Our food of the future

From the lab to the table: the food we’ll be eating in 30 years

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Do you think a bowl of locusts for breakfast sounds weird? Not for the diners of the future. 

Imagine the scenario: 30 years from now you’re sat around the dinner table with your grandchildren, who are merrily chomping their way through a plate of WORMS! If that sounds like science fiction, consider that by 2050 there will be around 9.7 billion people on this planet, and we’ll likely need plenty of new ideas about how to feed so many extra hungry mouths.

Existing issues such as climate change, global hunger and over-fishing have already started the debate around alternative food sources. So in three decades’ time there’s a pretty decent chance the menu at your favourite restaurant will be completely unrecognisable. Here are some of the new items that could feature on it.

  • Insects
  • Lab-grown meat
  • Artificial fish
  • Milk without a cow; egg whites without a chicken
  • Microalgae
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Insects

Believe it or not, there could soon come a day when the mere thought of roast grasshoppers gets your mouth watering. Insects have long been thought of as a perfect food for feeding the world’s growing population.

Athletes and gym-goers would certainly get their money’s worth: 100 grams of mealworms contains around 23 grams of protein – a true protein bomb! And contrary to our deep-seated disgust, some insects actually taste pretty good.

Insects - the meat of the future

Some people simply see them as bugs, but others believe that in the future they'll be our most important source of protein. Like chickens, sheep and cows, insects produce high-value protein from plant-based nutrients - but they do it in a much more cost-efficient way.

Did you know? You can already buy edible insects from online retailers, should you want to get ahead of the curve.

Lab-grown meat

Low energy consumption, reduced CO2 emissions and hardly any space requirements: the advantages of making meat in laboratory baskets seem obvious. Stem cells are used as a basis for growing lab meat – for example from the muscle tissue of cows – and development is progressing at such a pace that you may find it in the supermarket inside the next 10 to 20 years. Until then, however, the process still needs to be simplified and the taste optimised.

Did you know? The worldwide consumption of meat quadrupled between 1961 and 2011.

Artificial fish

If you’re thinking, “If we can produce synthetic meat, surely we can do the same with fish”, you are absolutely right. Scientists from NASA have already succeeded in producing a complete fish fillet by placing the muscle fibres of a goldfish in bovine serum albumin obtained from calf foetuses (a process also used in the production of artificial meat). 

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Did you know? US plant-based seafood company New Wave Foods has already tried to produce imitation shrimp from red algae.

Milk without a cow; egg whites without a chicken

Add this to the growth in artificial meat, and factory farming could very well become a thing of the past. San Francisco-based start-up Perfect Day is working on creating real milk without cows, using a process similar to craft brewing instead. Also based in San Francisco is Clara Foods, another company aiming to disrupt the food industry by producing the world’s first chicken-free egg white.

The Food Pioneers

Between spoonfuls of bean stew, Isha highlights the differences between the various approaches to creating meat in the lab. The first belongs to professor Mark Post, who, in 2013, to much media acclaim, presented the world's first in vitro burger: beef fibres cultured solely in the lab which grow in a ring shape around a gelatinous, plant-based nutrient.

Did you know? Factory-farmed chickens often suffer from impaired bone formation, fatty liver disease, heart problems or spinal curvature due to their disproportionate weight gain.

Microalgae

Algae are not only an excellent meal for fish and snails. A study in trade journal Algal Research found that microalgae are rich in valuable proteins and carbohydrates as well as healthy omega-3 fatty acids, so there’s a good chance it’ll soon find its way into the meals of the future.

Best day in the lab 😍🔬 #chorella #microalgae #microscope

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Did you know? Due to their enormous chlorophyll content, microalgae called chlorella are thought to be hugely beneficial for the human liver.

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