FUTURE FOODS? Insect Confections, Lab Meat Burgers, Seaweed Seasoning


Photo from Radio Netherlands Worldwide

Here’s odd.  A BBC article from July, Future Foods: What Will We Be Eating in 20 Years, discusses some of the ideas currently being explored for the not-too-far-from-now.  It covers not only alternative nutrient sources but some of the innovative ways we can be coaxed into actually eating them.

Most of the ideas in the article got me excited and then there’s one that leaves me cold, cold, cold.

First, insects.  I love this idea.  I’ve loved it since I first learned years ago that bugs have as high a protein content as animal meats only with a far smaller footprint and a more abundant supply.  There are cultures that have been using them as a traditional food source for basically ever (80% of the world’s population eats them) and I think it would be great if western cultures got over their squeamishness and adopted them as well. It would not only help solve a lot of problems, it would be healthier.

The article suggests easing the transition by turning our little friends into things like sausage and burgers…which I admit would help me a lot more than seeing them sprinkled on a cupcake.

Second, lab grown meat.  It involves taking cells from a living animal and growing them into strips of edible muscle tissue, something which has already been done successfully in trials.  This one appeals to me because it would save a majority of the animals currently subjected to the horrors of industrial agriculture.  A worthy outcome to say the least.  I have no idea what the final trade-off in footprints would be.

One drawback is that, while it could potentially provide an abundant supply of all our old favorites, it is a Frankenfood and I’m not a big fan.  For all kinds of reasons but mainly because I prefer simpler solutions.

Third, algae in all it’s many splendored forms.  This puppy is amazing stuff…nutrient rich, fast growing, and needing almost no fresh water to cultivate.  It has the added benefit of being good for all kinds of other uses including nutraceuticals, pharmaceuticals, palm oil, animal feed, and even a potential biofuel.  To my mind algae is golden and I’d eat it in a heartbeat.  (Even though it would have to be shipped in from the nearest ocean since there’s a shortage of saltwater here in Idaho.)

So what, you may be wondering, is the idea in the article that left me so cold?

There are various references made to efforts underway to manipulate the people eating the food in order to get them to accept it or taste it in a certain way.  As someone who detests being manipulated, my hackles immediately rose.  Whatever I wind up eating I want to know what it is and I want to make up my own mind about how it tastes to me.  I don’t want to be tricked into consuming something by making it “indistinguishable,” and I don’t want to be fooled into thinking a food is sweeter or fresher than it really is.

Look, I’m game for a lot.  I’m totally up for moving the global food supply in a more sustainable direction but, whichever way this winds up going, let’s be clear: I want to be informed about everything I’m putting in my mouth.  Like so many others, right now I don’t feel like I can trust a lot of what food companies, industry scientists, the FDA, and a majority of restaurants are telling me anymore.  You guys have major credibility issues and it’s all your own fault.  You should never have disrespected, manipulated…and sometimes even harmed…the people you’re supposed to serve.

Things could still turn around though.  If you can start being more forthcoming and refrain from trying to manipulate me, I can start trying to partner with and trust you again.  The fact is I don’t really want to go vegetarian, grow all my own food, and be mindlessly rigid about only buying local.

(Not that any of those things are bad!  It’s just that personally, I’d rather belong to not only my local community but a larger network of communities as well.  I’d like to see the cradle of mutual support contain as many people as is workable.)

It sure seems to me like the future holds both great uncertainty and great promise.  I love some of the innovative solutions coming down the pike.  I’d just really like the opportunity to participate in them willingly rather than having them foisted on me without my knowledge and consent.  Please.

copyright Dia Osborn 2012