as well.
But the meat-fakers say they are on the verge of a breakthrough, that there is a real possibility that a new era of fake meat – nutritious, cheap and indistinguishable from the real thing, made either of synthesised animal tissue or derived from plant material – may be upon us.
‘I have zero interest in making a new food for vegans,’ says molecular biologist Patrick Brown. ‘I’m making a food for people who want meat.’ Photograph: Winni Wintermeyer
Brown, a specialist in the genetics of cancer, is a tenured Stanford University molecular biologist, a member of the National Academy and the founder of a non-profit academic publisher. For two years, he has been working on creating synthesised meat and dairy products. “I have zero interest in making a new food just for vegans,” Brown says. “I am making a food for people who are comfortable eating meat and who want to continue eating meat. I want to reduce the human footprint on this planet by 50%.”
What Brown is talking about is a revolution that will remake our relationship with our planet, and with our fellow animals.