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Earth News Science

Meat the Food of the Future 705

Hugh Pickens writes writes "BBC reports that rising food prices, the growing population, and environmental concerns are just a few issues that have food futurologists thinking about what we will eat in the future and how we will eat it. In the UK, meat prices are anticipated to have a huge impact on our diets as some in the food industry prognosticate meat prices could double in the next five to seven years, making meat a luxury item. 'In the West many of us have grown up with cheap, abundant meat,' says Morgaine Gaye. 'Rising prices mean we are now starting to see the return of meat as a luxury. As a result we are looking for new ways to fill the meat gap.' Insects will become a staple of our diet. They cost less to raise than cattle, consume less water and do not have much of a carbon footprint. Plus, there are an estimated 1,400 species that are edible to man. 'Things like crickets and grasshoppers will be ground down and used as an ingredient in things like burgers.' But insects will need an image overhaul if they are to become more palatable to the squeamish Europeans and North Americans, says Gaye. 'They will become popular when we get away from the word insects and use something like mini-livestock (PDF).' Another alternative would be lab grown meat as a recent study by Oxford University found growing meat in a lab rather than slaughtering animals would significantly reduce greenhouse gases, energy consumption and water use. Prof Mark Post, who led the Dutch team of scientists at Maastricht University that grew strips of muscle tissue using stem cells taken from cows, says he wants to make lab meat "indistinguishable" from the real stuff, but it could potentially look very different. Finally algae could provide a solution to some the world's most complex problems, including food shortages as some in the sustainable food industry predict algae farming could become the world's biggest cropping industry. Like insects, algae could be worked into our diet without us really knowing by using seaweed granules to replace salt in bread and processed foods. 'The great thing about seaweed is it grows at a phenomenal rate,' says Dr Craig Rose, executive director of the Seaweed Health Foundation. 'It's the fastest growing plant on earth.'"
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Meat the Food of the Future

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  • by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @01:26PM (#40887139)
    ...because a bunch of foolish politicians decided making fuel from corn would be a good idea. Once that stops we'll go back to raising beef on non-tillable rangeland and pasture and finishing it with a small amount of inexpensive corn.
  • by Scorch_Mechanic ( 1879132 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @01:29PM (#40887187) Journal

    So long as we in the US continue to subsidize corn and raise livestock on it, meat will remain in easy reach of residents of the united states. That's not even considering how an entire huge segment of the population would take the news that they can't do big barbecues anymore. I'm not saying this is a good thing, I'm saying this is what I anticipate will happen.

  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @01:37PM (#40887255) Homepage

    I suppose you could try and eat like your ancestors. Do you want to live like them too?

    I think that's the part people are missing here. It's like a bunch of people at the SCA or Ren fair acting like they all would be Lords and Ladies when in fact they would be the nearly starving peasants.

  • by Ignacio ( 1465 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @01:41PM (#40887303)

    There already is more than enough food produced to make everyone on the planet fat. The problems are distribution and cost.

  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @01:47PM (#40887345) Homepage

    The land that now grows corn to feed cattle used to feed the bison directly. That grass was able to sustain bison herds the size of a small country. This all happened without any human management. So the idea that we all have to get used to Tofu is a little silly.

  • by Kohath ( 38547 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @01:57PM (#40887419)

    97% lean ground beef is sad. The fat is what makes it taste good.

  • by divisionbyzero ( 300681 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @02:06PM (#40887501)

    We will find a way to continue to produce food efficiently, mostly for the reason that it is very profitable to do so.

  • by JOrgePeixoto ( 853808 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @02:23PM (#40887613) Journal

    The third world will carry on starving until they have enough education to limit the number of children they have

    There is no global overpopulation. Some places (such as Japan) are already experiencing population aging and decline, which is bad in many ways. Other places (such as the USA and specially Europe) already have sub-replacement fertility rates, and their population only grows because of demographic lag and immigration. It is predicted the the European Union population (now at 503M) will reach zero natural population increase by 2015 and zero total population increase in 2035 (at 520M), then start declining.

    The USA will grow from 310M in 2010 to 403M in 2050. [1]
    Asia will increase from 4.2B in 2010 to 5.1B in 2050, then start declining. [2]

    The only region that is really growing is Africa. It will increase from 1B in 2010 to 2.2B in 2050. [2] Then its population density will be 73/km2. [3] Compare that to the current population density in Portugal (115/km2), in South Korea (487/km2) and in Taiwan (641/km2). [4]

    Global population is predicted to grow from 7B in 2011 to 9B in 2050 and 10B in 2100 [5] and start falling soon after [6].

    And according to [7], 40-50% of America-produced food is thrown away. According to [8], 1/3 of the world food is thrown away.
    And this does not take into account that people eat, just for pleasure, excessive quantities of resource-intensive food (such as meat). If Americans/Europeans want to help the poor, an easy way would be to decrease (say, by 30%) their diet of meat. This will immediately reduce food demand and, for double bonus, the saved money can be donated to charity. And much arable land is wasted on subsidized inefficient corn-based ethanol. You can lobby your government to stop that.

    Plus, there does not seem to be a negative correlation between population density and GDP per capita. [9]

    African hunger is not caused by overpopulation. It is caused by corrupt and authoritarian governments, and by guerrillas/terrorists motivated by Marxism, theocractic Islamism, ethnic hate or simply greed.

    Overpopulation fear-mongering is very old - at least as old as Malthus. One of its more recent incarnations was the 1968 book "The Population Bomb", which predicted mass starvation to occur in the 1970s.

    Anyway, for better or for worse, there is already strong action taken by individuals, foundations, and Western governments, to restrict fertility in Africa.

    1 : http://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/Analytical-Figures/htm/fig_11.htm [un.org]
    2 : http://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/Analytical-Figures/htm/fig_2.htm [un.org]
    3 : According to [2], Africa will have 2.2B people in 2050, and according to Google[10] and Wikipedia [11], the area of Africa is 30,221,532 km2
    4 : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sovereign_states_and_dependent_territories_by_population_density [wikipedia.org]
    5 : http://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/Analytical-Figures/htm/fig_1.htm [un.org]
    6 : http://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/Analytical-Figures/htm/fig_6.htm [un.org]
    7 : http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/news/ng.asp?id=56376-us-wastes-half [foodnavigator-usa.com]
    8 : http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/74192/icode/ [fao.org]
    9 : http://sanamagan.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/population-population-density-gdp-per-capita-ppp/ [wordpress.com]
    10 : https://www.google.com.br/search?q=africa+area [google.com.br]
    11 :

  • by fustakrakich ( 1673220 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @02:23PM (#40887619) Journal

    Those politicians are no fools. You can bet they made a tidy sum for services rendered to the industry. Fools are those that vote for them

  • Allergies? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheLink ( 130905 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @02:36PM (#40887699) Journal

    Thing that concerns me would be allergies.

    Far fewer people are allergic to fish, chicken, beef than they are to shrimp, crab, lobsters. Or even dust mites. So I wouldn't be surprised if many are also allergic to these "popular" arthropods.

    http://www.hollowtop.com/finl_html/allergies.htm [hollowtop.com]

  • by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @02:47PM (#40887809) Homepage

    Beef rose to ascendancy in the American diet based on free range grazing. This was an activity that required ZERO agriculture. People are fixated on this idea of replacing Beef with Tofu and don't acknowledge the fact that it still takes a considerable amount of effort to get good soybean yields.

    Grain fed beef and feedlots are a very recent phenomenon.

    Less beef might not be such a big problem. The environmental impact will likely be lower than either feedlots or giant soybean farms.

    The tree huggers ignore that soybean farmings isn't free either and it's sustainability is also disputable. It's disputable for the same reasons. A lot of energy goes into generating high crop yields.

    This is a question of sustainability not the political agenda of some vegan zealots from PETA.

  • by perpenso ( 1613749 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @02:51PM (#40887843)

    Yet, veggie meals are more environmental friendly, more healthy, easier to digest, cheaper, more energy efficient.

    Veggies may be more efficient to grow but they are less efficient as fuel for the human body and mind. It was meat that enabled our brains to grow and to become the species we are today.

    Eating habits need to change but lets not pretend that meat is not a very important food source for our species.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 05, 2012 @02:55PM (#40887875)

    Snails (arguably not an insect)


  • by zippthorne ( 748122 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @03:04PM (#40887955) Journal

    It's probably not environmentally friendly, but I recommend you also try some animals not in the "big four," if you haven't already. I have found that when people describe things as, "gamey," what they mean is that it doesn't taste like dry, bland, overcooked chicken. Oddly, some of those same people will occasionally complain that "everything tastes like chicken..."

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 05, 2012 @03:08PM (#40887989)

    However, I am a carnivore and I will not give up my Chicken, red meat and the occasional Pork item(usually bacon or sausage).

    There's a lot of people who say things like this. The point of the article is that lots of those people will start to change their tune once it costs $30/meal to eat chicken. Perhaps not in our lifetime, but it's coming unless we can figure out how to stop growing our population. The earth can support a lot more people than we have today--and somewhat sustainably too. But it can't do it with meat. So meat will get expensive enough that it prices the lower 95% of the earth's population out of being able to eat meat...or at least the meats we eat today.

    Hope you're either rich or like the taste of exoskeleton, cause otherwise you'll be eating a primarily vegetarian diet.

  • Re:Meat gap? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jedidiah ( 1196 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @03:11PM (#40888013) Homepage

    Been there. Done that. Luckily the damage wasn't permanent.

    The simple fact of the matter is that WE ARE NOT HERBIVORES. We simply don't have the enzymes for it. This is why cows and sheep can survive on stuff we can't.

    Mass starvation has occured with people trying to eat like herbivores and dying anyways.

    You don't need a "special diet", but you need to exploit a regional food culture that accounts for the lack of meat. Vegans that try to claim otherwise are going to hurt people and their own "cause".

    The fact is that it does take some work. This turns off lazy people. So people with an agenda try to deny the facts.

    Animal protein is an easy shortcut.

  • by Aighearach ( 97333 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @03:14PM (#40888043) Homepage

    I will not give up my Chicken, red meat and the occasional Pork item.

    You will if it gets priced off the market and farmers switch to raising grasshoppers because they can do more volume.

  • Re:Meat gap? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by arth1 ( 260657 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @03:14PM (#40888045) Homepage Journal

    What is this meat gap?

    The human body does not require meat.

    It doesn't need vegetables either. Inuits are remarkably healthy - more so than your typical pasty health food fanatic.

    And the human body sure as hell doesn't need the poisonous crops like soya, which can't even be safely eaten unless cooked or chemically processed to break down the serpins.

    Suckling long pig seems to me to be a near ideal food source, but too expensive. I think we need more rapid gestation research to provide cheap, nutritional meats.

  • Utter nonsense (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 05, 2012 @03:48PM (#40888303)

    People will eat their veggies LONG before they eat insects.

    Seriously, non-starchy plants are packed with nutrition, and (contrary to the amazingly-successful propaganda from the meat industry) have more than enough protein for humans (including growing children).

    When it comes down to a roach or an avocado, which do YOU think people will find more palatable?

  • by Patch86 ( 1465427 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @04:46PM (#40888695)

    Why not? Things get more expensive sometimes- it can happen to meat.

    Fun fact is that oysters used to be a peasant food in the UK- there are old recipes for things like "beef and oyster pie", where the oysters were used to bulk out the mega-expensive beef. Now beef is cheap, and oysters are a hugely expensive luxury item; those peasant recipes would cost £100's to cook at today's prices. That had nothing to do with the government.

    Meat could go back that way again (and oysters won't be coming back down). We'll have to adjust our diets again- and your choice will be either going back to the mostly turnip-based diet of our ancestors, or finding something new to eat with all our modern knowledge.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 05, 2012 @05:18PM (#40888937)

    There's no such thing as a "balanced vegetarian diat". Humans are omnivores, not herbivores. We can survive on plants alone but it's not good for us.

    By all means, if you have ethical/religious reasons to abstain from eating meat, do so. But don't try to pretend that it's what Nature meant for us all along, or somesuch bullshit.

  • Re:I, Caveman (Score:2, Insightful)

    by fish waffle ( 179067 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @05:44PM (#40889131)
    The real moral of that story is that reality tv is entertainment, not science.
  • by BlueStrat ( 756137 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @06:05PM (#40889259)

    It's actually quite simple to raise a small number of food animals yourself.

    In the US, many if not most suburban areas, and nearly all cities, forbid keeping farm animals e.g. chickens, pigs, goats, etc. even as pets.

    Long before people start eating cricket-burgers they'll be engaging in the black market for meats, which will spur increases in things like armed meat-truck hijackings, warehouse/store burglaries/robberies, corruption, and further degradation of the social structure and needless deaths as respect for the rule of law evaporates.

    Here's a novel idea...

    How about we instead make the government quit screwing around with things that make meat prices (and energy, housing, clothing, healthcare, education, etc etc) increase as a way for them to increase their power and control over the population?

    More freedom, more meat.

    Just sayin'


  • by WillyWanker ( 1502057 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @06:40PM (#40889475)

    People simply will not tolerate being vegetarians, especially if it's not by their choosing. This article is complete and total bullshit. It's just more paranoid delusions, fear mongering, and doomsaying.

    As far as I can tell meat prices aren't rising any faster than any other food products. The cost of ALL food is going up. And last time I checked it's significantly more expensive to eat vegetarian, as fresh fruits and vegetables cost a whole lot more per usable pound than meat and we need to eat a lot more of it to get comparable nutrition. What do you think is going to happen to vegetable prices if demand skyrockets due to untenable meat prices? No, humans will simply adapt to eating less meat and/or lower quality meat.

    Sorry, this whole thing is simply bullshit, plain and simple. Insects and algae have NEVER been a staple of the human diet and never will be, no matter what this idiot thinks.

  • Not exactly (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @07:06PM (#40889651)
    it's mostly the gov't that allows you to have meat, specifically farm subsidies that a) make grain cheaper than the market would normally allow and b) stabilize the market so that people don't just grow one really profitable crop and fsck up the soil. You owe most of your stable food supply to the government programs. This isn't to say a sufficiently corrupt gov't can't screw it up, but it usually takes a dictatorship (e.g. China), which at that point isn't so much government as it is everyone doing what a one mad man says because they're expecting the be the ones that profit by it. I think we're calling it Kleptocracy these days.
  • by ukemike ( 956477 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @07:20PM (#40889741) Homepage

    ically, people that tow-the-line on sustainability are often the first to fool themselves that taking from the rich isn't subject to the laws of sustainability either.

    No, no, no. Killing the rich isn't sustainable. Taxing them certainly is sustainable. It's like selective logging versus clearcutting. In fact what is not sustainable is allowing the rich to twist the laws of our nations to allow them to accumulate wildly disproportionate wealth. That leads to massive poverty, societal instability, loss of liberty, and the waste of the talents of the overwhelming majority. Extremely high taxes on the richest just plain work. Look at the 40s, 50s, and 60s. Massive growth of the middle class, astonishing leaps of technology and amazing accomplishments. The best and longest reduction in poverty in our nation's history.

  • by cryptizard ( 2629853 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @07:40PM (#40889881)
    That is my whole point! We shouldn't be looking to what is "natural" we should do what makes us happy. I am not saying you shouldn't eat meat if that is what you want, but don't tell people that it is necessary to be healthy then deride them for their personal choices.
  • by Skal Tura ( 595728 ) on Sunday August 05, 2012 @09:32PM (#40890521) Homepage

    here in Finland meat prices have increased a lot faster than other foods. Eating meat is kind of expensive now.
    Not only that, we had a big shortage of pork and pork based products this summer ... there simply wasn't enough :(

    Eating vegan (or vegetarian) is actually very cheap. Soy, rice + seasoning, and you got yourself a decent tasting meal which costs next to nothing.
    Yea, i used i to eat mostly vegan for years.

  • by WillyWanker ( 1502057 ) on Monday August 06, 2012 @03:58AM (#40892463)

    Eating like that is a one-way ticket to nutritional deficits. And what if you don't like soy? Or are allergic to soy? Or don't want the potential hormonal problems that comes with eating too much soy if you're a guy? Tough shit? Sorry, but no.

The party adjourned to a hot tub, yes. Fully clothed, I might add. -- IBM employee, testifying in California State Supreme Court