What will we eat in the future?

What will we eat in the future?

My goal is to answer other people’s questions on this blog. Questions like, “Will we really eat insects in the future?” and, “How realistic is it that fake meat will take over real meat consumption in the next 50 years? Check out the questions I have been asked already on this #AskAFuturist thread and add your own if you’re curious.

Followers on my social media may know that last year, I was asked to design the ‘future pizza’. It was for the launch of the Big Bang Fair, a science, technology and engineering event for kids and young people at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham.

We came up with some ideas and then we got together at a pizzeria in London and had them make our future pizza for a panel of kids to try.

Future ingredients: what will we eat in the future?

So, what’s so different about the future pizza? It has three main ingredients that make it different to your normal margherita. I chose all of them because they represent a possible solution to future challenges, where pressures like climate change intersect with trends in technology and taste.

That’s not to say that these will be the answer for everyone or everything. But they are a great way to highlight some of the challenges we face, and the choices.

Cricket flour

The most controversial choice in our future pizza was the introduction of insects. Why put ground up crickets into a pizza dough?

The first is about climate change. Some argue that insects are a much more efficient means of creating protein for human consumption than, for example, cows or even chickens.

The second issue is about health. Insect powder is an incredibly rich form of protein, with 8mg of protein for every 10mg of insect powder.

Vertically farmed tomatoes

The second ingredient to note is vertically farmed tomatoes. These represent one possible answer to the multiple issues of land use, water consumption, pesticides, climate change, and food miles.

Vertical farming means growing food in stacked trays inside a warehouse with a very carefully controlled environment. Rather than being grown in soil, the plants are usually fed nutrients directly through water or vapour.

Vegan cheese

For this experiment we used a vegan cheese made from almond milk. And it tastes like…cheese! This was perhaps the biggest surprise for me as I didn’t have high hopes for a fake cheese. But it grated like cheese, cooked like cheese, and tasted pretty good on our pizza.

The future of the meat industry

So, will the future be vegan, or will we be eating insects? I’d argue that the explosion of choice is a trend far bigger than veganism, but we’re seeing a lot of progress for the future of the meat industry.

Will the future be vegan? Understanding ‘fake meat’

In the last few years there have been two distinct crazes around what might be considered ‘fake meat’. The first is a group of entirely plant-based products designed to come closer to the real thing.

The most famous proponents of this approach, Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, have started with the ubiquitous burger. Both use a mixture of proteins, binders and natural colours to produce something with a texture and flavour that is at least analogous to the beef original.

The second set of products is lab grown meat, produced by the likes of the Eat JUST and Memphis Meats – more US start-ups. This approach takes real meat cells and cultures them – i.e., gets them to replicate – creating ‘real’ meat without the slaughter of animals.

How veganism could affect what we will eat in the future

The rise of veganism comes down to three pressure points:

  • Climate change: agriculture makes up more than one-fifth of all greenhouse gases
  • Cruelty: there is a rising number of people who simply don’t want to eat animals
  • Cost: while fake meats are still expensive, real meat continues to be the most expensive item on the plate

Choice: a competitive market for alternatives

The future of the meat industry suggests that we will favour choice in the future – some for health reasons, others for animal welfare.

To me it is pretty clear that average meat consumption in the UK is now on a long-term downward trend. This will be driven by a combination of our falling acceptance of meat consumption, the rise of good alternatives, and the compounding factors of health trends and climate awareness.

So, what will we eat in the future? Honestly, I doubt insects will become part of everyone’s diet. Let’s remember that there are already large parts of the world where insects are entirely normal part of the diet. This isn’t some issue about whether they are edible or good for us.

Likewise, I don’t see meat going away altogether. It will likely become a more expensive choice as volumes decline. And there will be many alternatives, not just fake meat. But in 50 years I’m willing to bet it will still be on the menu. It’s about choice.

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This article is by Tom Cheesewright. This post forms part of the Future of Humanity series. For more posts on this subject, visit the Future of Humanity page.

Tom Cheesewright

Futurist speaker Tom Cheesewright is one of the UK's leading commentators on technology and tomorrow. Tom has worked with a huge range of organisations across a variety of markets, to help them to see a clear vision of tomorrow, share that vision and respond with agility. Tom draws on his experience to create original, compelling talks that are keyed to the experience of the audience but which surprise and shock with unexpected facts and examples.

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