What wild incarnations will food take over the next half century? We asked a number of experts, from food scientists to industry trend watchers, what their great-grandchildren might be eating in the year 2050.
Anthony Pometto: NASA Food Director
In this era of bioterrorism there will be a trend toward long-shelf-life products and natural antimicrobial extracts from plants.
Dinner in 2050 might include: a glass of red wine—it has a long shelf life, can be stored at room temperature and is good for you—and lasagna that’s been irradiated for safety purposes and packed into a heatable pouch. I’ll place the pouch into the microwave, hit a button, open it up, and it will taste like Mom’s. And there’ll be a salad that has been treated with some antimicrobial, antibacterial dip that gives it a long shelf life. For dessert, you might have rum-raisin bread with plum extract. Plum extract will save the world: it’s a fat substitute, it’s full of antioxidants and it’s antimicrobial because of its phenolic compounds.
—Anthony Pometto, Director, NASA Food Technology Commercial Space Center, Iowa State University
Irena Chalmers: Cookbook Author
Artisanal breads and cheeses are here to stay, but all fish in the year 2050 will come from farms. Commercial fishing will become illegal until stocks of overexploited species recover.
We will be able to go to a restaurant at any time of day and ask for an organic, low-cholesterol egg. Fries will become “health” foods made from new varieties of nutrient-dense potatoes that are sizzled in good-for-you oils. Fruits and vegetables will last longer and contain more nutrients. The chewable, brightly colored stems will contain vaccines and pharmaceuticals.
Food will be cooked using light instead of gas or electricity. Home-cooking will become a hobby like knitting or skiing. The most coveted invitation will be for a home-cooked meal.
—Irena Chalmers, author of The Great Food Almanac and Irena Chalmers’ All-Time Favorites
Brian Wansink: Food- Marketing Scholar
The meal of the future will be much lower in calories, but flavor enhancers will make the experience more satiating and thus more satisfying. Those higher-energy-density foods that we have not successfully reduced in calories will use fat blockers, which will enable us to eat a gooey, frosted cinnamon roll without it being absorbed. My guess would be that technology will prevent these foods from being broken down into molecules that are small enough to be absorbed.
—Brian Wansink, Ph.D., Director, Cornell University’s Food & Brand Lab, which focuses on the psychology behind what people eat.
Karen Caplan: Frieda’s Specialty Produce
In the year 2050, after each person has a DNA test upon birth and their “high risk” attributes have been identified, they will have a “menu” for life created. More of us will live past 100. We will choose between eating real foods (like 10 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables a day), fish (mostly cultivated) and food specifically bred to be high in our needed nutrients, and the choice of drinking a liquid-only diet (containing those same nutrients, calories and flavors) or supplements that will fulfill our dietary and health needs. Much of our food will be genetically modified or bred for specific attributes (mostly nutritional), and the “specialty foods” will be those that are not modified!
There will still be a few hundred million “old timers” who will choose to randomly eat old-fashioned foods like those we eat today.
—Karen Caplan, President, Frieda’s, Inc., a specialty-produce company