Future Of Food: Which Comes First, Artificial Eggs Or Cloned Chicken Meat?

Faced with the challenges of population growth and climate change, the development of new technologies such as precision fermentation or cultured meat are paving the way to an era of new food.


You are what you eat. Today, this famous saying comes bearing a question: What will we be eating tomorrow?

One clue may be in the immense vertical storage tanks, up to four stories high, of the Israeli company Future Meat, which has been producing cultured meat — at least until the beginning of the war in Gaza. The process consists of extracting muscle tissue from an animal (which remains alive after the procedure) and replicating it so that it has the same qualities as chicken, for example.

The company’s strategy, as curious as it may seem, is similar to what happened with solar panels; the technology is getting cheaper.

Last summer, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allowed several companies to use this technique for commercial purposes. But there is fine print. «Meat analogues [both plant-based and processed meats] should be eaten with moderation, as they mostly fall into the ultra-processed category», warns Maria Shahid, an expert at the George Institute for Global Health in Sydney, Australia.

The golden calf

In any case, companies, especially startups, are continuing to chase the golden calf. If cultured meat completely took over the industry, it would represent $1.2 trillion worldwide. It’s a figure that seems impossible because there will always be interest in classic meat, and because the livestock farming lobby is one of the most powerful in the U.S. (along with the oil lobby). But analysts believe that the future has a place for cultured meat.

Now, let’s take a quick trip to San Diego, California. BlueNalu produces bluefin tuna toro — the most fatty and prized part — from cell replication. It tastes the same, the company claims, and it doesn’t hurt the animals or the fish. Production could reach 6 million pounds per year, according to the lowest estimates. Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Singapore are future major markets.

The narratives behind artificial seafood use an indisputable story: the unstoppable scarcity of the sea, and the coming of the Armageddon. But BlueNalu is backed by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and the actors Robert Downey Jr. and Leonardo DiCaprio. The challenge turns out to be very serious.

This also the case in other parts of the globe. Take the island country of Singapore, which imports 90% of its food and could be a good test tube. The city-state has approved the production of lab-grown chicken meat, which can now even be purchased at street stalls.

Three technologies

When you think about tomorrow’s food, what comes to mind is food so sophisticated it is impossible to memorize its composition. But maybe the winner of the eternal debate is actually the egg? In 2020, eggs represented a $180 billion market, with 1.2 trillion units per year. Creating the perfect artificial egg is the holy grail. And this is what brands such as Just Egg, Zero Egg, Acremade and Oggs are after, with vegetable protein eggs.

«The biggest challenge, in general, is to achieve excellent taste and reasonable prices», explains Alan Perlstein, CEO of The Future of Coffee And Chocolate, a Californian firm that has created the first chocolate grown with cell culture technology.

In 2012, cultured meat had already attracted $250 million in investments

A cultured meat ecosystem, bringing together about a hundred startups, is on its way. In 2021, it had already attracted $250 million in investments. At the moment, there are three major technologies. One is precision fermentation, which uses microbes to create specific molecules, proteins, fats or enzymes.

A second, mycelia, uses the texture of certain mushrooms in order to create a kind of soft sheet both (almost) vegetal and tasteless, to which you can add any flavor or nutritional complement. And cultured meat is a third. The mix of these last two technologies seems, in the short term, the best illuminated path in the era of new food.

This cycle of life has a vanishing point that transcends mycelia, lab-replicated meat or insects. Food is going to be different because, as Rosa Porcel, researcher at the Molecular and Cellular Biological Institute of Plants (IBMCP) reminds us, it has changed over the course of history. And our times, even marked by geopolitical fissures, are no different.

A healthier future

Now, close your eyes and imagine the future. «Varietal replacement will be faster, so we will have much more food diversity. Seasonal production will no longer be an issue». That means we will have access to any product at any time of the year, more functional foods with added value for health will emerge and ultimately, a normal diet will help prevent cancer, obesity or hypertension.

«Probiotics and foods aimed at improving the intestinal microbiota will also develop», Porcel says. Being gluten-intolerant will not be as complicated or as expensive as it is today. «Plant-based food or food of microbial origin will be more present in our diet and meat will lose prominence, although it will remain in the high-quality segment», she says.

The protein will be of a better quality or will come from cultured meat. «Society is increasingly aware of the dangers of being overweight. Today, food no longer is a sign of social distinction because the number of people suffering from starvation in the West, fortunately, is low».

The consumption of fermented foods and of probiotic or postbiotic agents will be even more popular

But Earth is already home to 8 billion souls. How can we feed this huge population in an environment-friendly way? Paula Aranaz, researcher at the Nutrition Research Center of the University of Navarra, expects an increase in consumption of products developed from vegetable protein.

«The diet of the future will also have to take into account differences among individuals, which explain the greater digestibility and use of nutrients in some individuals compared to others», explains Aranaz, who has a clear picture in mind when it comes to what will be on our tables tomorrow.

Maintaining gastrointestinal health through diet is important. Eating food rich in antioxidants has a beneficial effect on the intestinal flora. And in a few years, the consumption of fermented foods and the incorporation of probiotic or postbiotic agents will be even more popular — especially among those who suffer from gastrointestinal and metabolic troubles.

This content is part of a collaboration agreement of ‘WorldCrunch’, with the magazine ‘Ethic’. Read the original at this link.