The alt.meat lab will use the latest technology and techniques to engineer plant-based meat alternatives.
Citing North American Meat Institute figures, UC Berkeley said the US meat market was worth $1 trillion in 2016. It hopes the lab and partnering course will open up the alternative meats industry and enable more entrepreneurs to become involved in the sector.
The idea was first put forward earlier this year when UC Berkeley offered the world’s first course solely focused on developing plant-meat products.
“Through our network of alumni, investors, and founders, we determined that meat alternatives represent one of the biggest opportunities for creating a start-up right now,” said Ikhlaq Sidhu, faculty director and founder of the Sutardja Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology at UC Berkeley and professor in the Department of Industrial Engineering & Operations Research.
“The market is huge, and we believe the technology is ready for entrepreneurs to compete with traditional meat in the near future.”
The lab will be partnering with Givaudan, a flavour and fragrances company, which will help students create the flavours and smells necessary to create enticing meat alternatives in the upcoming course.
“We are excited to work with some of the brightest young minds in the world to help find solutions that address the taste and texture challenges of non-animal proteins,” said Flavio Garofalo, Givaudan’s global business development manager, protein. “The societal and environmental implications are enormous, and no one can solve this individually. We must collaborate to truly move forward, and we feel that the multi-disciplinary approach being utilised at Berkeley will yield optimal results.”
Through the partnership, Givaudan has put forth a technical challenge to the class – to create a plant-based product that includes intracellular fat and water. Currently, many meat alternative products are dry and lack the umami taste, but when formulators add oil and moisture to make up for this, it creates new challenges within the production process that Givaudan hopes Berkeley students can help solve.
The university is also partnering with the Good Food Institute (GFI), a non-profit body devoted to supporting the success of the meat alternatives industry.
“This course is a unique opportunity for students to work collaboratively with experts in the food industry to tackle the complex technical challenges of designing and producing high quality meat replacements that meet the needs of consumers,” explained GFI senior scientist Christie Lagally.