Vegan meat and chocolate from the printer: What kind of food awaits us in the future
ON DAYS, WHEN IT SEEMS THAT ANY INFORMATION IS AVAILABLE TO US, we are paradoxically far from knowing about the foods we eat: we have no idea what animals fed on or where apples bought at the supermarket grew up. Food habits are also changing: we live in a completely different way than our ancestors, and therefore we eat differently – not to mention the globalization and accessibility of products atypical for native places. Eating is not only getting the substances necessary for survival – it is an essential part of our social life.
Technological breakthroughs of the last hundred years have greatly influenced the relationship of people with food: on the one hand, fast food has appeared, on the other, many people have taken care of a healthy lifestyle. Some people think about responsible consumption, while others suffer from eating disorders. In some countries, the prevalence of obesity is growing rapidly, in others, hunger continues. Doctors are concerned about the chaotic diet and problems with the formation of good habits, and scientists are asking more ambitious questions: how to feed humanity when resources begin to run out? We tried to understand the promising innovations in the world of food and look into the future.
It is not so much pity for the animals as the lack of resources that makes scientists think about the possibility of raising meat or creating milk in the laboratories of scientists: almost 850 million people in the world do not eat enough, and a third of childhood deaths in developing countries are associated with hunger. The technique of cultivating tissues from individual cells has long been known, and now a variety of organizations have set about growing, for example, cow muscle tissue – in other words, beef. Cultured Beef is working at the Dutch University of Maastricht: meat grows in a nutrient medium from muscle cells obtained from a live cow. This allows you not to kill animals, spend a hundred times less space and significantly reduce the impact on the environment.
There are many such undertakings: a group of biohackers is working on the modification of yeast cells so that these cells can produce cheese. It’s not about a substitute like tofu, but about real cheese – for its production in yeast you need to embed a piece of cow DNA that encodes milk protein. Perfectdayfoods also plans to launch milk production without the participation of a cow. The goal of the New Wave Foods startup is artificial shrimp that look and taste identical to the real ones, only lack allergens, do not contain antibiotics, and their use is not accompanied by the killing of living things or harming the world’s oceans. Finally, Just came up with a vegan substitute for eggs – a mass of mung bean that can be whipped in exactly the same omelettes, and most importantly, with a taste indistinguishable from eggs.
What many dream of: a drink with a pleasant taste, which helps to relax and improves communication, but without toxic effects on the liver and heart, as well as without the risk of poisoning, a hangover or dependence. British professor David Nutt is developing a product called Alcosynth – and believes that by 2050 this analogue of alcohol will completely replace the original from the world market. So far, several molecules are being tested that are similar to benzodiazepines (drugs for treating insomnia and anxiety).
It is assumed that the drink will improve mood and create an effect similar to intoxication, but without the consequences of a hangover or negative effects on internal organs. In addition, it is possible that after the party it will be possible to take a pill that quickly neutralizes the effect of the drink – for example, to drive and safely return home. Apparently, while Alcosynth is supposed to be used in cocktails, it is not known what kind of taste he will have.
The idea of eating insects is not new, and many travelers have probably tried fried larvae in Mexico or Thailand. It is still difficult to imagine insects not as exotic, but as everyday food – but it is possible that with the depletion of Earth’s resources in developed countries, state programs will begin to encourage the transition to this source of protein. Back in 2010, Marcel Dique spoke at the TED conference about the efficiency of insect production as food: ten kilograms of feed allow you to create just one kilogram of beef or three kilograms of pork, but as many as nine kilograms of insects. Moreover, when growing plants for food, more animals (for example, rodents) can suffer than in insect plants – that is, even from the point of view of a vegan ethic, insects become preferable to plants.
The process of growing insects is more environmentally friendly and takes up less space, and their benefits have long been known: insects are a source of low-fat protein, vitamins and minerals. It remains only to overcome squeamishness, but for this it is worth looking with different eyes at the food to which we are accustomed. Crustaceans (lobsters and shrimps) and insects are subtypes of the same biological type of arthropods, and eating them is not terrifying for most Europeans.