Future foods: will the ‘yuck factor’ block alternative ways to feed the planet?

Future generations could be eating test tube meat grown in laboratories as scientists look to create sustainable, non-animal alternatives to everyday real foods.

With the world’s population set to grow to more than nine billion by 2050, there is growing evidence we will have to rely on technology to produce alternatives to stocking our pantries and freezers of the future.

It sounds impossible but hamburger patties, fish fillets and even eggs are already being created without any animals.

There is a good chance your taste buds won’t even notice, but your body just might.

According to experts, there are two main ways in which technology is reproducing proteins and bypassing cows, fish and chicken.

The first is by finding the same components found as meat and substituting them with plant-based alternative ingredients such as coconut fat, spinach and potato proteins. It has the same taste and texture as the real thing. It also avoids the growth hormones or antibiotics which are often included in commercial feedlots.

The second method is created by harvesting animal cells in a lab and adding the same nutrients that traditional livestock would consume in a paddock.

This ‘test tube meat’, could be engineered to be free of heme iron which naturally occurs in conventional meat and is linked to cancer, stroke, heart disease and metabolic syndrome.

Also known as ‘clean meat’ it is free of bacteria and as it is produced in a clinical environment, and it is free of pathogens making it a healthier choice.

It is a startling fact but to produce just one kilogram of meat requires six kilograms of grain and 8,500 litres of water – but there could be a much simpler way.

Food Frontier spokesman Thomas King will be among those delving into the issues of Lab Food Versus Real Food at evokeAG., a two-day agrifood tech event examining the diet of tomorrow and how it will be produced.

This inaugural event, to be staged at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre on 19-20 February, will feature experts from around the world as they highlight the latest evolution of food and farming. Under the theme of `Food Farm Future’, the program will include masterclasses, breakout sessions, industry speakers and support for start-ups and agrifood tech businesses.

Encouraging the public to eat more fruit and vegetables is essential, but panellists will argue that there is a need to produce a sustainable and nutritious protein that will satisfy our cultural and appetite cravings.

The benefits are not just for our health but will ease pressure on resources.

This means we could be sitting down to a juicy seaweed burger with the lot, washed down by a glass of lab-created molecular wine.

Among those speaking on future foods at evokeAG. will be Alec Lee from Endless West, who has produced the world’s first lab manufactured whiskey without distilling or ageing.

Canberra-born chef Adam Melonas from Chew Innovation, now US based, who is on a mission to reinvent snack foods with less high sugar, fat and salt content produced thanks to technology will also join the debate.

Cattle farmer David Blackmore from Blackmore Waygu, who pioneered the production of full-blood Waygu beef in Australia will add his contrasting views to the panel and share how genetics is used to create the specialised marble meat and the evolution of farming methods.

Facilitated by Matthew Pryor co-founder of Tenacious Ventures and Partner at AgThentic, this is one debate you won’t want to miss.


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