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By 2050 there will be an estimated 10 billion humans living on this planet. Beyond that being a lot of mouths to feed, those folks will be, on average, wealthier than today''s population, with a taste for the foods found in regions like the US and Western Europe. But we simply don''t have the capability, the land or the production resources to ensure that many people can eat a cheeseburger whenever the mood strikes. Luckily, researchers from around the globe are working on alternative-protein sources to supplement our existing beef, pork and chicken.

预计到2050年,将有100亿人生活在地球上。除了要养活这么多人之外,2050年的人类平均富裕程度将超过此时,他们也许会喜欢美国和西欧等地区的食物。但是人类没有能力,没有土地,没有生产资源来保证那么多人在心情不好的时候可以吃芝士汉堡。幸运的是,世界各地的研究人员正在研究提供蛋白质的替代品,用来补充牛肉、猪肉和鸡肉的缺乏。

Of course, there''s tofu, which has been used as a meat replacement for thousands of years. But today''s consumers expect their protein substitutes to closely resemble the meats they''re replacing, which is why Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have arrived to such public fanfare. These plant-based burger alternatives offer the same bloody sizzle that beef does. In Impossible''s case, that comes from heme derived from soy roots that have been fermented in genetically engineered yeast. Beyond Meat, on the other hoof, relies on a processing method that "aligns plant-proteins in the same fibrous structures you''d find in animal proteins." But as much as they look, smell and taste like a real beef patty, these products are still extruded plant matter -- and highly processed products at that.

当然,几千年来豆腐一直被用作肉类替代品。但今天的消费者希望他们的蛋白质替代品与替代的肉类非常相似,这就是为什么Impossible Foods和Beyond Meat两大食品公司会受到如此广泛的关注。这些植物基汉堡吃起来也会有与真正牛肉相同的血腥嘶嘶声。Impossible Foods的植物产品中的肉感是来自于从大豆根中的血红素,但不再是从大豆中提取,而是通过基因工程在酵母中发酵产生血红素。而Beyond Meat公司使用的是一种“将植物蛋白与动物蛋白的纤维结构对齐”的加工技术。尽管产品的外观、香味、口感都像真正的牛肉肉饼,但这些产品都是由植物原材料高度加工而来。

Julie Lesnik, a biological anthropologist at Wayne State University, advocates that we look to get our meat from smaller, more-resource-efficient animals than cattle -- specifically, crickets. She points out that per kilogram, crickets offer roughly the same amount of protein as beef as well as significantly more micronutrients, since you''re consuming the exoskeleton as well.

韦恩州立大学的生物人类学家朱莉·莱斯尼克认为,人类应该从比牛体型更小、更节省资源的动物身上获取肉类——典型的就是蟋蟀。她指出,每公斤蟋蟀提供的蛋白质与牛肉大致相同,同时还含有更多的微量营养素,因为同时你也会把蟋蟀的外骨骼吃下去。



She also notes that given their diminutive stature and affinity for cramped, dark places, crickets require far less arable land than cattle do, citing a 2013 report by the UN''s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Whereas it takes around 200 square meters of space to grow one kilogram of beef, the same amount of cricket needs only about 15 square meters. They can even be vertically farmed. Their water requirements are equally reduced compared to the 22,000 liters required to produce that kilo of beef.

朱莉还指出,根据联合国粮农组织2013年的一份报告,蟋蟀体型小,喜欢生活在狭窄黑暗的地方,因此养殖蟋蟀所需的面积比牛少得多。生产一公斤牛肉大约需要200平方米,而等量的蟋蟀只需要大约15平方米。甚至还可以纵向养殖。与生产一公斤牛肉所需的22000升水相比,养殖蟋蟀的需水量同样也减少了。

Crickets for the same yield of protein "use less than one liter of water... based on the fact that crickets get all their water needs from their food," Lesnick said during a recent SciLine webcast. "You still use water to clean your facilities and all the different processing, so one liter is an incredibly idealistic number. So I generally present this more like 100 liters just to be less sensational."

在最近的一次SciLine网络直播中,朱莉表示:“养殖蟋蟀生产等量蛋白质需要的水不到一升……,当然清洁设备和加工过程仍然需要使用水,所以一升是一个理想中的数字。我一般都说100升,这样听起来就不会那么令人惊讶了。”



So instead of replacing cows and other farmyard animals wholesale with insect protein, why not just grow only the parts that we''re interested in eating? That''s the promise of cellular agriculture. "The idea is rather that we would take the whole cell of a chicken and convert that to a chicken breast instead of using the whole chicken organism to make a blade or a steak," Kate Krueger, Research Director at New Harvest, explained during the same webcast.

那与其用昆虫大规模代替牛肉和其它家禽,为什么不直接培养人类需要的呢?这就是细胞农业的前景。New Harvest公司的研究主管凯特·克鲁格在同一次网络直播中说:“我们的想法是一只鸡全身上下都是鸡胸肉,而不是用整只鸡来做一片肉或一块鸡排。”

"What we''re talking about is taking cells out of an organism like a cow or a chicken, growing them up onto a material called a scaffold, which organizes the scale cells and helps them grow in thick quantities," she continued, "and then feeding them with a variety of different nutrients and minerals in a bioreactor to make a full steak-type product." At least that''s the theory. Krueger estimated that we''re still at least a decade away from being able to produce steaks or sashimi in appreciable quantities, though the process should be able to deliver less readily identifiable products like meatballs and chicken nuggets in as little as five years.

凯特表示:“目前我们的想法是首先从牛或鸡身上提取细胞,然后在所谓‘scaffold’材料中培养这些细胞,帮助细胞不断增殖,之后在生物反应器中注入各种养分和矿物质,最终形成一个完整的鸡排或牛排样子的产品。”至少理论上是这样。凯特估计,我们至少还需要10年的时间才能生产出数量可观的牛排或生鱼片,但是我们应该能在短短5年内生产出不易识别的产品,如肉丸和鸡块。

Given how young the technology is (the first lab-grown burger was introduced in 2013 and cost $325,000), cellular agriculture''s environmental impact has yet to be fully understood. A 2011 study published in Environmental Science and Technology figured that growing meat in a lab rather than a feed yard would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 78 to 96 percent and require seven to 45 percent less energy and 82 to 96 percent less water. Those estimates may have been a bit overzealous though, according to a number of subsequent studies that also took into account the energy costs of developing the infrastructure needed to grow these meats.

考虑到这是一种新兴技术(2013年推出了第一个实验室培育的汉堡,耗资32.5万美元),目前细胞农业对环境的影响所知不多。发表在2011年《环境科学与技术》杂志上的一项研究指出,相比于畜牧,在实验室培养肉类可以减少78%至96%的温室气体排放,还可以减少7%至45%的能耗和82%至96%的用水量。不过,根据随后的一些研究,这些估计可能有点过于乐观。因为还需要考虑实验室人造肉所需的基础设施的能源成本。

A 2019 study published in the journal Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems notes, "Under continuous high global consumption, cultured meat results in less warming than cattle initially, but this gap narrows in the long term and in some cases cattle production causes far less warming." While cows produce methane, cellular agriculture generates a lot of carbon dioxide. This is because you''re growing meat in what is essentially a sterile lab environment with high energy demand.

发表在2019年《可持续食品系统前沿》杂志上的一项研究指出,“在全球持续高消费量的情况下,短期内,实验室人造肉对控制温室效应是有利的,但从长期来看,差距其实是很小的,甚至在某些情况下,相较于实验室培养,室外饲养对控制温室效应更有利。”牛排出甲烷,而细胞农业则会产生大量的二氧化碳。因为是在一个无菌的实验室环境中培养肉类,而这需要大量的能量。



While the price of a lab-grown burger dropped to around $11 by 2015, growing meat at scale is still an expensive proposition. "Traditionally, a lot of the media sources [that cells live and feed on] tend to be really expensive for a few different reasons," Krueger explained. "They usually either contain a fraction of fetal cow blood, which would make products not vegan and is also fairly expensive, or they would contain recombinant proteins: proteins that you would make in different cell lines in a largely expensive process."

尽管到2015年,实验室人造汉堡的价格降至11美元左右,但大规模实验室人工培养肉类仍然需要投入大量资金。凯特表示:“由于一些原因,维持细胞生存的原料往往非常昂贵。有的含有一小部分胎牛血,这会使产品不是纯素食,而且胎牛血也相当昂贵;有的含有重组蛋白,这种蛋白是在不同的细胞系中通过一个非常昂贵的过程制造的。”

That hasn''t dampened interest in the technology, however. "If we start small and stay small, we can essentially dramatically reduce the cost, and the capital burden drops by an order of magnitude or more," Yaakov Nahmias, Founder and Chief Scientist of Future Meat Technologies, told Fast Company in 2018. "With these two plays –- a more efficient bioreactor and a distributed manufacturing model -– we can essentially drop the cost down to about $5 a kilogram [$2.27 a pound].

然而,这并没有降低人们对这项技术的兴趣。Future Meat Technologies的创始人和首席科学家Yaakov Nahmias在2018年在Fast Company(商业杂志)表示:“如果先从小规模做起,那么就可以显著降低成本,资金投入会下降一个数量级或更多。有了这两种技术——高效的生物反应器和分布式制造模式——我们基本上可以将成本降至每公斤5美元(约合每磅2.27美元)。

"These distributive models allow us to grow organically and essentially replace chicken coops with these bioreactors," he continued. "This, I think, is a reasonable way of actually taking over and replacing this industry sustainably."

Yaakov认为:“这些分布模型可以使规模不断扩大,并逐渐使用生物反应器取代鸡笼。这是一种合理的方式,能够真正以可持续的方式接管这个行业。”



Until bioreactor technology fully matures, we can always eat algae -- aka, seaweed. "Seaweeds don''t require fertilizers, don''t require feed, they don''t require fresh water and they don''t require land," Denise Skonberg, Associate Professor of Food Science in the School of Food and Agriculture at the University of Maine, explained during the same webcast. "So those are a lot of benefits there." What''s more, seaweeds are phenomenal at sequestering carbon and nitrogen; can be grown and harvested in as little as two to three months, depending on the variety; and "are extremely nutrient-dense," Skonberg continued. "They''re primarily noted for their really high content of dietary fiber."

在生物反应器技术完全成熟之前,我们可以吃藻类——也就是海藻。缅因大学食品与农业学院食品科学副教授丹尼斯·斯肯伯格在网络直播中表示:“海藻不需要化肥,不需要饲料,不需要淡水,也不需要土地。更重要的是,海藻具有惊人的吸收碳和氮的能力;根据品种不同,可以在两到三个月内种植和收获;而且营养非常丰富,海藻主要以高含量的膳食纤维著称。”

Seaweed farming is already a big business, a $6 billion industry, according to recent FAO estimates. However, most of those operations are located in East Asia. Skonberg pointed to America''s northerly shores -- Washington, Maine and New England -- as promising areas for aquaculture industries. "There''s a lot of clean water and a lot of potential for growing seaweed," she said. "We''re starting off by looking at species that do well in temperate waters, and that includes things like sugar kelp, bull kelp -- I mean, there''s a lot of kelps!"

根据粮农组织最近的估计,海藻养殖已经是一项大生意,一个价值60亿美元的产业。然而,这些业务大部分位于东亚。斯肯伯格指出,美国北部海岸——华盛顿、缅因州和新英格兰——非常适合水产养殖。她说:“这里的水质干净,具有种植海藻的潜力。”“我们首先关注适合在温带水域种植的海藻,包括糖海带、牛海带——我的意思是,适合种植的海藻很多!”



However, much more research is needed before you''ll start to see fresh seaweed in the produce aisle. For example, we''re not entirely clear on what the shelf life of fresh seaweed even is, Skonberg noted. It''s a question that was "answered for cauliflower and broccoli hundreds of years ago, but [for seaweed], we have no idea."

然而,斯肯伯格认为:在人们开始看到新鲜的海藻之前,还需要更多的研究。例如,目前人类不完全清楚新鲜海藻的保质期是多少。人类知道花椰菜和西兰花的保质期,但确实不知道海藻的保质期。

Food safety and regulation concerns must also be addressed. "Research is under way looking at how well different types of species can concentrate heavy metals in their tissue," Skonberg said. "Some that are of interest include arsenic. Research has shown that some of the brown macroalgae tend to concentrate it at a much higher rate than the green or the red macroalgae. ... Where it''s harvested plays a huge, huge role."

食品安全和监管方面的问题也必须得到解决。斯肯伯格表示:“目前研究正在进行中,观测不同种类的海藻组织富集重金属的能力如何。其中有趣的就包括砷的富集。研究表明,一些棕色的大绿藻比绿色或红色的大绿藻富集砷的速度要快得多。种植地点扮演着非常重要的角色。”

So whether it comes from a cricket or a lab or off the coast of Indonesia, tomorrow''s protein alternatives will be a win for both consumers and the environment。

因此,无论是来自蟋蟀、实验室还是印度尼西亚海岸,未来的蛋白质替代品都将是消费者和环境的双赢。