Insulin — the lifesaving hormone used every day by many people with diabetes — was previously isolated from tons of pig pancreas glands.
Rennet — an enzyme used in the making of most cheese — used to be derived from the stomach lining of slaughtered calves.
Today, insulin, rennet, and many other widely used ingredients are produced with cellular agriculture — the process by which cells (like yeast) are programmed to produce specific proteins. We no longer have to breed, feed, and slaughter an entire animal for a particular protein. Rather, we can safely and efficiently produce large quantities of that protein directly by using cellular agriculture. The process is so well known that many proteins produced via cellular agriculture are generally recognized as safe (GRAS).
Humane foods took another step forward this week when the Food and Drug Administration issued a “no questions” letter to Impossible Foods regarding the safety of the Impossible Burger’s soy leghemoglobin (heme), the source of the Impossible Burger’s famously “bloody” taste. The same molecule is found in meat, but Impossible found the same molecule in soy roots and now mass produces it using cellular agriculture. The FDA’s move validates the conclusion of food-safety experts that Impossible’s heme is safe to eat.
The world’s growing population and its increasing appetite for protein require efficient and sustainable ways to produce this protein. Current industrial protein production — feeding crops to animals on concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) — requires tremendous amounts of energy, land, and water, while producing immense quantities of waste. CAFOs are also a point of concern for animal welfare.
Using cellular agriculture — which includes the process of producing clean meat — to make proteins is a safe, sustainable, and humane way to provide people with the foods they want to eat. We are happy to see the process validated once again.