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Brief Published: 12 Nov 2019

Can ‘Meat’ Grow Inside Volcanoes?


The race for new and alternative protein sources outside of traditional meat and dairy is expanding rapidly, with a market already worth over $2.2bn (McKinsey, 2019). While most brands are looking towards abundant plant-based options, a team of researchers at Nasa have discovered a potentially game-changing resource inside a volcano in Yellowstone National Park.

The scientists, working under the brand Chicago-based Sustainable Bioproducts, have discovered a microbial lifeform that thrives in the highly acidic conditions found in the park’s hot springs. The fungal-like substance is 60% complete protein, which, like meat and dairy, has all the amino acids required for human life. The microbes also form in a filamented structure, much like muscle, lending it a meat-like texture.

Work is currently underway to mould the protein into an enjoyable food source, with sweet, savoury, liquid and solid options in the works. 

The protein can be grown efficiently and with little waste. According to Thomas Jonas, chief executive at Sustainable Bioproducts: "We'll be providing, in what I call 'burger equivalent’, the same amount [of ‘meat’] that you will get out of cows grazing on 7,000 acres. That's the amount of land that you will need. And we're going to do that in the city of Chicago in just one plant."

The project has so far received $33m in seed funding from brands such as Danone, and has been called a breakthrough for science by US governmental bodies including Nasa, the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Science Foundation.

This discovery ties in with our broader thinking about the future sustainable diet, which needs to include protein from a much more biodiverse range of resources, both for the good of the planet and our health. See The Post-Vegan Opportunity for more.