For years, we’ve enjoyed endless helpings at all-you-can-eat restaurants. But that way of eating could be a thing of the past, as scientists develop foods of the future based on our specific nutritional needs, or an all-you-should-eat concept.
The world’s largest food company, Nestle, is developing an “instant nutrient machine” that would dispense the basic vitamins and minerals a person needs for their diet. “These products might be liquids, powders or pills, delivered using a machine at home,” Nestle spokeswoman Hilary Green told Metro. However, the food group has said an affordable “Nepresso of Nutrients” could take years to develop.
Eating only for the sake of nutrients is the philosophy of Rob Rhinehart, a 25-year-old Silicon Valley engineer who invented Soylent, a meal-replacement concoction that he claims contains all the nutritional requirements the body needs. “I hypothesized that the body doesn’t need food itself, merely the chemicals and elements it contains,” Rhinehart wrote on his personal blog.
With a release date set for later this year, the wait is shorter for the Foodini, a 3-D food printer that uses capsules of ingredients to print layers of food items such as pasta, burgers and chocolate. It is also connected to the Internet, explained Lynette Kucsma, co-founder of Foodini manufacturer Natural Machines.
The device is similar to a $125,000 printer that NASA is using to replicate pizzas for astronauts. Natural Machines’ sci-fi food-maker will be a fraction of the cost at $1,300.
Innovative ways of protecting the planet are central to the future food movement. Biologists Cor van der Weele and Johannes Tramper from the Netherlands’ Wageningen University are using animal stem cells to grow “eco-friendly” meat in the lab, as an alternative to raising cattle. “Cultured meat has the potential to improve the global food situation, for example because it requires only a small fraction of the land needed for meat production,” the scientists told us.
But for now, in vitro meat remains prohibitively expensive. Last year, scientists in London unveiled the world’s first lab-grown burger, a 5-ounce patty costing about $425,000.
Global food problems
Among the issues that food scientists are looking to address is the impact of our current food habits on the environment — and each other.
Hunger. More than 842 million people worldwide suffer from hunger and malnutrition, according to recent data from the United Nations.
Food waste. The amount of food wasted every year is staggering: about one third of the food produced worldwide for human consumption, or 1.3 billion tons.
Contamination. Food production is the source of between 13 and 30 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions, which are contributing to climate change.
Animal abuse. Many animal rights organizations protest the conditions in which animals are raised, such as factory farms where they spend their lives packed closely together.