You can’t turn trash into food suitable for humans. Of course not. But, landfills produce methane gas. And, according to a report by Bloomberg, researchers at Calysta Inc. in California, and at String Bio in India are finding ways to turn this methane gas into protein suitable for human consumption.
As you may know, beer and wine are made by a yeast fermentation process that produces alcohol. But, alcohol is not the only substance that is possible to produce through fermentation. Apparently, protein can also be a by-product of fermentation. Thus, when the scientists feed certain soil bacteria a liquid solution containing the methane gas, a fermentation process begins which produces protein into the liquid. When dried, this protein becomes a dried powder which is already being used for animal feed, both for farm-raised fish and for poultry (the protein is mixed in with the feed). Both companies are hoping that this protein becomes a sustainable source of human food in the near future.
There are some hurdles, however. Right now, landfills do not supply enough methane to be used in a protein-producing plant economically. While Calysta is trying to scale down its process in order to make using landfill gas economically viable, right now, they are piping in gas for use in their Memphis, Tennessee facility.
Would you eat protein produced by bacteria? Before you balk, unless you are a teetotaler, you already drink the results of yeast fermentation and you probably also eat other fermented foods, such as yogurt. If the protein produced by this process is indeed, just protein, with no toxic by-products, there is no reason not to embrace it as a food. In a world which will become increasingly unable to feed its population, and with many countries already faced with constant food shortages, this technology, producing food from waste, may be a valuable and hopefully, sustainable future resource.
And, no, neither company is planning on selling animal feed to humans. The taste is described as being similar to whey protein and, in the future, can likely be used in similar ways and added to other products to boost protein content or even for meat-substitutes. Unlike whey, which comes from milk, however, it may be much more sustainable.
Calysta is marketing its protein as FeedKind a “family of natural, sustainable, and traceable feed ingredients for fish, livestock and pets” that is “…produced via a natural fermentation…is non-GMO, price competitive with existing sources of protein and produced to the highest quality standards.”
Also previously reported by The Daily Meal.