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The Future of Meat Consumption

This image from Eater.com is a burger made of fried insect meat. Food experts, researchers and scientists predict that the insect protein market will be worth $8 billion by 2030.

The following introduction is a fictional, but very possible, kitchen scene from the year 2050:

Curtis was carefully trying to decide on the healthiest type of meat to add to the salad that he was preparing for his mother. She had diabetes, so whenever he stopped by her house to make her a meal, he had to be mindful of the ingredients he used.

The caring 47-year-old son chopped up some red onions, olives, and basil leaves, put them in a little bowl, then poured in a couple of teaspoons of balsamic vinegar before stirring it all together. Then, he sliced a fresh tomato, and laid the pieces in a row on a ceramic plate with some alternating rounded slices of mozzarella. Curtis then put the chopped contents of the bowl on top of the cheese and tomatoes, added a few pinches of salt and pepper, then finished by sprinkling some olive oil onto the beautifully made salad.

When he opened her fridge to choose the final ingredient, he was reminded of how different the meats in her house were compared to the ones in his apartment across town. Curtis had lots of what people refer to in the year 2050 as “old school meat”, which was real meat that came from real-life butchered animals. Sure, some of the meat at his apartment was processed. Hell, most of the chicken, fish, hot dogs, cold cuts, and other meats that were on the shelves of grocery stores way back when he was teenager were processed, too. But at least his fridge didn’t look like his mom’s, which was full of things like lab grown meat, plant-based seafood, and burgers that looked real, but were actually made from either plants or the grounded up bodies of insects.

As he stood in the refrigerator door and viewed the meat choices, he thought back to the year he graduated high school, 2020. This was when that deadly, devastating pandemic, the historic Coronavirus, had quickly accelerated the world’s food crisis when it crippled the shipping and production aspects of real animal meats. So many of the meat processing plants across the United States had shut down out of the blue that year, causing the domino effect of less meat being distributed to grocery stores, restaurants, and other food outlets across the nation. Curtis, like many other Americans around his age, still viewed that year as the turning point of when people in the U.S really started to seriously consider blending weird and unordinary meat alternatives into their everyday diets.

Shaking his head, he took a deep sigh, grabbed the jar of cold mealworms from the top shelf, and closed the refrigerator door. Curtis sprinkled a handful of the oily, slimy, edible insects atop his mother’s salad, and went into the living room to serve her lunch…

Our Future Meat and Protein Sources

What my fictional character, Curtis, sees in the year 2050 as normal, everyday meat options are what many present-day scientists and experts are just now introducing to many parts of western world. The truth is, it’s mainly the people living in and around U.S. society who are way behind much of the rest of the planet when it comes to including alternative sources of meat and protein into their diets.

Mescal Worm Tacos. Image from Time Magazine.

The U.S. News & World Report once ran a story that pointed out many places where folks enjoy edible insects as the norm. For example, Thailanders eat fried crickets and grasshoppers all the time. Ghanaians eat termites when there are shortages of food, and roasted bee larvae is a delicacy in China. Brazilians and Australians munch on different types of ants, and many other foreigners add ant eggs as a side item to dishes on a regular basis. So, when it comes to making different kinds of meat out of the bodies of insects, it should not be a surprise that this could be normalized worldwide over the next few decades.

Still, for now, most people in America are more receptive to creating meat from what many insects eat, and that’s plants. This is becoming a more regularly seen occurrence in this nation, thanks to companies like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meats. They are changing the way we think about meat consumption more and more as the months go on.

In the following sections, we’ll explore what our future plant and insect based meat options will be, as well as take a look at the companies, scientists and experts who are opening our eyes to the future of meat as we know it.

Impossible Foods

Pat Brown, The Founder and CEO of Impossible Foods, has stuck to the same goal since the company was created in 2011, which is to fully eliminate the use of animals in food production. In one recent CNBC Report, he’s quoted as confidently declaring in a previous Mad Money interview that “plant based products are going to completely replace animal-based products in the food world in the next 15 years” (Clifford, June 2020, CNBC).

The Impossible Burger. Image from Bloomberg.com.

Animal Agriculture truly is one of the things that is killing our planet, with around 45% of the actual land on Earth either being used to raise livestock or grow feed for it. And, the greenhouse gas footprint that animal agriculture is making coupled with the fact that the industry itself is the world’s leader of water pollution and consumption makes millions of people across the nation (who are already trying to live sustainably) accept Mr. Brown’s message wholeheartedly.

Here are some of the company’s best accomplishments:

  • One of the main meat suppliers for fast food restaurants, ISO Group saw it very necessary to recognize the new trend of plant-based meat. According to the 2019 Reuters Institute report, they finally completely collaborated with Impossible Foods after the demand from the general public was so high.
  • Impossible Foods took it to the next level in 2020. According to the report from Interesting Engineering, they’ve now unveiled what they call Impossible Pork, which is a plant-based version of ground pork that replicates the meat that would normally come from pigs.
  • One of the best ways for Impossible Foods to attract the American public, a society that absolutely loves fast food, is to target their most popular restaurants. One of their biggest accomplishments to date is the company’s collaboration with Starbucks, as they introduced a new breakfast sandwich with plant-based meat in July of 2020.
  • The Whopper from Burger King is arguably one of the most liked sandwiches in fast food history. So, it was only natural for CEO of Impossible Foods, Pat Brown, to pitch the company the idea of making the burger meat on it plant-based. In August of 2019, Time Magazine announced that it had become a reality. Since then, Burger King has also moved forward in serving plant-based breakfast sandwiches.

Beyond Meat

When it comes to creating healthy, plant-made meat products that could potentially save our planet, Founder and CEO of Beyond Meat, Ethan Brown, is thinking way ahead. While it seems that right now their competitor, Impossible Foods, is winning in the arena of developing plant-based meat for fast food establishments, Beyond Meat is becoming more victorious with their products in supermarkets.

Plant-based Kentucky Fried Chicken. Image from The Los Angeles Times.

Mr. Brown realizes that what was stopping a lot of the American public from switching to his type of products was the difference in price when compared to regular meats on the shelves. That’s why he takes business risks like spontaneously dropping the prices of the meats, which is what he did in the Summer of 2020. One Inverse report quotes the CEO as saying that his company is now officially “within the price of roughly 20% of the beef patties in the supermarket today” (Wells, June 2020, Inverse).

Here are some of the company’s best accomplishments:

  • One of the biggest things that helps a plant-based meat to sell in the grocery store is to put it with the regular meats instead of the vegetables. That’s exactly what Kroger did with their Beyond Meat products, according to the Food Business News. Experts say that plant-based food sales will increase over 20% when they are placed in the meat aisle.
  • When Beyond Meat decided to make their plant-based meat products more affordable in some of the most visited stores (such as Target and Walmart), their stock rose. Reports show that this jump was mostly because of the wonderful timing of releasing their Cookout Classic Value Pack; ten patties for just $16 in the middle of the summer grilling season.
  • Market Watch reports that Beyond Meat just made its debut in the grocery stores of China. This is after creating a partnership with Alibaba Group Holding, Ltd. In early July of 2020, the product hit the shelves of fifty Shanghai locations.
  • Beyond Meat has managed to snag a few deals with some fast food companies, and one of them is KFC. In August of 2019, Radio.com reported that they had created Vegan Friendly Fried Chicken, which many people across social media were calling a “Kentucky Fried Miracle”.

The Edible Insect Meat of the Future

In the classic Disney movie, The Lion King (1994) the young lion named Simba left his homeland and went to a very distant place, where he ran into two new friends — a Meerkat named Timon and a Warthog named Pumba. Being that Simba was just a little cub at the time, he was only used to eating what was at home, animals like gazelles and wildebeests.

Simba tries a bug for the first time on the classic Disney movie, The Lion King. Image from Pinterest.

When they told him that they didn’t have any of that, they introduced him to eating all types of icky-looking insects and bugs. Simba was hesitant, but he was also hungry. After slurping down one of the slimy ones, he adopted the phrase that Timon and Pumba went by when it came to their food: “Slimy…yet satisfying!”

I think people in the United States think kind of like Simba did, because they haven’t been introduced to eating bugs regularly yet. So, to those folks, it really is still a “future meat”. But, there are still so many innovations going on in this arena that are coming to the light.

For example, in a recent Science Daily article, the lead author of Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, Natalie Rubio, describes the process of transforming insects into lab-grown meat as “cost-effective, high-density cell generation” (Science Daily, June 2019). What she’s saying is that the muscles of mammals are harder and more expensive to use in food production than those of insects. The fact that so many other countries have been eating different types of them for years is proof that this is definitely going to be a deeply considered method to produce meat in western culture in the future. Maybe not immediately, but it’s coming!

Here are some of the surprising findings about this future meat:

  • Experts have found that some insects have more iron in them than sirloin steak. It’s true! A recent Scientific American report showed that after scientists did the research, a certain kind of beetle larvae, crickets, and buffalo worms beat out sirloin beef in an iron-level measurement contest!
  • The previously mentioned author of Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems, Natalie Rubio, made it clear to the editors at Popular Science that there could indeed be steaks, chicken and/or seafood made out of insects in the near future.
  • A Professor of Engineering at Tufts University, David Kaplan, told Digital Trends that insect cells are quite nutritious, and that their muscles are very much simpler to convert into features that look just like real meat.

Are You Ready for the Meat of the Future?

Ready or not, it’s on the way. Before you know it, just like my made-up character, Curtis, who was in the opening fictional scene of this article, in a few decades (maybe less) you’ll very possibly be standing in your refrigerator door shaking your head, thinking about just how far edible meat has come in your own lifetime.

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L. Woods

L. Woods

Curiosity drives me, but I’m mostly interested in researching and writing about urban news, music, and health topics. A lil’ politics, too. Sometimes.

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