Based on a decades-old technology created for the U.S. space program, meat made of air is about to become commercially available.
This article is based on science and accredited media reports. No dietary or medical advice is offered herein on the part of the author. It is recommended for anyone considering a diet of this nature to visit their doctor or dietician for a professional opinion. All listed theories and facts within this article are fully-attributed to several medical experts, scientists, and media outlets, including Inc.com, AirProtein.com, CBS News, Forbes.com, and Deezan.com.
A December, 2021 article from Inc.com, written by Brit Morse and entitled “This Startup's Futuristic Idea to Fight Climate Change? Make Meat From Thin Air,” received a great deal of attention in recent months in part due to reporting on advances of older technology:
As excerpted from the article: Using NASA technology dating back more than half a century, Lisa Dyson, along with fellow scientist John Reed, found a way to whisk elements taken from the air with live cultures to produce protein that's combined with culinary ingredients to yield a "a meat alternative that does not require a compromise between taste, nutrition and climate threat." Apparently combating climate change can look and taste like chicken.
The company covered was Air Protein, which has since been widely considered a pioneer in commercial air meat product, and received a nomination for Inc. Magazine’s annual Best in Business award: Air Protein is a 2021 Inc. Best in Business honoree. With the second annual Best in Business awards, Inc. recognizes companies that have had a superlative impact on their industries, their communities, the environment, and society as a whole.
Since the Inc.com story, word of the California startup has spread. What has not been noted in many of the followup stories, however, are the specifics of the NASA technology upon which the creation of air meat products have been based.
Let us explore further.
1970s NASA Tech and Air Meat, 2022
”The Newest Meatless Meat is Made From Air” is the name of an April, 2022 CBS News report on the product which credits NASA as its basis: The concept behind Air Protein was inspired by NASA, which explored in the 1960s and 70s a way to recycle carbon dioxide exhaled by astronauts and turn it into food. Dyson is now using the technology to help fight climate change. "The food industry today produces more greenhouse gases than the entire transportation sector. What's going to happen when we have 10 billion people?" she said.
For a comprehensive article on the NASA technology that spawned this industry, see Forbes.com article here, entitled “Food From Thin Air: The Forgotten Space Tech That Could Feed Planet Earth” by John Cumbers, which states: The microbes NASA worked with in the 1960s weren’t just any microbes, however. They were bacteria that can harvest energy from little more than the mere constituents of air, waste CO2, and water to make plentiful amounts of nutritious protein. Unlike plants, these microbes don’t even need to use light. Instead, the bacteria — known as hydrogenotrophs — use hydrogen as fuel to make food from CO2 — just like plants use the energy of sunlight in photosynthesis.
Finally, Deezan.com mentions some potential competitors in the air meat market, and also identifies a singular distinction between Air Protein and another, similar company.
From their April 22 piece on the matter: Air Protein is among a number of companies, including Finland-based Solar Foods, that are making meat and dairy substitutes from captured emissions in a bid to mitigate the climate impact of agriculture. However, Air Protein's process makes use of CO2 captured from factories rather than from the atmosphere. In the future, the company is planning to use direct air capture units to remove CO2 directly from the air.
The article goes on to state that as the meat’s carbon dioxide eventually re-enters the atmosphere as exhaled through respiration, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is, in, fact, not reduced.
As the piece addresses: Instead, Dyson says its climate potential lies in avoiding emissions and resource use elsewhere.
As the technology of air-formed eat continues to evolve, odds will likely increase that the carbon friendliness of the ensuing models will also improve.
Thank you for reading.