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May 15, 2019

This blogger can get very passionate about all the possibilities presented by lunch so you can imagine how excited we were to see that The Future of Food report makes possible predictions about what we might be eating in 2025, 2050 and 2169.

Of course, the predictions which have made the headlines are the ones that seem the most outlandish.

For example, a team of Danish researchers has come up with a technique to turn nutrient-rich jellyfish into crunchy chips. (Main pic above by Orest)

Another possible scenario is that supermarkets will have a 'lab-grown' aisle where customers can buy either 'meat' which has been cultured in a lab or pick up a kit to grow their own.

Mars bar takes on a new meaning

Other suggested scenarios include skin patches which feed us nutrients and, further down the line, we might be eating crops grown on Mars.

For many of us, the above might sound like nightmare futures. And you can bet your bottom dollar that critics of the supermarkets will find much in the report to rip into.

However, while the report is designed to promote Sainsburys, it is by no means all puff. It does make attempts at balance. Particularly when it comes to some of the most vociferously promoted suggestions.

It points out that although ‘cultured meat’ has captured the imagination of some of the world’s food technology investors (my itals), it may fail to whet the appetite of consumers:

'In the eyes of the consumer, there are unanswered questions... What will the calories and nutritional qualities be of such "created" meat? Will the production process really prove to be as climate-friendly as companies claim?'

Optimistic futures

Looking at the bigger picture, much of the narrative about food production is extremely gloomy. The report suggests some rather more optimistic futures.

It mentions methods for farming previously barren land and draws attention to the Half Earth principle which suggests leaving half of the Earth's surface to nature. It also points out that 'though there are more than 50,000 edible plants in the world, still nearly two-thirds of our food comes from just four crops – wheat, maize, rice and soybean'.

If having a greater choice of plants to eat is more sustainable then I'm in.

Food for thought

Of course, change is often a cause for anxiety but, as one of the report's consultants points out, new diets are nothing new.

The food historian Dr Polly Russell reckons, 'The latest food developments may appear completely new but very often they are just the latest iterations of trends which emerged in the past thanks to a range of economic, social and political influences. The current search for alternative proteins - beyond traditional meat and fish - is one such trend. In the late nineteenth century, for instance, scientists like Baron Von Liebig sought to feed expanding industrial populations by developing pioneering processing technology to produce “liquid beef” (products we know as stock cubes and brands like Bovril).'

If you're looking for some food for thought, perhaps while you chow down on lunch, you might want to chew over The Future of Food report.