As the world’s population continues to increase faster than we can produce food, could mealworm flapjacks and bleeding plant burgers really be the answer? Intrigued, then read on to find out what could be on your plate sooner than you think.
What does it take to create a steak?
Having finally watched Cowspiracy, I can now see why scientists and technologists have started to infiltrate the food industry. According to research on the impact of animal agriculture:
- Animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation.
- Emissions for agriculture are projected to increase 80% by 2050.
- Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction.
- We could see fishless oceans by 2048.
- Throughout the world, humans drink 5.2 billion gallons of water and eat 21 billion pounds of food each day. Worldwide, cows drink 45 billion gallons of water and eat 135 billion pounds of food each day.
- 82% of starving children live in countries where food is fed to animals, and the animals are eaten by western countries.
Source: Cowspiracy – The Facts
A better way to feed the planet
In response, several startups have been formed on the premise that there is a better way to feed the planet without the compromises listed above. Let’s take a look at what could be coming to a plate near you soon…
Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat both offer 100% meat-free, plant-based burgers that are aimed at meat lovers like you (maybe?) and me (definitely!). The Impossible burger even ‘bleeds’ due a special ingredient called heme. The peeps at Impossible Foods discovered that heme is “what makes meat smell, sizzle, bleed and taste gloriously meaty” and it can be found in every living thing – even plants.
If plants just aren’t your thing, then how about a beef burger that has been grown in a lab? Cultured meat (as it is known by) is created by taking cells from an animal and multiplying them in a bioreactor to create muscle tissue. This tissue then forms the basis for ‘cultured meat’. MosaMeat launched the world’s first ‘cultured beef’ burger in 2013. And Memphis Meats (which is backed by Richard Branson and Bill Gates) followed suit in 2016 with a ‘cultured meatball’ and more recently a ‘cultured chicken’ burger. Nom, nom?!
Ready to order?
At the moment you will need to be stateside to try a plant-based burger. The Beyond Meat burger is available in several US supermarkets and TGI Fridays restaurants. Also currently making its way across the States is the Impossible burger van, which you can follow on Instagram @impossible_foods. Hopefully it won’t be too long before they both make their way to the UK.
For a taste of a ‘cultured burger’, we may have to wait a little longer. The latest reported cost to produce a pound of ‘cultured chicken’ was $9,000! And although the likes of Memphis Meats have stated that they should be able to drive down the cost by 2021, they (and others) are still going to have to battle food standards agencies for approval. And we know how long that could take!
If you’re still not quite ready to place an order, then perhaps the below will convince you:
- Every time you choose a quarter-pound Impossible Burger instead of a burger made from a cow, you could: save water equivalent to a 10-minute shower; spare 18-miles driving worth of greenhouse gases; or spare 75-square feet of land for wildlife.
- Memphis Meats expect their products to require up to 90% fewer greenhouse gas emissions, land and water than conventionally-produced meat.
- Cells from a single cow could produce 175 million MosaMeat quarter-pounders versus traditional farming methods which would need 440,000 cows.
“Great”, I hear you say, “that’s two beef, one chicken and one vegetarian”.
How about a side and shake?
Now, if like me you are partial to a couple of sides then how about a ‘seaweed salad’ or some ‘crunchy critters’?
According to a report produced by the UN, over two billion people already snack away on edible insects for their source of protein and nutrients. From beetles to beautiful butterflies, there are over 2,000 edible insect species to choose from. Check out some recipes by Cornish Edible Insects. Seriously!
If you’d prefer to stick to the green stuff, then consider algae your new best friend. Already a regular ingredient in Asian cuisine, algae is rich in vitamins and minerals and is predicted to become the world’s biggest crop industry. Seaweed salad anyone?
No?! Okay, how about a milkshake? Insect free, I promise! In fact, the start-up PerfectDay have gone one better and created animal-free milk that is said to taste like the real thing. How? They follow a process similar to craft brewing and use sugar and yeast to produce milk proteins. They then add plant-based sugars, fats and minerals to create a new kind of dairy milk. Moooove over Clover. Sorry not sorry.
If all of this is making you feel a little bit queazy and uneasy about what may be on your plate in the future, then fear not. A team of researchers at MIT have developed an artificial intelligence system that can tell you the ingredients on your plate just by uploading a picture! Pic2Recipe is already available online, however, the team are working on improving it’s accuracy. Fingers crossed by 2021 they will have it nailed and we can eat rest assured.
Join the moooovement
Has reading this post left you hungry to help fight climate change and find a better way to feed the planet? If yes, then join the club with me! Here are a few suggestions for turning your new found passion into action…
Next, follow all of the below on Twitter and Instagram and retweet / share their posts to raise awareness beyond you and I:
Take a look at changing what’s on your plate. I am not saying ‘go vegan’, as I don’t know enough about what this means yet. But, I will be joining you on a journey to make some changes, so keep an eye out on the Birksy Instagram for ideas. Apparently, there is now a Cowspiracy cookbook and I’m going to take a look at the What The Health meal planner. I’m sure a search for ‘plant-based recipes’ on Pinterest will prove fruitful (no pun intended!) too. If you’re feeling more adventurous then maybe take a look at the edible insect recipes by Cornish Edible Insects. I may pass on that one for now.
If you are really stoked and want to be in the thick of it, then do some research on LinkedIn for the people and jobs currently associated with the companies above. Could you see yourself working there? What do you need to do now to make that happen? Remember, it takes all sorts of people to make these organisations function, from molecular biologists to marketing professionals. So, go for it!
Have fun exploring, get involved and if you do change what’s on your plate then share some piccies.
Time for some breakfast now me thinks…but what?! Ahhhh. Let the journey begin…
Credit for header image by Impossible Foods.