What could the future landscape of food look like? This question has seen numerous approaches in the recent year with the main concern being planet preservation. Some preach a change in our food culture shifting towards less meat consumption, while others have tried to replicate meat from plant-based products like Impossible Foods. At the core of it all, the industry is trying to solve the protein problem. From all the main macronutrients, protein has the biggest impact on the environment due to the number of resources required to sustain our dairy, beef and poultry industries.
But are there other food sources rich in protein that we are completely ignoring? As it turns out, in the coming years our protein problem could be solved with a wide variety of alternatives.
We could start including protein-rich bugs into our diets. For Western countries, insects almost seem like a prohibitive source of food. The fact is that entomophagy – the practice of eating insects – occurs already in 130 countries around the world and over 2 billion people include them then in their day to day diet.
Opening our culinary tastes to include insects has clear benefits for the environment. Bugs are very cheap to raise and use far fewer resources. Its waste also poses less of a risk than any of the other industrially-farmed animals. Another benefit of insect farming is that their sources of food can greatly vary from ours, which means that they don’t tap into our wheat and cornmeal production like chickens and cows do.
Another important future source of protein could be derived from algae. Algae require even fewer resources than insects and can be used to produce omega-3 fatty acids as well. Companies are already using it to create protein substitutes and to fortify milk products.
What about seafood alternatives? Companies like Wild Type in San Francisco are currently managing to grow salmon meat from salmon cells. The process involves multiplying cells until they become muscle fibers and connective tissue. Basically it creates salmon without requiring intensive farming methods that can pollute our water sources.
There’s an abundance of options for producing the protein we need. Some options require technological leaps, others require adapting our culture and embracing a new diet. In any case, it will be fascinating to see how protein production will evolve in the coming years.