What will we eat in the future?

| Anthropocene Diet |

  ”Tell me what you usually eat and I’ll know what kind of person you are.” This is the beginning of Jean-Anthem Bria-Savarin’s book “The Physiology of Taste” in the early 19th century. language.
  In today’s world, most people eat a wide variety of foods, reflecting a highly globalized economy. On supermarket shelves in rich countries, salmon from Norway, shrimp from Vietnam, mangoes from India, strawberries from Turkey, cured meat from Italy and cheese from France. Meat – the luxury most humans have ever seen – can now be bought at cheap prices. Most meat products contain chemical additives for preservation and flavor enhancement.
  The formation of this dietary habit is inseparable from the current state of the earth: a large amount of land is used for farms and pastures, the food production process consumes a lot of energy, pesticides are widely used, the cost of transcontinental freight is low, and the food processing industry is developed. Human desires and the economies developed to satisfy those desires are powerful forces shaping the planet: the so-called Anthropocene.
  The diet of today’s rich-country inhabitants will surprise the Paleo, but the price of this diet is very high. Meat products are cheap because the production process is extremely cruel. Billions of animals spend short and painful lives in airtight sheds, forced to separate from their mothers, injected with hormones, castrated without anesthesia, and finally stripped alive.
  Raising animals is arguably the human activity that emits the most greenhouse gases, especially cattle, as ranchers tend to clear a lot of forest. Food processing makes meat cheap, tasty, and addictive, but in the process, nutrients are lost from the ingredients themselves, and sugar, salt, and fat are added.
  So it’s easy to come to the conclusion that the Anthropocene diet is too cruel to animals for the future of the planet and of humanity. But this conclusion is too harsh. Asking a weary mother who comes home from get off work and cooks for her children is going to be an overkill. Besides, she doesn’t care. In fact, she also hopes that the food industry will be more friendly to the global environment.

  To this end, many people start to change their eating habits. Meat intake is still increasing worldwide, but mostly in poorer countries. More and more people are becoming vegan or flexitarian (mostly vegetarian, but not entirely avoiding meat). The number of vegans in the UK more than tripled from 2014 to 2019.
  In the U.S., sales of organic foods that are potentially more friendly to people and the environment rose from $13.3 billion in 2005 to $56.4 billion in 2020. The same goes for Europe. Some restaurants will indicate which farm the ingredients come from on the menu, so that customers can eat more confidently. Born in 2005, the term “earth eater” (a person who is passionate about eating food produced near one’s home) was elected as the 2007 American Dictionary Word of the Year.
  The moral verdict of flexitarians, earth eaters, and organic food is that the highly rational, high-calorie, heavily processed, first-world food industry is wrong. However, they don’t show the way for how to correct the industry because they don’t think hard about the industry’s chronic diseases. Growing organic food requires more land and emits more greenhouse gases. Personally choosing to be vegetarian may save you from being directly related to animal suffering, but it will not outlaw animal farming.
  Can we change the industry? Can those who are dissatisfied with the current food industry work together to create a new food production system that produces healthy, delicious, diverse food in a kinder, more environmentally friendly way?
| Plant Meat and Plant Milk |

  El Segundo, a coastal town in Los Angeles County, is only about 130 kilometers from the first burger joint opened by the McDonald brothers in 1948. At lunchtime, burgers are a must on the menu of your local McDonald’s restaurant. Three burgers sit on a tray with lettuce, tomato, cheese and an orange sauce that resembles both mayonnaise and ketchup. Next to the burgers are some other common items at American fast food restaurants: baguettes stuffed with sausage, bell peppers and onions, English muffins with sausage patties, fried chicken nuggets, and more.
  However, none of these foods contain animal products. Burger buns are vegan, and other meat-like foods are made from pea protein. They all come from the research and development laboratory of the artificial meat company “Beyond Meat” (Beyond Meat). The company, founded by Ethan Brown in 2009, now sells its products in more than 80 countries around the world, with net revenue of $406.8 million in 2020, an increase of 36% year-on-year. Another Meat went public in 2019 and has a current market value of about $7 billion.

  Impossible Foods, another meat customer’s arch-rival in the plant-based meat space, is planning an IPO. The strategies of the two companies are different: Impossible Foods started with high-end products, and its partners include the founder of the restaurant empire Momofuku and star chef David Zhang; Different Meat mainly supplies cheap fast food chains such as McDonald’s and Pizza Hut. . Both companies’ products are available in major U.S. supermarkets alongside regular meats.
  In addition to vegetable meat, there are also vegetable milks on the market. In the past, dairy products made from soybeans and other plants were relatively rare in Western countries, and their consumers were mainly vegetarians and lactose intolerant people. But today, plant-based milks are popping up in cafes and grocery stores around the world. This is good news for people who cannot digest milk. Surprisingly, many lactose-tolerant people are also highly receptive to plant milk. Cafe owners must be happy because plant-based milk costs less than animal milk. The global plant-based milk industry is worth about $20 billion. In 2020, plant-based milk accounted for about 15% of the U.S. dairy market.
  The production of meat and milk from plant-based ingredients is nothing new, nor is it complicated, it is a rearrangement of the basic elements that make up plants and animals – proteins, fats, carbohydrates (sugars, starches, etc.). The main component of meat products is muscle, and muscle is composed of protein and a little fat. Asian Buddhists who are vegetarians have been making vegetarian meat from gluten for over 1,500 years. The main components of milk are fat, protein, minerals and water, and soy milk, which contains the same nutrients, has been popular in China for hundreds of years.

  However, the continuous upgrading of research and development and production technology of plant-based meat and plant-based milk has brought a problem: price. Regular ground meats and sausages are inexpensive, while better plant-based meats are more expensive than regular beef and come close to organic grass-fed beef. While plant-based meat is far superior to animal meat in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and lessening animal suffering, those costs are reflected in price, which is what matters most to many consumers.
  How to lower the price while further improving the quality of plant meat and plant milk? Meat and dairy giants have already begun to deploy. Cargill, JBS and Tyson have each opened plant-based meat lines, and Danone and Chobani have also started producing plant-based milk. “Strategically, we see animal and plant meat as complementary,” said Florian Shattenman, Cargill’s chief technology officer. “A car company may not only make minivans.” To produce different models of cars for different needs, meat producers also recognize the need to supply both plant and animal meat.
| Cell Meat |

  Upside Foods’ experimental kitchen is located in a modest business district in Berkeley, California. Here, chef Morgan Rees carefully uses food tweezers to place two slices of mushrooms and a slice of caper next to a piece of pan-fried chicken. Chicken may not be a delicacy, but Uma Vallady, CEO of Upside Foods, said: “So far, only over 1,000 people around the world have eaten it.”
  That’s because it’s grown in a laboratory . cultivated in. Researchers at Upside Foods took a tissue sample from a live chicken (the chicken was not injured in the process), and the cells in the sample formed the cell line used to produce chicken on the table. This chicken looks, smells and tastes exactly like a regular piece of chicken – it’s just a piece of chicken, but made in a completely new way.
  Upside Foods and its backers hope lab-grown meat will lead the way. The company recently opened a new plant in California’s East Bay. It is not the only artificial meat company. There are currently nearly 100 artificial meat companies competing to introduce artificial meat into the market. Faux meat is occasionally offered in a few places, such as a private club in Singapore and an experimental kitchen in Tel Aviv, but the product is not yet accessible to mass consumers.

  It is not difficult to see why artificial meat can be favored by investors. Demand for meat and fish has soared, especially against the backdrop of a rapidly expanding middle class in developing countries. Producing meat products the traditional way requires the use of large tracts of land and generates large amounts of greenhouse gases. Most fish on the market are not sustainably caught, and some are endangered species. Plant meat can meet part of the demand, but it can only be used as a competitor to processed meat products such as minced meat. By contrast, growing meat directly from animal cells would both satisfy consumer demand and address the ethical issues of slaughtering animals. This is an ambitious industry.
  Scientists have been growing cells, tissues and muscle fibers in test tubes for decades. As early as 1912, Alexi Carrell and colleagues grew chicken heart cells in the laboratory, and these cells remained viable for more than 30 years. This method of cell culture is attractive to food producers because current technology can extract stem cells and use them to generate different types of cells, such as those that make up fat and muscle. The cardiologist-turned-cardiologist Valedi said he was inspired to start Upside Foods from the idea of ​​”injecting stem cells into human hearts with heart disease to help regenerate muscle.”
  The fish meat grown in a closed sterilized bioreactor is absolutely free of contaminants such as microplastics and mercury found in ordinary seafood. Chicken grown with cells is never exposed to chicken manure, so there is no risk of Salmonella infection. Without poultry and livestock, pathogens from animals cannot be transmitted to humans, whether on farms, vegetable farms, slaughterhouses, kitchens or restaurants.
  However, cellular meat still faces many challenges before it enters the supermarket.
  The first is regulatory issues. In the field of cellular meat, Singapore’s regulatory level leads the world. The country introduced a regulatory framework in 2019 that stipulates that “protein substitutes that have never been considered food” can be sold if they pass a safety review by an expert panel and are labelled.
  The second is the shape of the meat. Theoretically, cell meat can be cultured into tissue form, not just cell form. But in fact, most cell meat companies produce compressed meat patties similar to meat fillings, because this is the least technical difficulty. Whole chicken breasts, steaks, and other meats with the bone aren’t available right now.
  In addition, a key step in the making of cellular meat is overpriced. Like livestock, cell meat in a petri dish needs “food,” and they’re picky eaters. Fetal bovine serum is a nutrient solution used by scientists in the laboratory for a long time, so it has become the first choice of many cellular meat companies, but it is obtained from fetal cattle delivered by caesarean section, which is contrary to the purpose of the cellular meat industry to avoid animal death. . Moreover, the price of fetal bovine serum is high and fluctuating, which is not conducive to the cost reduction of cellular meat companies.

| Green Castle in the Air |

  The best basil in the world is produced in a small village by the sea in Liguria, west of Genoa, Italy. The basil matures after a muted night in plenty of sunshine, and the tender leaves are perfect for making a Ligurian pine nut green sauce.
  However, basil is used by far more than the inhabitants of the vicinity of Genoa, and not all regions have the perfect climate for basil, even on the Ligurian coast. But in a parking lot in Brooklyn, New York, the plants growing in a few shipping containers are very similar to Genoa basil—crisp, spicy, with a hint of anise.
  These containers are a vertical farm. The plants here do not lie next to each other on a flat surface like field crops, but grow in layers at a higher density. Square Roots, the company that runs the vertical farm, grows fresh vegetables here and uses eco-friendly electric tricycles to deliver vegetables picked within 24 hours to 100 retailers in New York. The company also operates a larger vertical farm in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and intends to expand further.
  Not all vertical farms are small. South of San Francisco, startup Plenty operates an 8,100-square-meter farm that produces the equivalent of an average farm 300 times its size. The UAE and Switzerland are also planning large-scale vertical farms.

  One of the things that most vertical farms have in common is that they don’t need soil. Crops on vertical farms are mostly aeroponics (where a nutrient-rich water mist is applied to the roots of the plants) or hydroponics (where the roots of the plants are placed in a nutrient solution). As a result, more crops can be grown with less water. No soil means precise control over the nutrients plant roots take up; no weeds, and low numbers of microbes, insects and pests that depend on soil for life; and no fertilizers entering runoff. Vertical farms recycle everything, not throw it away. Some vertical farms also use aquaponics: the plants feed the fish, and the fish manure provides the plants with nutrients.
  Vertical farms don’t have sunlight either. LED lights provide light for plants, but the problem is, LED lights and electricity bills are costs. Advocates of vertical farms argue that the price of LED lights has fallen year by year, but the light efficiency has become more and more efficient. According to Heitz’s Law, the output lumens of LED lighting systems increase by a factor of 20 every ten years. Even so, energy costs for lighting and temperature control remain high. Fortunately, the energy used in vertical farms is almost all electricity, and electricity is getting cleaner and cheaper. Vertical farms can also regulate “day” and “night” to comply with electricity price fluctuations.
  That’s the biggest advantage of vertical farming: control. Farms directly provide crops with light, temperature and nutrients to optimize their growing conditions. Crop varieties are also carefully selected, mainly for fast-growing, low-weight and profitable plants. Vertical farms can supply local high-quality seasonings and leafy greens year-round.
  Control requires data. Vertical farms can monitor crops in a way that traditional farms cannot. Anya Rosen, head of Brooklyn Farms at Square Roots, said: “Vertical farms are not natural, but the exact opposite of nature. It’s a big robot that grows plants.” In terms of health, naturalness, purity and environmental protection, vertical farms perform well, and this closed growing environment will not cause harm to the external environment.
  By the mid-to-late 21st century, artificial lighting and indoor climate control systems powered by cheap, clean electricity will further drive vertical farming. This does not mean that vertical farm investments will pay off in the short term. But just as 19th-century farmers couldn’t imagine 20th-century farming, the 21st-century form of agriculture will eventually surpass current levels in terms of productivity and environmental friendliness.
| Specialty Food |

  By the middle of this century, the global population will reach approximately 10 billion. Feeding so many people requires a multi-pronged approach: drastically reducing food waste, keeping farmland fertile over time, and increasing agricultural yields. At the same time, we also need to fill some of the gaps in the current food system. There are foods we ignore until a pair of discerning eyes sees their potential. Sea urchin, for example, is shunned in some places and a delicacy in others.
  Seagrass is a common food in East Asian countries, but according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the global seaweed industry is only about $6 billion a year, the equivalent of what Americans spend on taco chips every year. In addition, kelp is also rich in minerals and fiber, and is a sustainable food. All in all, we need to drop some stereotypes.

  Maybe consider insects? According to FAO, there are about 1,900 species of insects that humans eat. A famous delicacy in the Mexican state of Oaxaca is fried grasshoppers, served with lime, chili, salt and other seasonings, rolled into freshly baked tortillas; in the Thai countryside, the thumb-sized fried beetles are an excellent appetizer ; Southern African farmers love to eat caterpillars that grow on the coke bean tree. Around 2 billion people around the world regularly eat insects.
  Insects convert nutrients and water into protein much more efficiently than animals that humans eat routinely. Farming insects requires no dedicated soil, emits virtually no greenhouse gases, and can co-exist with other crops. They eat organic waste and reduce the burden on landfills. The protein content of most insects is higher than that of legumes, and some even higher than meat and eggs. Insect shells can be prickly to eat, but like shrimp shells, they can be peeled off.
  Eating more insects for humans is undoubtedly better for the environment, but many Westerners are averse to eating bugs – which is odd because they also eat shrimp and some other crustaceans. When it comes to eating, though, there’s no point in making any sense. Fifty years ago, most Western diners were skeptical about eating raw fish; today, sushi is available in supermarkets. Several insect food startups are emerging, hoping to bring about a taste revolution as well.
  Pat Crowley’s company, Chapul, was funded in 2012. Crowley, an advocate for edible insects, calls black soldier fly larvae “one of the most delicious insects.” He entered the business out of concerns about water resources in the American West. Young consumers are more receptive to insects, which is a good thing, he said.
  In time, insects could become a favorite delicacy, as Crowley imagined. Not only sushi, but also potatoes and tomatoes were the foods that once got the cold shoulder. Human tastes also change over time. The menu for a lavish feast in 1921—bouillon, roast pigeon, preserves—looks as outdated today as the stiff collars and wide-brimmed hats of the guests.