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Tech Companies Work to Create New, Plant-Based Food

This sandwich is being made with soy peanut butter.
Tech Companies Work to Create New, Plant-Based Food
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Jeremy Coller likes alternative protein foods because he thinks the world may not be able to produce enough meat in the future.

Coller is head of Coller Capital, a financial investment service. It has been investing in technology companies, especially those developing products to take the place of meat.

Businesses are using science to study the molecular structure of meat and other animal products, such as cheese and eggs. Researchers think that it is possible to recreate the taste and the way these foods feel in your mouth by using plants like soybeans, peas and beets.

Coller says the Earth is running out of land farmers can use to raise cattle and other animals for food.

Two companies exploring alternative protein foods are Beyond Meat and Hampton Creek.

Hampton Creek

Josh Tetrick started Hampton Creek. His company uses robots to study plants from all over the world. If the plants have the same building blocks as some proteins, they might one day be used in food products like a plant-based butter, mayonnaise or even cake.

“We’re able to identify relationships between what we see on a molecular level and whether it causes a cake to rise or what makes a mayo taste good or whether it binds a cookie together or makes a nice creamy butter.”

Chris Jones is head of product development at Hampton Creek. Jones compared what he does to walking on the moon.

Using Technology to Create New Kind of Plant-Based Food
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“We’re doing things no one has ever done before, so it’s challenging.”

Jim Flatt is the company’s chief of research and development. He said recent progress in technology has made their work possible.

Josh Tetrick believes fewer people will go hungry if businesses like his produce more high-protein foods made from plants.

Products from Hampton Creek are sold at stores in the United States, Mexico and Hong Kong.

Beyond Meat

Many people love to eat hamburgers. But they are not interested in eating a burger made from soybeans. But what if the beans looked and tasted like real, red meat?

A man sells peas on the street in India. Could peas one day be used to make something that tastes like a hamburger?
A man sells peas on the street in India. Could peas one day be used to make something that tastes like a hamburger?

​That is what Beyond Meat is exploring.

Beyond Meat uses protein from soy and yellow peas. It uses beets for the red color usually found in beef.

The food scientists look at the structures of meat and then look for plants with a similar structure. Ethan Brown, the founder of Beyond Meat, said his company is trying to replicate animal muscle.

Years ago, many people in Asia, Africa and India did not eat much meat, but Brown said that is changing. “I don’t think, as a globe, we can afford that,” he said.

Beyond Meat sells its patty products in Hong Kong and the U.S.

Tetrick of Hampton Creek said the biggest issue in the alternative protein business is clear.

“How do we figure out a way to make food healthier, that’s more sustainable, to actually taste good, that’s actually affordable for everyone?”

I’m Dan Friedell.

Elizabeth Lee wrote this story for Dan Friedell adapted her report for Learning English. George Grow as the editor.

Are you interested in tasting these new proteins? We want to know. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.


Words in This Story

alternative – adj. not usual or traditional; of or relating to a choice

creamy – adj. thick and smooth

replicate – v. to repeat or copy (something) exactly

building block – n. part of a building or structure; something necessary for a larger being or thing

afford – v. being able to pay for something

pattyn. a small, flat piece of food

sustainableadj. relating to a method of harvesting in which the crop is not permanently damaged or destroyed