California is investing $5 million in alternative protein research at these 3 universities


California recently made a historic investment of $5 million to support alternative protein research at three University of California campuses. Funding will be available for programs working on plant and cell protein research at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), UC Davis, and UC Berkeley.

From Beyond Meat to Impossible Foods to Eat Just, California is home to more than 80 alternative protein innovators, according to the nonprofit Good Food Institute (GFI). These include companies such as Prime Roots, a vegan deli brand that got its start during the Plant-Based Seafood Collider course at UC Berkeley, the type of program that this $5 million investment state dollars can fund. Other companies that have emerged from UC school programs include Sundial Foods (a Nestlé-backed company that makes lifelike vegan chicken wings) and Orbillion (which works on meats grown from animal cells). heritage breed).

A group of 14 California-based companies signed a letter in support of the budget allocation, including UPSIDE Foods, a cellular agriculture company that is working to make animals in the food system obsolete by creating cultured identical meats. In their letter, the companies emphasized that not only does this funding directly support alternative protein research, but creates secondary benefits such as new revenue streams for California farmers, economic opportunities for California entrepreneurs, and a shift towards increasing the country’s food security.

“This historic investment in research and development across the University of California system will ensure California remains a leader in food and innovation,” UPSIDE Foods said. said in a report. “At UPSIDE Foods, we strongly believe in the need for open-access research to build a robust cultured meat ecosystem that benefits everyone.”

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Invest in alternative proteins

In its March 2022 report, GFI found that global alternative protein companies secured $5 billion in private investment in 2021, but investment of public funds is needed to really drive innovation in this industry. crucial to mitigating the climate crisis. In addition to California’s $5 million investment, the federal government also made its first investment in the cultured meat sector last year when the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Last October, the government agency announced that it would give Tufts University $10 million over five years to establish the National Institute for Cellular Agriculture, a flagship US cultured protein research center.

“Given the magnitude of the emission reductions that would occur with a shift to alternative proteins, this is a critical time to invest in the technologies and innovations that can get our food system to net zero and quickly” , said GFI Vice President of Corporate Engagement, Caroline. Bushnell said in a statement. “Increasing investment in sustainable protein alternatives will allow companies to fund critical R&D, increase production and reduce costs to effectively compete with conventionally produced animal protein and ultimately deliver protein alternatives to more plates.”


California is investing in the future of plants

In addition to supporting the alternative protein sector with its $4 million investment, California is ensuring that the next generation of leaders will be well-nourished with plant-based, environmentally friendly meals. As part of this year’s $308 billion state budget, California has also earmarked $700 million to support plant-based initiatives in its schools, becoming the first US state to invest public funds in plant-based school meals.

As part of the budget, $100 million will be used to help schools source plant-based foods, as well as sustainably produced foods, California-grown foods, and foods to meet student dietary needs. . The remaining $600 million will be invested in upgrading school kitchen infrastructure and training and paying food service workers, who will be tasked with preparing new plant-based meals.

The new funding comes after a years-long effort by Assemblyman Nazarian, school districts, parent groups and nonprofit organizations in the environmental, health and animal rights sectors, to implement a new program (AB 588) that would encourage California schools to develop plant-based options. Under the program, state funding will be used to reimburse public K-12 schools for the costs of expanding their plant-based food and beverage offerings.

“California’s historic investment in plant-based school lunches will reduce the carbon footprint of public school food and expand access to healthy, culturally appropriate meals for millions of children,” Kari Hamerschlag , deputy director of food and agriculture at Friends of the Earth, a co-sponsor of AB 588—said in a statement. “We are extremely grateful to Assemblymen Nazarian and Kalra, Senator Skinner and the many other legislators who have championed a school lunch program that will build a healthy and fair food system for this and future generations.”

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Impossible Foods has responded to this development with two new plant-based meat products: a fully cooked Impossible Burger and Whole Grain Impossible Chicken Nuggets. These items are nutritionally certified for school lunches and have been designed for K-12 school lunch menus.

“It’s great to see more states and school districts leading the way in bringing plant-based meals to school lunch programs,” Laura Kliman, director of new product development at Impossible Foods, told VegNews. “We created these new products so students don’t have to give up their favorite lunchtime meals to have healthy, plant-based meals at school.”

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