According to The Economists’s international editor Josie Delap and US digital editor Jan Fasman, technology is fast transforming our food production. During a lengthy discussion, they tackle several subjects: ranging from lab-grown meat to vertical farming.
Fasman argues that cultured meat or fish (lab-grown) is getting more and more polished. He put the new meat to the test and couldn’t taste the difference between real chicken and lab-grown chicken. Fasman tells us that lab-grown beef still has a long way to go, although he likes new bacon. Delap, however, tried bacon also and starkly disagrees. Both journalists emphasise that it’s not just the technological side of things that must be brought in consideration. Many scientists underestimate the emotional connection with real meat. For example: at Thanksgiving dinner, people want a vintage, real turkey. Fasman & Delap, both vegetarians, both agree that this is a very big hurdle to people.
The day that (n)ever comes?
To implement lab-grown meat, Fasman thinks the western welfare states must take the lead to make it cost efficient. Because right now, it’s way too expensive and only the higher middle class can afford these types of product. He argues that meat is way too cheap at this moment and that farmer’s don’t get a fair price for their product. This new lab-grown meat is a threat to the classical agricultural sector, though, so there needs to be a delicate balance to accommodate both sides needs and wants. Fasman estimates that it will take 10 years for these new types of meat to successfully establish a bridgehead with the mainstream population.
Another trend is vertical farming. This is a way to get certain types of food production relatively close to big population hubs. Right now, the only crops that are being cultivated right now are the ‘lighter’ ones like lettuce. It will take a lot more investment to grow the heavier types of crops, such as corn and soy, to make this type of food system viable in the future.
Regardless, these new innovative technologies and products are coming – sooner or later – to the main public. But it will take a ton more investments and heated ethical discussions before we reach that point. Eating lab-grown meat is a delicate topic. Would you eat a lab-grown burger any time soon?
Listen to the full interview via this link: https://www.economist.com/films/2021/10/26/the-future-of-food