The protean character of protein: from Diet for a Small Planet to the Impossible Burger™

A growing middle class in the developing world, as well as increasing concerns about the healthfulness, environmental footprint and inhumaneness of conventional livestock production have given rise to neo-Malthusian concerns about how to address what seems insatiable demand for protein.

While some have doubled down on calls for reducing meat consumption, so far the most visible response has been a huge wave of innovation in a variety of what are now being called “alternative proteins.” Designed to capture the “flexitarian” market, these include insect-based foods, protein-rich “superfoods,” simulated plant-based meat and dairy substitutes, and cellular/bioengineered meat.

Their rapid development begs two crucial questions, however. How did protein become the macronutrient of concern to begin? Will protein’s new substantiations be any more nutritious and ecological than that which it substitutes? In this talk, Guthman will elaborate on what is being done in the name of protein and provide provisional answers to these questions.