Changing the steaks: how ‘alternative fats’ are shaping the future of food

Sure, it might be one thing to win over the taste buds of people who love to eat meat and other animal products – but what about the hearts and minds of those who wary of lab-grown foods?

Ruth argues that a change in perception is needed.

“A lot of what you eat, unless you’re picking an apple right off a tree, is going to go through some degree of research and development as well as food processing before you eat it,” she says. .

“Cell-Based Meats are meat: at the molecular level, they are identical. No animals were killed in the process, and you can also eliminate the bad parts of the meat, such as lowering cholesterol levels or including other valuable nutrients like omega-3s in beef products.

It’s important, says Ruth, to find ways to diversify what’s available in our food system.

“The world population is expected to reach nearly 10 billion by 2050 and our current food system does not have the capacity to support that many people. We need to find new, efficient ways to produce more food with minimal impact on the environment – ​​alternative proteins are part of the solution.

Ruth’s scientific career began with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy at ANU, where she completed her honors in biochemistry and molecular biology. She says her degree opened the door to working with Nourish Ingredients and even joining an ANU-based research project testing wastewater to monitor the spread of COVID-19.

Today, Ruth is a PhD candidate at the Doherty Institute in Melbourne, where she studies the different immune responses to COVID-19 in people who have recovered from infection, been vaccinated or both.

It may seem far from the engineering of fat molecules, but the broader focus on health is what ties it all together.

“As a cell biologist, it’s easy to focus on a tiny protein or a tiny pathway,” Ruth explains. “But working at Nourish Ingredients, then on wastewater testing, and now doing my PhD – it helped me see how all of these systems fit together.”

If you have big scientific ideas that you want to explore through a flexible research-focused degree, check out the Bachelor of Philosophy (Honours) in Science at ANU.

Dino S. Williams