Lab meat, algae and insects may take time making way to our plates. But with the strain protein production puts on resources, it is likely to happen.
This is an exceptional time to write about the future of our food, especially proteins. Our country is gripped in a fiery (and needless) debate on bovine deliciousness as cows have ambled resolutely from our roads into our regulations.
So, it won’t come as good news if I tell you that rabid cow vigilantes aren’t the only ones standing between hungry meat lovers and their steak. As it turns out, our current protein obsessiveness (especially beef) is driving us towards a future that’s not sustainable.
Something has to give. Today’s #FactorFuture is about the strange changes that are likely sweep over our proteins going forward.
Humanity is currently in the midst of a steamy, no-holds-barred love affair with proteins. It is seen as the saviour that’s come to lift us up from the dark dredges of carbs, sugar and fat and into this lean, mean sculpted heaven. The increase in consumption of proteins is closely correlated to the rise in incomes around the world.
Given that only about 5-8% of the world is vegetarian, it is safe to say that any consideration of food for the 9 billion people that will come to live on this planet (by 2040) has to focus on today’s protein sources: meat, fowl and fish among others.
And this is where we run into a big problem: Protein production (in the form of meat and fish) is killing the planet.
Protein production (in the form of meat and fish) is killing the planet… it uses substantial areas of arable land, water and energy in production, storage and transportation
If you buy a burger patty from Beyond Meat, it looks like a regular burger, bleeds and even almost tastes like one. The patty, however, is made from pea protein, yeast extract, and coconut oil. The blood is beet juice. Inside, little veggie bits mimic the texture of meat and flesh. Hardcore beef lovers may baulk at this abomination, but it’s a sign of the future where meat production is increasingly seen on par with today’s fossil fuel use.
This is the reason Beyond Meat has raised millions of dollars from a wide list of investors including Bill gates and Tyson Foods, one of the biggest meat producers in the US. Don Thomson (ex CEO of Mc-Donald’s) sits on its board bringing his burger-selling expertise to help shake-up the meat industry. The product even increasingly sits alongside real meat in shelves across stores.
Another plant-protein based startup, Impossible Foods has raised upwards of $200 million from Bill Gates, Khosla Ventures and UBS among others since its launch in 2012. It, too, is engineering beef burgers and ground beef out of plant extracts.
Despite its low carbon footprint and more ethical supply chain, plant meat is relegated to a niche today. But that’s changing rapidly
No, I am not talking about conservative cows that dress modestly. The culture I am talking about is rapid procreation of cells in lab broths.
In 2013, a bunch of scientists from Netherlands took stem cells from a cow and turned it into muscle strips that when packed together made a patty. This Sergey Brin backed effort lifted up the weird quotient of our future food and gave a taste of what’s to come. That taste was “close to meat” but “not that juicy”.
The future meat will could very likely grow in sterile tanks with precision-controlled nutrients. And it’s not just beef. Memphis Meat, one of the companies that is growing meat in labs plans to launch lab-grown fowl along with beef by 2021. The only hitch right now — a pound costs $6000.
Eventually (scale, technology advances and learning), the prices will tumble. But can preferences change so easily? The real question would be to see how easily can cultured-meat companies convince consumers to switch to meat that didn’t originate naturally.
The real question would be to see how easily can cultured-meat companies convince consumers to switch to meat that didn’t originate naturally
We are scraping the bottom here, quite literally. The green scum at the bottom of ponds is the new “superfood”. Algae is packed with so much protein and omega-3 fatty acids that it’s being called the “most nutritious” food known to man.
With low water requirement and an ability to grow in arid places, algae (micro-algae) can proliferate easily and perhaps replace other protein sources. Here’s more: it can also generate biofuel — upto 19,000 litres of fuel per acre and it sucks up carbon-dioxide (co2) from the air.
With low water requirement and an ability to grow in arid places, algae can proliferate easily and perhaps replace other protein sources. Here’s more: it can also generate biofuel
They are the true protein superfood (65% of dry weight is protein) of the future. This nutty tasting food has more calcium than milk and more iron than spinach. They present the most sustainable source of food consuming little resource. I am of course talking about the food of the future: Crickets.
It’s not just crickets. Native ants that taste like lime, roasted caterpillars, silkworm soups, fresh locusts, maggot fat stir-fry, spicy red agave worms and many other creepy-crawlies are scuttling their way on to our plates. If all this evokes shock and disgust, I only have bad news for you going forward.
Entomophalogy. Learn the word. It’s means consumption of insects as food. We’ll be hearing a lot more of it in the future. The UN recommends that we all start munching on little edible six-legged snacks if we are to feed the growing population. If you are just getting started, the internet suggests beetles, wasps, ants and grasshoppers as popular treats to ease into the whole thing.
Crickets are the true protein superfood (65% of dry weight is protein) of the future. This nutty tasting food has more calcium than milk and more iron than spinach
About a billion people in the world rely on fish as the primary protein.
It’s bizarre, however, that despite thousands of years of civilisation, we are still largely hunter-gatherers when it comes to fishing (albeit, with sophisticated technology).
With growing demand, this is turning out to be unsustainable as overfishing, pollution are causing an extinction of ocean life and destroying ecosystems. Global fish catches are declining while populations and our hunger for proteins keep growing. We are already over fishing more than a third of the world’s fish stock.
Turns out, farming fish is the solution. In 2016, nearly as much of the global fish consumed came through aquaculture (rearing aquatic animals) as wild fishing. Open sea aquaculture farms pen part of an ocean to rear food while inland ones build simulated water bodies to do the same.
Aquaculture is expected to be the predominant source of seafood by 2030 and when practiced sustainable, can be the blue revolution and transform seafood the way green revolution transformed agriculture. With better control of the ecosystem we could potentially have healthier, non-polluted food.
Aquaculture is expected to be the predominant source of seafood by 2030 and when practiced sustainable, can be the blue revolution and transform seafood the way green revolution transformed agriculture