Introduction: The future food paradox
What foods will we eat in the future? What will future foods be like? I have asked myself these questions too. Have you wondered, if foods on our plate will remain the same? Climate change negatively affects agriculture today. Most parts of the world experience poor harvests. Droughts and starvation choke developing countries. The population keeps growing. So feeding everyone will become a challenge. Hence, the need for future food research. Some of the future food innovations are the most bizarre foods you have ever seen!
Several future foods have been tried already. Many more are still in developmental stages. Whilst some future food will be delicacies. Some will be good nutrient sources and nightmares to the palette. Whether future foods will be healthy and safe, no one knows. Because, among the producers, are profit-hungry corporations that can do anything for money!
Current foods vs future foods
The world population will grow to 9 billion by 2050. FAO informs on the need for more food to feed everyone. Altering diets is a great way to feed an increasing world population. Future foods have complete profiles of essential nutrients. They must be accessible to everyone. These foods must address pressures on the environment. And ensure optimal nutrient availability at harvest. The foods must appeal to the eye and the taste buds. Otherwise, consumers can reject them. Future foods must address diet-related health problems. Providing all these qualities makes future foods good alternatives to current plant and animal nutrient sources. This post describes 11 future food products you may find on the future menu.
Animals and plants are valuable sources of nutrients. However, their production consumes a lot of non-renewable resources. They also release emissions from fossil fuel usage. As a result, greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere. Current food production methods are therefore inefficient and unsustainable. Therefore the world needs sustainable and efficient future foods.
Current motivations for future foods.
Many factors have motivated people to search for alternative food sources in the future. As the population increases, the world needs more food to feed everyone. This becomes a challenge as the population increases. This is because natural resources are limited. There will be a time in which food production won’t be enough. Even with the use of highly efficient methods.
People are reluctant to get rid of meat from their diets. As developing countries become more middle income. They want more luxurious food. Ruling out meat because of finite space is out of the question. These are the reasons for future food research. Future food research aims to spearhead sustainable food production. It also aims to produce food whilst preserving its nutritional qualities. Some future food innovations aim to mimic the textures and flavours of current foods. Future food production must minimise inefficiency and environmental damage. This means it has to be sustainable. As a result, new foods must be developed and explored. Future foods will solve current problems in food production.
1. Cultured meat
Also called lab-grown meat has the highest vibe among future foods. Cultured meat is an innovative solution to sustainability issues in meat production. It is an alternative to animal meat. Lab-grown meat eliminates most disadvantages of animal meat production. Many researchers are working on cultured meat. This future food product has already been publicly tasted in burgers. However, there are currently too many production constraints. As a result, we may not see cultured meat on the menu anytime soon.
What will be the advantages of cultured meat as a future food
- Fewer animals are needed to produce more meat. Currently, more animals are needed to supply meat. In addition to that, almost half the mass of animals is inedible.
- It prevents the killing of too many animals. Since the meat is lab-grown.
- Another advantage is that cultured meat is safer. That is according to its advocates. They believe that since there are no internal organs and intestines. The risk of enteric infections is therefore low.
- Also, cultured meat is not produced in confined spaces. This means that there are no outbreak risks. The costs associated with animal treatment are reduced.
- Advocates say that nutrient content can be controlled. This means food can be designed to eliminate chronic disease risks.
- Moreover, cultured meat preserves the desire to consume meat. And ensure sustainable global food security.
- It also ensures limited environmental concerns currently affecting meat production.
Disadvantages of cultured meat as a future food
- The biggest problem is the culture medium. Cultured meat is supposed to be slaughter-free. But the medium for cell culture is Foetal Bovine Serum. It is extracted from calves. This means a lot of calves are killed. This defeats the whole purpose of being slaughter-free.
- Currently, the system is expensive and ineffective. Producing the medium is expensive. This ups the production costs. As a result, it will not be easy to make cultured meat available to everyone.
- It is difficult to imagine that diversified cultured meat will be on the market very soon. They are struggling to produce real muscle.
- Will they manage chicken breast or gizzard?
- Many animals play a critical role in the carbon cycle. They improve the soils carbon content.
- Usage of less land, water and releasing fewer greenhouse gases is not a fair advantage. Because most of the land used for cattle rearing is non-arable.
- Also, animals help improve soil carbon content. Animals produce greenhouse gas as a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide. Whilst, cultured meat produces carbon dioxide only. Carbo dioxide stays more in the atmosphere.
- Therefore cultured meat contributes more to global warming.
- Besides, no one knows the true effects of cultured meat on human health.
- Cultured meat production will drive animal producers into poverty. They depend on income from animal production. Removing animals leaves them destitute.
- Besides, it will be difficult to eliminate pathogens from cultured meat in industrial settings.
Would you have cultured meat on your menu? Will the taste be the same? Will cultured meat be diversified? I mean will we have ribs, chicken breast or liver? Will it be regulated, and be available to everyone?
Global meat consumption has increased over the years. The rate at which meat consumption increases is unsustainable. This is due to the global population increase. But the land used for food production does not grow. Therefore future food research seeks alternative food sources. These will use less land and cause less harm. Among them are insects. Insects are already delicacies in many countries. In some countries, cultural prejudices prevent their consumption.
Future food insects can solve the current sustainability problems of food production. Because they have a high nutrient density. They also have higher production efficiencies in terms of land usage and multiplication!
Edible insects contain as much protein as meat. And they are healthier since they contain healthier fats. Edible insects have more polyunsaturated fats than meat. Hence, insects as future foods, lower risks of cardiovascular diseases. There is an increasing interest in edible insects in the western world. However, in Africa, insects are a delicacy already. Insect production has to be consistent. As a result, research is needed. That is if insects are to be used as commercial future food.
Future foods: Insect products
- Roasted insects
- Dried insects
- Insect infused flour
- Powdered insect bars
- Mealworm larvae meal infused cereals.
Potential benefits of insects as future food
- Insects have a protein content similar to meat.
- They multiply faster and use small spaces to produce bigger biomass.
- Animals are rich in saturated fats. These are sources for concern in cardiovascular diseases. But insects contain more polyunsaturated fats. Which are healthier fats.
- Using insects in future foods is beneficial. It helps deal with the problem of global water, energy and land deficits.
- Among future foods, insects are the healthiest. They have a rich healthy fat, protein and mineral profile.
- Some insects have higher protein content than meat. Especially crickets and locusts.
- Insects also have high mineral content. They are rich in minerals including zinc and iron.
- Insects have health benefits. These include anti-stimulatory and anticancer properties. Some have antioxidant and anti-diabetic properties.
Potential problems of using insects as food.
- Food safety may be affected by insect toxicity.
- Allergies may prevent worldwide acceptance. Insects can cause some of the most dangerous allergies.
- Even though the protein content of insects is high. Insect protein has variable digestibility. This is due to the presence of the exoskeleton. Therefore, costs are incurred in processing to remove the exoskeleton.
- Insects have a risk of being pathogenic vectors. Therefore, insect as future foods can be a source of pathogenic infections.
So tell me; are you ready for this future food? In a few years, we may have our stomachs full of nutritious bugs!
Mycoprotein is a nutritious alternative protein source. It has a meat-like texture. This future food is made from the natural fungus, Fusarium venenatum.
Mycoprotein production has lesser carbon and water footprints. That’s beneficial when compared to meat as protein sources. This food is already on the market in the developed world. Future food research focuses on cost reduction. This will make it available to everyone sooner.
Notable nutritional facts of mycoprotein
- Mycoprotein has high fibre and protein content
- The fibre is natural
- Low-fat content
- Mycoprotein has low cholesterol levels
- Low sodium content
- They have low sugar content
Potential benefits of mycoprotein as a future protein source
Mycoprotein have many benefits as a sustainable protein source in the future. Here are some of the benefits:
- Mycoprotein may help maintain low blood cholesterol levels. This is due to their high fibre content.
- It is a clean protein. So it can help in muscle synthesis. Research showed it improved muscle retention in older adults.
- Mycoprotein has low sugar content. Therefore it can control blood sugar and insulin levels. It will also contribute less to weight gain.
- High fibre content also gives mycoprotein high satieting properties. This means the stomach fills quickly in a meal. And this prevents overeating.
- Mycoprotein has a rich nutrient profile. Find the nutrient content table here.
- It is a better protein source than meat. Because it has a net protein mass gain during production. Unlike animal future foods, which have inefficient protein production.
- Mycoproteins are rich in essential amino acids. Their values being higher than most plant sources. Which makes them even better protein sources.
Potential problems of mycoproteins as future foods
- Consumers can develop allergies. This can limit the rate of mycoprotein consumption. However, the occurrence of allergies is low.
- Research shows that mycoprotein has a similar environmental impact as pork or chicken.
- Overconsumption of mycoprotein is detrimental.
- Too much will cause uric acid formation. This results in the formation of kidney stones and problems.
- The fermentation process is costly. It also requires a lot of expertise. This means mycoprotein cannot be produced at will. So, only corporate giants will benefit.
- This does not do justice to the poor livestock farmer!
Will we see some mycoproteins in food menus the world over? Or we would rather stick to the delicious tastey insects of the plains? Can this benefit everyone?
Chlorella is a green unicellular alga. Markets sell it as nutrient supplements. Chlorella is already on the market. However, it has been caught in the future food storm. Because the microalgae have favourable properties. These properties are important to the future food industry.
The nutritional profile of Chlorella
The nutrient profile makes Chlorella a future food prospect. The nutrient profile shows the sustainability of Chlorella as a future nutrient source.
- Rich protein source
- Have substantial concentrations of essential amino acids
- Contains small amounts of fat
- Good sources of essential fatty acids. Chlorella only contains alpha-linolenic and linoleic acids
- A source of all major vitamins
- It contains substantial amounts of vitamin D and B12
- Contains most minerals needed by humans.
- It has substantial amounts of iron and selenium
- It contains antioxidants in the form of colour pigments. These include carotenoids mainly found in vegetables and fruits.
Health benefits of Chlorella
Chlorella has beneficial health properties.
- Immunomodulatory/Immune boosting properties
- Antioxidant effects
- Antihypertensive- Reduces blood pressure risks
- Antidiabetic effects
- Limits fat deposition
Reasons why Chlorella has an edge over plants as a future food
- Chlorella has a better nutrient profile than most plants. It has a high biomass conversion rate than plants.
- Chlorella produces more biomass per hectare than plants. And it can produce more biomass quickly.
- The microalga is currently used as a nutrient supplement. However, it has a rich nutrient profile. And it can be used as a food product.
- Chlorella protein is of high quality with 80% digestibility. And the total protein content (50-58%) is better than that of soybean (33%).
- Chlorella has low-fat content. So, it reduces the risks of cardiovascular health and weight-related issues.
- It has substantial amounts of vitamin D and B12 which are low in plants.
Possible dangers of using chlorella as a future food
- Humans cannot digest chlorella cells naturally. This is because they contain cellulose cell walls.
- Therefore, Chlorella must be processed first before consumption. The processing is the source of concern. Because of the possible side effects of food processing on human health.
- The appearance, taste and odour of microalgae may limit widespread adoption of Chlorella food.
- Chlorella has a high nucleic acid content. Nucleic acids are metabolised to uric acid. Uric acid is responsible for the development of kidney stones and gout.
- Also, the consistency of the biomass is difficult to master. Different batches may have different properties.
Whether Chlorella will remain as a supplement or come to the food menu, no-one knows. But, I wouldn’t mind tasting Chlorella juice or pancakes.
Spirulina is a filamentous microalga. Sold commercially as a nutrient supplement. However, it has gained popularity as future food. Spirulina has a high nutrient concentration than conventional foods.
It has great potential as a sustainable solution to future food problems.
Benefits of Spirulina as a future food
- Unlike Chlorella the body of Spirulina is softer. This makes it more digestible by humans.
- Spirulina is a valuable nutrient source. It contains minerals, vitamins, proteins, fatty acids and carotenoids. This makes Spirulina a nutrient-rich future food.
- The nutritional value of 1000 kgs of fruit and vegetables equals 1 kg of Spirulina.
- Spirulina has protective effects against common contaminants. It offers protection against carbon tetrachloride and heavy metals. Spirulina also offers protection against drugs like gentamicin.
- The microalga improves human gut health. It promotes the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.
- It can grow in alkaline and coastal areas where plants can’t grow properly.
- Does not require fertile land and can be mass-produced on limited space.
- It grows quickly and uses energy efficiently.
Possible health benefits of Spirulina
- Contains beneficial functional compounds. These include phenolics, phycocyanins and polysaccharides.
- The compounds have antioxidant, immune-stimulating and anti-inflammatory properties.
- It promotes innate immunity. And boosts the activity of natural killer cells.
- It has anti-cancer properties
- Can lower fat deposition
- Lowers blood glucose levels
- Lowers blood pressure
- It has anti-obesity
- Spirulina also have immuno-protective effects
- Lowers risks of cancers
- Lower risks of HIV progression
- Prevents eye cataract formation.
Possible dangers posed by Spirulina to consumers
- Consumption of Spirulina has side effects. These include insomnia and gastric problems.
- Spirulina can interfere with medication for different health problems.
- The problem of microalga as foods is an accumulation of toxic contaminants.
So far Spirulina is one of the best future food prospects, I wouldn’t mind getting a bite!
6. Sugar kelp
Sugar kelp is a large brown macroalga. It is the most commonly grown seaweed in Europe. Sugar kelp has high mineral content. And it also has salty flavours. This makes it an ideal mineral source in future foods. The seaweed can be consumed as a sea vegetable or as a food ingredient. It exudes the natural sugar mannitol when dried. This gives it a sweet taste.
The high concentration (30-50) of glutamic acid and aspartic acid sugar kelp gives it the umami taste.
Notable benefits of sugar kelp in future foodsNotable benefits of sugar kelp in future foods
- Sugar kelp is an excellent source of dietary fibre. As the population increases, more space is needed for growing adequate high fibre food. Sugar kelp provides a solution to this problem.
- Sugar kelp contains all the essential amino acids. It’s a very rich source of glutamic acid and aspartic acid.
- It contains healthy fats in the form of polyunsaturated fatty acids.
- Sugar kelp is a great source of vitamins. It contains, vitamin A, E, K, C, niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, pyridoxine, folate and cobalamin.
- It also contains the minerals potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc and iodine.
- Consuming only small amounts of sugar kelp meets daily iodine requirements.
- Sugar kelp is also rich in bioactive compounds. These include antioxidants and phytochemicals that reduce chronic disease risks.
- Sugar kelp can be grown for many years.
- It is a sustainable and beneficial food production method to humans and the environment.
Problems that may arise from sugar kelp consumption
- All seaweeds have very high iodine concentrations. Overconsumption may result in iodine toxicity.
- Seaweeds can accumulate heavy metals and contaminants like arsenic. This is detrimental to health.
Sugar kelp is one of the best micronutrient sources available. It can help eliminate the current micro-nutrient deficiency woes around the world. So, it won’t be surprising if sugar kelp becomes a regular part of the future food menu.
7. Use of Mussels in future foods
Mussels are a small ocean-dwelling animal that has entered the future food race. They are farmed around the world. The main producers are Spain and China. Mussels are a healthier and sustainable future food source.
Benefits of mussels as future foods
- Production of mussels emmit 20 times fewer greenhouse gasses than chicken and 50 times less than beef.
- Mussels can contribute to feeding the future world population. This is because their production is environmentally friendly.
- They are an efficient and sustainable nutrient source.
- Mussels do not compete with humans for freshwater. Because no freshwater is needed for their production.
- These sea animals provide high-quality protein.
- Mussels are excellent protein sources. 100g of mussels provide a ¼ of the adult requirements of protein.
- They are excellent sources of vitamin B 12. 100g of mussels provide the daily requirements of vitamin B12.
- They have high essential amino acid content.
- Mussels are rich in omega fatty acids (healthy fats).
- Mussels feed mainly on bacteria, plankton and tiny sea plants.
- This means that they are at a lower energy level. As a result, they only accumulate very small amounts of harmful contaminants like mercury.
- Most fish and water-based foods have high levels of these contaminants.
Problems of using mussels as future food
- They can accumulate toxic chemicals. These can then harm the consumer.
- Mussels are also perishable. They develop off flavours and go bad if wrongly handled.
- They are mainly consumed as canned foods. Mussels can therefore be contaminated with heavy metals during canning.
- Acceptance is another problem, people scorn canned foods. It is believed only poor quality foods are canned.
All the nutritional facts make mussels one of the best healthy food choices for the future.
8. Black Soldierfly larvae
Black soldier flies are common flies, however, they are not pests. They usually stay away from humans. The flies are commonly found in the woods or forests.
Adult soldier flies do not feed. They only consume water and mate. Larvae on the other hand can feed. They breakdown organic substrates and return nutrients to the soil. They can convert underutilised nutrients to proteins in 10 to 15 days. Black soldier fly larvae can use organic food waste and manure as substrates.
The larvae have their highest nutrient content at this stage.
Benefits of black soldier fly as future foods.
- The larvae of black soldier flies are excellent protein sources. They contain 42% protein and 29% crude.
- Black soldier flies multiply quickly. One fly lays 600 to 800 eggs which produce new larvae.
- Livestock takes long to multiply efficiently. As a result, the black soldier fly is a sustainable future food.
- Soldier fly larvae are efficient. They produce protein quicker than livestock.
- Black soldier fly larvae have a higher bioconversion rate of nutrients.
- They can recycle organic waste. Therefore, they are environmentally friendly.
- Black soldier fly has no competition for agricultural space with humans.
- For example, livestock needs a lot of feed which is grown on the same land needed for human food production.
- Larvae can make the food of the future. They can be milled into nutrient-rich flours that can be used in foods. Soldier fly larvae can be converted to textured flavoured protein.
- They do not concentrate pesticides or mycotoxins like other insects.
- Black soldier fly larvae convert waste into food. So they produce food whilst reducing pollution costs.
- Like all insects, they have a lower feed to protein conversion ratio than livestock.
- They produce lower greenhouse and ammonia emission ratios.
- Less water needed for black soldier fly production than livestock to produce the same amount of protein.
- The larvae and pupae are bigger than other flies. So more nutrients will be available.
- At the pupae stage they self harvest and move out of the substrate. This removes labour-intensive harvesting processes.
Problems with black soldier fly larvae
- They contain more saturated fats which are cause for concern.
- They may face acceptance issues. As eating insects that consume waste is considered taboo.
- Insects are difficult to rear and harvest. Therefore, they will become expensive for consumers.
- There is a need for decontamination of harvested larvae. This eliminates contaminating microorganisms. This is essential especially on larvae reared from waste materials.
- Black Soldier fly larvae are edible but do not try the eggs!
- Black soldier fly larvae can accumulate cadmium ions, which are dangerous to human health. This becomes a danger if the insects are grown on cadmium contaminated soil.
Will we see black soldier fly larvae on the shelves any time soon? Or will you buy a pack of black soldier fly snacks?
9. Meal worm larvae as a future food
Mealworms are an edible insect. They are common in the western world. Mealworm can provide moderate nourishment for humans. And they don’t have harmful effects after consumption. They have beneficial nutritional properties that can help feed future populations.
Mealworms are widely bred and traded in Europe. Like many insects, they have a higher nutritional value than most conventional food. Therefore, mealworms are promising future food.
Why mealworm for the future?
- Mealworm can be mass-produced utilising limited space. The same cannot be said for livestock.
- They also utilise less water for growth than meat production.
- Mealworm has excellent sensory qualities. When compared to some future foods, they are appealing to the consumer.
- They have a crispy texture and a savoury shrimp-like taste. This improves its appeal to consumers.
- The savoury taste is due to the plentiful free amino acids in mealworm.
- In addition to high fat and protein content, mealworm contains many micro-nutrients.
- They have about 50% protein and 20% fat of their dry weight.
- Which makes them better than most conventional food.
- They also have healthier unsaturated fats.
- Mealworms are rich in bioactive compounds. They have a high vitamin E content. Vitamin E is a very powerful antioxidant.
- They also have high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This is due to high levels of functional proteins and compounds.
- Unlike plant food sources, mealworms lack anti-nutrients. These bind to essential nutrients. This makes nutrients unavailable to the body.
- Mealworms (100g) can provide a ¼ of the daily energy requirements.
- They can be produced using waste products. Therefore, they provide an environmental advantage.
- They have an efficient feed conversion rate. Mealworms produce more nutrients per mass of feed than conventional livestock.
Problems with mealworms
- They have high and variable microbial loads. This means the mealworms must be decontaminated properly before consumption.
- Mealworms can accumulate arsenic which is a dangerous contaminant.
- Insects can produce high levels of reactive oxygen species. Therefore they can cause oxidative stress.
Mealworms are some of the best possible future foods. They are currently mainly used in livestock feed. However, it wouldn’t be surprising if they become a regular part of human nutrition!
10. Housefly larvae? Is it a future food?
As the world population increases the need for more food resources increases. Currently, livestock remains the main source of vital nutrients. However, livestock production will be unsustainable in the future. The reason being, the land for livestock production is finite. As the population grows more food is needed. There comes a point in which further optimisation of food production is impossible. Because livestock also needs to eat. And feeds also compete for land with human food crops. Currently, research searches for sustainable ways to feed livestock.
It would be very hard for anyone to stomach the idea of housefly larvae being future food. However, like mealworm, they are highly efficient in nutrient conversion. They are also rich in nutrients, as a result, they can be a good addition to livestock feeds. In areas with high livestock production, dealing with livestock waste is a problem. Housefly larvae can decompose this waste into nutrients. They can then be milled and added to the livestock feed. This can help improve the optimisation of livestock feed production.
And thus, food production.
Unlike current feed production methods housefly larvae:
- Housefly larvae production uses less water than conventional feed
- The larvae can multiply quickly and efficiently
- They contain most of the nutrients needed for livestock growth
- Mass-production can be done on limited space
- It’s possible to mass-produce them in a very short time.
- They help get rid of environmental waste at farms!
So, yes, housefly larvae are essential future food. However, I cannot tolerate the idea of eating baby flies directly! What do you think?
11. Plant based meat imitations in future food
Meat analogues replace meat in meals with other ingredients. They are also called imitation meat or fake meat. Meat analogues are one of the most talked-about future food. The vibe is all about a healthier lifestyle and a sustainable future.
Most meat analogues are plant-based. They mimic the quality of animal meat. The texture, flavour and quality imitate animal meat. Soybean is the main ingredient in plant-based imitation meat. However, commercial products have additives. These improve nutrient quality, taste, flavour and texture. Meat consumption is increasing. Therefore, meat analogues provide a meat replacement solution for the future.
Common meat analogues
- Dry texturised vegetable protein
- Texturised soy protein
- Meat extenders
- Plant-based meat
- Soya chunks
Benefits of meat analogues as a future food
- Vegetable proteins used for imitation meat are cheaper. This makes imitation meat a more sustainable future food. Because production costs make it accessible even to the poorest.
- Plant-based meat analogues are lower in calories. Which is healthier.
- They also have low total fat and saturated fat content. Which makes them ideal for cardiovascular health.
- They are higher in carbohydrates, sugars and fibre than meat.
Benefits of meat analogues to the environment
- Their consumption reduces greenhouse gas emission.
- They reduce problems of environmental change and natural resource depletion. These problems result from livestock production.
Disadvantages of meat analogues
- Flavours, textures and appearances do not meet consumer standards of real meat.
- Adoption of plant-based diets can be a problem.
- Soy products have beany and off flavours. These make them unappealing to meat consumers.
- Like other legumes, soybean has an allergenic effect. They can cause allergic responses to consumers.
- Some analogues contain cereals which are harmful to gluten-intolerant consumers.
- All this limits the use of plant-based meat as future food.
- Plant-based meat still needs more land and water than other future foods. Therefore, they are at the bottom of the future food ladder!
Plant-based foods may not be as sustainable as other future foods but they are safer. This is because they have been extensively studied. So whatever people eat and cause problems, a solution can be found. Can we say the same for the other future food? I doubt it very much!
Conclusion on future food
The future of human nutrition must be sustainable. Some common foods will cease to exist and disappear. Some will become pricey and expensive. Whilst others will hang in there as the going gets tougher. Insects have great potential as nutrient sources. Plant-based meat analogues will hang in there as agriculture persists. Algae-based future foods are more sustainable but they can be dangerous to the consumer. Cultured meat is a great innovation, however, its sustainability is still questionable. What would you prefer to eat in the future? Leave a comment!