When I was a kid, while in one of my rebellious stages I suppose, I once suggested to my parents that I would much prefer to take my meals as a pill of some sort rather than eat overly boiled green beans or peas and carrots. My parents didn’t think much of the idea and told me to eat my vegetables.
But more and more, fake food seems to be becoming part of our eating regimen. Consider the fake butter (oleo margarine) that my mother used to make by kneading fat and food coloring of some sort. We have always had hybrid foods where one food was intertwined with another, one fruit bred with another to come up with a new variety of the same basic fruit (think tomatoes and apples). We’ve had hybrid corn around for centuries.
We are now seeing synthetic versions of food genes being implanted into many of our foods to create part real, part fake foods. A Swiss company has developed synthetic vanilla and synthetic saffron and claim that it is much less labor intensive to create foods in the lab rather than growing them in the fields.
We already have many powders and supplements that their manufacturers claim to replace or enhance existing foods on the market. Many of these are unregulated.
Astronauts are eating partly synthetic foods in space.
The crowning glory is illustrated by an article in today’s Washington Post, Science and Health Section, where food scientists are considering producing lab grown beef. Scientists claim that it is much more environmentally sound to make lab grown beef than it is to produce a real cow in the field. It would take less water and electricity to produce, and the environmental benefits of less cow gas would be enormous.
Apparently the color of the lower fat beef currently being produced in the lab is “yellow”. Yeech! And if the lab folks add too much omega 3 fatty acid, the fake beef tastes like fish. Hmm. Seems like there are some bugs to be worked out.
The effect at the grocery store will be interesting, too. Right now a lab grown burger costs $330,000 according to the Washington Post article. Meatballs cost only $18,000 per pound to produce. According to the Post article an American Company is producing lab grown “steak chips” which are expected to be in the stores soon. More reasonably priced I presume.
Are we ready for all this? I suppose it is inevitable and that we should probably prepare ourselves for a future of at least partly synthetic, laboratory designed and produced foods.
I suspect that lab grown food will become a major part of our nutritional future. I hope that cool heads are part of the development process as these synthetic and lab grown treats slowly become a reality. Will lab grown foods fuel our bodies as well as natural grown foods? I imagine that evolution will alter some of our own genes to accommodate the realities of the future.
And all this, just as I’m learning to enjoy my vegetables.
Thank you for reading.