What you’re eating today might be very different from what you’re eating 20 years in the future as climate change puts your favorite dishes and food staples at risk. Here’s a glimpse at just some of the foods and beverages that will be hard to find on restaurant menus or the local grocery store:
- Wheat and corn – Both are threatened by extreme drought and rising temperatures.
- Chicken – Poultry will grow pricier as world temperatures rise above what these birds can tolerate.
- Scallops and oysters – Mollusk populations will dwindle as the ocean acidifies.
- Chocolate, coffee and wine – These indulgences will drop in availability and rise in price as their growing range shrinks or changes.
With those food items and more imperiled by our changing world, that begs the question: what will people eat in 2040? Based on research about climate resiliency and sustainable practices, here are the innovative or even unconventional foods of the future that will likely make their way into American diets.
Though taboo in North America, consuming insects is a delicacy in many cultures of Sub-Saharan Africa. As with most foods, tastes can and will change with exposure and availability. Edible insects are rich in protein and vitamins, have a low eco-footprint and exhibit a high food conversion ratio.
For example, crickets need six times less feed than cattle and two times less than pigs and broiler chickens to produce the same amount of protein. In general, insects make the perfect food source when resources are scant, especially because they take up far less space than larger livestock. Though it’ll take some adjustment for the American palate, chefs are already experimenting with ways to make creepy crawlies into haute cuisine.
2.) Lab-Grown Meat
It’s a hard sell to convince Americans to give up steak and burgers to offset the worst climate change forecasts, but innovation might void that sacrifice. Cultured meat or lab-grown meat has the potential to provide meat-like proteins while lowering the resources used by, and environmental impact of, large-scale farming.
If current technical and economic barriers are addressed, projections suggest that cultured meat could cost as little as $2.57 to produce. However, some skeptical scientists are convinced those cost projections are unrealistic and that the future production process needed to lower the cost is undefined. The future of this food option is uncertain, but if research around this moonshot meat alternative does pay off, you might be casually eating meat grown in vitro, not in utero, on a regular basis.
3.) Plant-Based Meat Substitutes
One food innovation is already gaining popularity amongst American diners: plant-based meat substitutes. The global market for meat alternatives has grown to $5.6 billion in 2020 and is forecasted to reach $14.9 billion in 2027. From big burger chains to your local grocer, you can find imitation meat across the country.
What’s important to keep in mind is that this isn’t a particularly nutritious food option. Just like the ground beef it attempts to replicate, imitation meat is high in calories, saturated fat and sodium. However, it’s a good source of protein and iron without the same level of threat to the environment (or the higher risk of food-borne illness) as animal products.
4.) Fungi & Mushrooms
Though most of us are no strangers to mushrooms, we’re likely not eating it in the quantities that future generations might. The pastureland or even general acreage necessary to house and feed large herds of cattle might disappear if persistent droughts reduce the number of crops available to them. For those people who squirm at the idea of eating insects for protein, fungi might be a more palatable alternative.
In general, fungi takes up considerably less space than cattle to grow, while providing high levels of fiber and protein to people who eat them. They’re also low in fat and an abundant source of vitamin D for those who are deficient.
Of the major foods of the future, one is already growing in plentiful amounts beneath the ocean’s surface. The variety of natural seaweed species available are brimming with a rich combination of vitamins, minerals and bioactive compounds.
Consumers can eat seaweed as a snack or enrich food products with macronutrients (sodium, calcium, magnesium, potassium, chlorine and phosphorus) and micronutrients (iodine, iron, zinc, copper, selenium, molybdenum, fluoride, manganese, boron, nickel and cobalt). Moreover, the prebiotics found in seaweed can contribute to elevated gut health, improving the brain gut connection and the immune response.
It’s also a cost-effective food ingredient to include in food products, whether wild or cultivated. For businesses that are concerned with organic food manufacturing, seaweed from Acadian SeaPlus™ adheres to USDA Organic standards. As long as seaweed companies continue to harvest seaweed in a sustainable way, this marine resource can remain available for future generations, keeping people nourished and healthy for years to come.
Seaweed doesn’t need to remain one of the foods of the future. Reach out to a member of the Acadian SeaPlus™ team to find out the benefit of including it in your products.