In the classic sci-fi movie “Back to the Future 2”, there is a fragment: after the actor crosses into the future, his wife takes out a small pizza that is about the size of the palm of his hand, puts it in a machine, and waits for it to come out again. It became a 12-inch big pizza. This caused a heated discussion at the time, letting people wonder what the future food would look like.
In fact, regardless of the degree of change, food will eventually appear in front of people in another way. Although food crunch is an old-fashioned topic, it is also an unavoidable crisis. The world population will exceed 9 billion in the middle of this century, and food supply will need at least 50% growth. This means that in order to feed all mankind, more land, more forests and larger industrial production scales are needed. The environment on which humans depend for survival has long been unable to afford such a price. As a result, the traditional food production model is facing innovation, and the appearance of food in the future may change dramatically.
Unavoidable change in the conflict between “food” and “environment”
At the beginning of 2019, European winter temperatures in the northern hemisphere hit a record high, and North America was extremely cold. In the southern hemisphere, Australia experienced severe heat waves. The impact of climate change on human life is gradually expanding, and the voices of the community to protect the environment are also growing. At the same time, the world’s population is still increasing, and the food shortage problem needs to be resolved. However, if the production is expanded according to the traditional form, it will only aggravate global warming and increase the damage of the environment.
Humans have been unable to avoid the conflict between food and the environment. Some experts have also proposed printing production methods such as producing food and developing three-dimensional agriculture. It seems that the way food is produced in the future may completely subvert people’s existing perceptions.
Animal husbandry is one of the main sources of greenhouse gases and one of the main causes of water pollution. In the process of breeding, animals need a large number of plants to support, using the energy to maintain the body’s warmth, movement and breathing, in order to promote growth and meet production needs. But at the same time, they will emit more greenhouse gases for every kilogram of meat they grow. The beef produced by ordinary centralized farms, compared with vegetables and grains, consumes about 8 calories per calorie of food. Times, the land is 160 times. However, even if traditional animal husbandry strives to improve efficiency and environmental friendliness, it may not be able to keep up with the global demand for protein.
The ever-increasing population, the increasingly fragile environment, and the resources that continue to be consumed are driving an unprecedented food revolution. Insects, artificial meats, and vegetarian burgers that “drip blood” may appear on the table of humanity’s future.
The British BBC reported in 2018 that it needs to slaughter 70 billion animals a year to maintain the demand for meat for 7 billion people. About 70% of the world’s agricultural land is used to raise animals, and 60% of the grain is used to feed animals. In addition to animal farming, 3% of global greenhouse gases are attributable to dairy production. After rough statistics, dairy and meat production accounted for 75% of the world’s arable land, equivalent to the United States plus China, the European Union and Australia.
Scientists have concluded that reducing meat consumption can help alleviate the environmental pressures of global food production. But simply calling on people to reduce meat consumption is not very effective, and may even cause some people to resist. Some opponents laughed and said: Crop production also requires a lot of water and arable land. The pesticides used will also pollute the soil. Anything will have a significant impact on the environment. Then everyone has to eat. Although this statement is extreme, it reflects the need for humans to change their farming practices. According to the US Department of Agriculture, the decline in groundwater levels, the increase in soil erosion, and the extreme weather are destroying the natural production of land. Capacity, traditional crop production is no longer sustainable.
In addition to conflicts with the environment, people’s increasingly high food requirements are also a headache. Healthy diet is the future food development trend of mankind. Currently, more than 1.5 billion people worldwide are overweight and obese, and the incidence of diabetes and heart disease is also increasing year by year. British celebrity chef and food entrepreneur Jamie Oliver said: “Food with more grains, less sugar and more fruits and vegetables will become the norm for people to consume. Now, we have too many unsustainable food production methods. Too much food waste, all of which need to be addressed. I also believe that by 2040, the impact of science on food will be very strong.”
Future foods must not only meet the huge human needs, but also slow down conflicts with the environment. From this point of view, an inevitable food revolution is happening quietly.
The madness of “new” food comes from artificial meat, insects and “blood-sucking” vegetarian burgers
As early as 1931, Winston Churchill made a bold idea: only produce chicken parts, not the entire animal, so as to avoid excessive waste. At the time, most people thought that Churchill was crazy. Nowadays, researchers are not embarrassed about how to achieve this goal, but how to reduce production costs and integrate these foods into the mass market.
American company Just Meat is one of the representative companies in the field of artificial meat. They are committed to the complete industrialization of meat production by extracting stem cells from healthy animals and then cultivating them in the laboratory without the need to raise livestock. Last year, the company announced that its first batch of artificial meat products will officially enter major restaurants in the United States and Asian countries, including chicken nuggets, foie gras and sausages. The development of this technology will greatly reduce the negative impact of meat production on the environment. But unfortunately, it costs about 2,400 US dollars to produce 450 grams of artificial beef. The high cost is an urgent problem for the artificial meat industry.
In addition to meat production, artificial dairy products have developed faster than people think. In laboratories from the United States to Switzerland, hundreds of millions of dollars are used to develop artificial milk that has the same taste as regular milk but has a different protein content. As we all know, water accounts for a large proportion of ordinary milk. In addition to water, the remaining ingredients are the essence of milk, protein, enzymes, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. This is where the researchers really have to work hard. In the laboratory, the developer will put these chemicals into the test tube according to the standard of ordinary milk and the needs of consumers, and use bio-fermentation to produce the protein of milk. Bio-fermentation refers to various industrial solvents and chemical raw materials produced by microorganisms using carbohydrate fermentation. The ultimate goal of this is to replicate the taste of milk, but at the same time it is more nutritious and healthier than regular milk, which is the biggest advantage of artificial milk.
This shows that biotechnology will become the main force in the future food production. Just last year, Australian researchers showed a banana with high quality vitamin A. Vitamin A is an important nutrient that is not usually found in fruits. Researchers have been able to create the natural vitamin A gene from bananas in New Guinea and connect it to ordinary bananas. In the next decade, humans may face an explosion of nutritionally fortified crops. For example, carrots that increase calcium absorption, peanuts that do not cause allergies, lentils with a protein content equivalent to meat, and corn that increase methionine (a key nutrient missing in cereals)…
Then, apart from these foods to be developed, what better way can alleviate the pressure of agriculture on the environment? A biochemist actually answered this question.
Eight years ago, biochemist Patrick Brown of Stanford University in the United States founded the “impossible food” company in Silicon Valley, with the goal of creating more meat substitutes using plant and genetic technology. Patrick believes that people who eat meat habits don’t fall in love with food because they want to protect the environment, so in the early days, he focused on developing food flavors that match the carnivores. Thus, “blood burger” came into being.
Whether it is the “impossible food” company or the Aspen company, they are all supported by the public for the production of sustainable food. There are even some supporters who will try to promote these products even if the tastes are very different.
“Blood burger” is also called “impossible burger”, a “beef” burger without beef. From the outside, onions, tomatoes, lettuce and sour cucumber slices, together with a piece of bloody “beef”, are sandwiched between two pieces of toasted bread. Whether it smells or picks up, the aroma and weight are exactly the same as beef burgers. As for the taste, it is a fight with the real beef burger. In fact, this is not the first time a vegetarian burger has appeared, but the reason why the “blood burger” can cause no small impact is that the “beef” inside is very close to the real beef. The secret is the blood matrix, which is a key element that makes the animal’s blood red. It gives the raw meat a bloody taste and stimulates the meaty flavor of the fried meat. Once discovered, the R&D team quickly applied it to vegetarian meat slices to create such a realistic taste. In addition, they also obtained hemoglobin by cultivating yeast to produce a bloody visual effect, which is also the origin of the “blood burger” nickname.
At the same time, insects have also been targeted by humans. In addition to developing meat substitutes, some researchers are actively looking for new materials. The study found that the protein and micronutrients in the unit weight exceed the beef, and the environmental advantages are very obvious, they can grow under dark and crowded conditions, suitable for plant farming with minimal environmental impact. At present, Aspen, which operates the largest food-grade cricket farm in the United States, is thriving. Its main product is ground glutinous rice, which can be used to make baked goods, French fries and milkshakes. All have been ordered by the buyer.