Many centuries ago it was necessary for us to use fur to keep the cold from killing us and we relied on the milk, meat and eggs of animals for sustenance. Fast forward to today and we don't have quite the same needs that we once had. So could the future really behold animal products that are animal free?
Yet, as the demand for animals increases, with dairy and meat industries just seeming to grow by the day alongside the rapidly expanding population, scientists are now simultaneously proving that animals are conscious in ways that we never before imagined they could be. Research has highlighted that animals are just as capable as we are of experiencing pain and feeling emotions and yet despite compelling scientific evidence existing to back up these beliefs, many animals are still treated as objects that we have a right over. We continuously cage them, test on them, inject them with hormones and slaughter them - all for our own benefit.
While some people will more than happily turn a blind eye to these realities, others wish that the world was very different and yet while many wish for change, very few are trying to do anything about it.
Not all hope is lost just yet however, with a few notable startup companies striving to change the future of the industries we so heavily rely on there are signs to suggest that we are heading towards a future in which animal products are animal free...
Changes in the food and dairy industry:
Meat production is easily the biggest industry impacting on animal lives. After just one quick click onto Memphis Meats' website you will be greeted with the slogan "we love meat", a notion that many wholeheartedly agree with and yet it seems a bit confusing when the company is meant to be striving for a consumer industry that is animal free. On a further look into the company however, the air seems to clear and you can sigh a deep breath of relief. Memphis Meats aren't trying to eliminate meat from our diets, they're trying to change the way it is harvested. Dead set against the negative side of meat production, the team has worked hard to grow food products without any involvement from animals. The process begins with animal stem cells; these cells are grown over a period of two weeks until they develop into skeletal muscle within a lab and this is then used to create the food products. It all sounds very sci-fi and that's because it is! The technology is still very much in its early stages and because of that prices for these meats are still high at the moment. However with further research and in depth development plans, the company has high hopes that they will be able to reduce the costs so that eventually the products will be able to make their way onto everyday supermarket shelves.
On a similar wavelength to Memphis Meats, New Wave Food is another startup with high hopes of tackling the food industry. With the slogan "we disrupt food, not the oceans" and with a mission statement that claims that the company is working towards feeding the world's growing appetite for seafood while simultaneously reducing the environmental impacts that fishing is currently causing, New Wave Foods seems to be on the right track. Unlike Memphis Meats, New Wave Foods isn't producing lab grown meat from the stem cells of animals. Instead, this company is growing shrimp substitutes that have a similar taste, texture and nutrient levels as the real thing. It all sounds a bit weird doesn't it? Well, it gets a bit weirder when you find out that their shrimp products are all created from plant proteins and algae! While it may not sound delicious, the company is currently a leader in the sustainable seafood market so they must be doing something right and we'd say it's worth giving it a try if it reduces the current problems that overfishing causes in the marine world...
It isn't just the creation of food that causes problems though; the liquids that we consume cause just as many problems for the animals that they are taken from. Driven by the fact that technology is continuously improving many areas of our daily lives, Willow Cup set out to remove the reliance that we have on animals to make our dairy products. In a similar way to New Wave Food, this startup has turned to the properties of plants to create their dairy based specialty tea and coffees. They claim their products are healthier and more sustainable and from what we've heard, we think they might be right! Unlike the milks already on the market made from nuts and other substitutes, Willow Cup products taste just the dairy that you're already used to drinking on a regular basis. Plus, with a high number of children and adults developing lactose intolerances in recent years, this product could pave the way for a brighter future for the planet's animals and human inhabitants!
And then, at the very heart of the food industry lays the dreaded Gelatin; the key ingredient that no one likes to talk about and yet it is a major player not just in the food that we eat, but in the medicines that we rely on and the cosmetics that many of us pile onto our faces each morning. Before now gelatin has been created in what can only be described as a grotesque process that involves boiling animal scraps but startup company Gelzen has established a way to make gelatin and the key factor? You guessed it; they are making it without the animals. By using a similar process to the one already used to brew beer and make insulin, Gelzen has managed to program microbes to create gelatin for them - with absolutely no animals involved in the procedure! If this kicks off, it could easily become a groundbreaker in the future of not just one but many industries that currently rely on the body parts of animals.
BUT it isn't just the food industry that we need to look at...
Many animals are still slaughtered on a daily basis for nothing other than fashion. Modern Meadow is a new startup with a vision of "changing the way we think about materials" and with the tagline of "leather re-imagined" the aim of the company is fairly clear. The process is, undeniably, futuristic but Modern Meadow is making this technology and these products a reality on a daily basis. The company has worked hard to innovate new ways of growing materials and they finally settled on using a process called bio-fabrication which has since enabled them to grow collagen, a protein usually found in animal skin. From this collagen the company then creates the leather that makes up their products, it is then engineered to give it the correct structural shape and finally it is tanned in the aesthetic stage to give it an authentic look. Yet the best thing about Modern Meadow is the fact that it not only does away with the current demand to harvest animals for our own needs, it also eliminates the need to use a number of harsh chemicals that are a part of the usual leather creation process!
So, what do you think about these innovative strategies? Can you really argue with companies who are all striving for a future in which animal products are animal free - even if some of their methods feel a bit alien and futuristic at the moment?
By Shannon Clark - Online Journalism Intern
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