By Nora Doyle-Burr, "The Menu for the Future,"November/December 2012
In the past year, biologists, food scientists and entrepreneurs have been working hard to envision the future of food sustainability. Here are 3 innovations that could transform the way we eat for the better.
Like the skin of a grape or shell of an egg, WikiCell natural wrappings are either edible or biodegradable—think Greek yogurt wrapped in a strawberry husk or gazpacho balls with a tomato-like skin. By creating a compostable packaging product, WikiCell Designs hopes to bring about the “end of the plastic era in food packaging.”
Possible Impact: According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the United States produced 31 million tons of plastic waste in 2010.
Expect It: Now. Spheres of ice cream coated in a shell of nonmelting chocolate packaging can already be purchased in Paris.Next: I Can’t Believe It’s Not Chicken » [pagebreak]
“Vegetarian” meats have borne only a passing resemblance to the real deal, until now. Using a proprietary technique, Beyond Meat (backed by Twitter co-founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone, among others) is producing a soy-based faux meat that mimics the texture, flavor and appearance of chicken so closely that it fooled top food writers.
Possible Impact: An estimated 51% of global greenhouse gas emissions comes from livestock (per a 2006 report of the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization), so switching to plant-based proteins could slash our national carbon footprint.
Expect It: Soon. The product is being rolled out in select Whole Foods and will be available in 2013.Next: The Deep Green Sea » [pagebreak]
As a source of protein and omega-3s, algae is a popular nutritional supplement, but now researchers at Cornell University are hoping to develop ways to use it for animal feed. They have found that it has an “extremely bright future” as a possible replacement for up to one-third of the soy in today’s animal feed, according to researcher Ricardo Ekmay, Ph.D.
Possible Impact: The U.N.’s FAO reports that approximately one-third of the world’s arable land is dedicated to animal feed production. Since algae grows in saltwater, it has the potential to free up acreage for crops that feed humans directly.
Expect It: This is still in early testing, so its impact is years away.