The Taste of Tomorrow
  • Alt. Meat
  • March11th

    Great piece from Mark Bittman in the NYT today on progress in the quest for better plant-derived mock-meat….

    Bittman raises a number of important points, such as:  why the hell does fake meat cost 4 or 5 times as more than real meat?  He also links to a place in The Hague called The Vegetarian Butcher, that only offers plant and mycoprotein “meats.”

    The highlight of this post though is the video— Bittman introduces us to Ethan Brown, a young entrepreneur (and friend of New Harvest’s Jason Matheny) whose Savage River Farms plans to introduce a soy-based chicken analog that is CHEAPER than real chicken, and, Brown claims, just as good.

    Bittman takes us inside Brown’s pilot plant, and shows us how mock chicken is made.

    Take a peek at “Real Fake Chicken.”

    Here’s another NPR story on Ethan Brown “Can Fake Chicken Feed the World?”

  • March5th

    “What a great week for cultured meat.”’

    That’s according to New Harvest, the organization that’s been pushing cultured meat— aka in vitro meat, lab grown meat, or test tube meat  — for the past decade. New Harvest hosted a symposium at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Vancouver and reporters came en masse – stories about lab  meat appeared in The Economist, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The Guardian, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Live Science, etc etc.

    In part, the media interest was greater than ever before because there was, at last, an answer to the “Where is the beef?” question.

    Mark Post, a Dutch scientist, prominently featured in The Taste of Tomorrow, promised a burger, ready for consumption WITHIN SIX MONTHS.

    As previously noted on this unabashedly pro-in vitro meat web site, Post has an anonymous, angel investor who is devoting $330,000-plus to support the project.  Post also has a high profile ally . Heston Blumenthal of Fat Duck fame will prepare the petri-dish raised burger.  (The alliance with a culinary master is a very good thing, as the lab-burger will likely have a consistency  more akin to tofu than T-bone)

    Now, all the media coverage about the burger-to-come is only a small part of the general giddiness at New Harvest.  Momentum is building.  Check out the activity on the New Harvest web site.  For years, New Harvest was a largely one man shop (Jason Matheny, see profile), now they’re hiring a director.

    Also, fyi, must-see video.  A  TEDMED talk entitled “In Vitro Meat – It’s What’s For Dinner!” Gabor Foracs, a Hungarian biophysicist at the University of Missouri and Organovo, cooks up and eats meat engineered using a 3D bioprinting process.

    And even though last week’s media coverage focused on culture meat, the Vancouver symposium also spotlighted some other alt-meat ideas.

    Building Better Alt-Meats 

    For instance, Patrick Brown,  a biochemist at the Stanford’s School of Medicine, talked about his efforts to put together meat substitutes from plant materials. According to a report on the AAAS meeting, Brown is starting with meat but could advance to plant-based dairy, imbuing the food with a taste that he said will win over “the hardcore meat- and cheese-lovers who can’t imagine giving all this up.”

    Brown uses plant materials because he believes plants will be a cheaper and more environmentally more beneficial pathway to a better meat. He said yields from the world’s four major food plant crops—corn, wheat, rice, and soybeans—already provide more than enough protein and amino acids for the world population. But only 4% of the world’s land surface is devoted to growing these crops, Brown said, compared to 30% for grazing and raising the crops for livestock feed.

    “Animal farming is by far the biggest ongoing environmental catastrophe,” Brown told the AAAS.

    According to Nicholas Genovese, the University of Missouri geneticist, even traditional meat producers are interested in meat analogue technologies. Genovese said large producers Tyson Foods and JBS have inquired about the possibilities of new meat substitutes.

    For a look at how plant-based meat facsimiles are produced, check out this fascinating video from Time “Turning Powder into Poultry.”


  • February24th

    Grilled locusts in Thailand.

    Maybe once, in a mescal-induced trance, you sucked down the little worm (actually a moth larva) at the bottom of the bottle. But insects as a regular source of sustenance? Bizzare Foods territory, right? Actually, there is nothing bizarre about eating crawly little buggers.

    In fact, insects might hold the answer to a growing world’s food needs. They are high in protein, low in fat and cholesterol and plentiful. As it is, about 70 percent of all grain goes to feeding livestock. The developing world’s taste for meat will only intensify that imbalance.

    It’s not exactly a new idea. People in 80 percent of the world’s nations eat more than 1,000 insects, according to a July 2010 Guardian article. So, what will it take for Americans to get past the queasiness factor? A Thailand vacation might help. Sure, you will find food carts hawking fried crickets to thrill-seeking backpackers on Bangkok’s Khao San Road.

    But try going farther afield for a wider range of insect delicacies in the markets and fairs that dot the countryside.

    On a trip around the Land of Smiles a few years ago, I tried fried grilled locusts at a highway rest stop and water beetles at a community festival. They were – surprise – pretty tasty. It’s not so surprising, actually, when you consider what a little hot oil, salt and chili leaves will do for just about anything. It didn’t seem like a stretch to imagine them as bar snacks.

    In the U.S., urbanites can find insects on some daring restaurants’ menus. Entrepreneurs such as University of Chicago student Matthew Krisiloff are beginning to market them. Krisiloff’s Entom Foods is gearing up to sell crickets, grasshoppers and mealworms shaped like shrimp or made into patties like hamburgers sans wings, eyes and legs. Publications such as The New Yorker, Time Out and The New York TimesChicago News Cooperative have taken notice.

    Don’t think you will ever see insects in the snack aisle? It’s worth recalling that as late as the 1800s, Americans considered lobsters a repulsive food source. “Even in the harsh penal environment of early America, some colonies had laws against feeding lobsters to inmates more than once a week because it was thought to be cruel and unusual, like making people eat rats, David Foster Wallace wrote in his 2004 Gourmet article, “Consider the Lobster.”

    – Rob Jordan

    Two other thoughts from the ToT to encourage insect-eating from an FAO report:

    1. They’re organic.

    “Edible insects from forests are an important source of protein, and unlike those from agricultural land, they are free of pesticides,” said Paul Vantomme, an FAO forestry expert, in a rep or

    2. They’re healthful.

    For every 100 grams of dried caterpillars, there are about 53 grams of protein, about 15 percent of fat and about 17 percent of carbohydrates. Their energy value amounts to around 430 kilocalories per 100 grams. Caterpillars are also believed to have a higher proportion of protein and fat than beef and fish with a high energy value.  

  • January19th

    As many of you will soon find out, probably on April 12 or 13th, when your copy of The Taste of Tomorrow arrives via Fed Ex, UPS, or Express Mail,  or DHL (in the UK, Germany or Japan), much of the book is focused on the burning question:

    What will the hamburger of the future look and taste like?

    Will it be a 20th Century-style burger?  Or will it be goat, emu,  ostrich, or some other yet-to-be domesticated species?

    Not to totally blow the T of T’s narrative suspense here, but your protagonist becomes concerned about certain environmental issues related to burger-eating.   And after examining some of the options, he becomes fixated not just on mouthfeel and taste, but on finding tasty, healthy, environmentally-friendly burgers that could make this type of discussion over the nefarious impact of cow farts moot.

    In short,  The Taste of Tomorrow gets really excited about lab grown meat, aka cultured meat, sometimes called test tube meat, or in vitro meat. Here’s a recent article from Gourmet Live, in which the T of T’s author enthuses about a future in which we’ll be eating cow-less, kill-free burgers.

    Could this be Year One? 

    One of the major plot points on the way to this kill-free, methane-gas emission and ranch-land reduced  future is the successful completion and consumption of The Prototype.

    There’s been a lot of talk in the media (and in the book) that this could be Year 1.   Here’s are a few examples of such talk  “Lab Grown Meat Gets Closer”,  “Meat Shmeat,” “The Frankenburger: Why ‘Cultured Meat’ is Humanity’s Destiny.” 

    All of this hinges on a project underway in the Netherlands (which you’ll learn about extensively in The Taste of Tomorrow.)

    We’ll keep you apprised of the some of the progress – and setbacks – in in vitro meat research as they happen, both here and on the T of T’s new Facebook page. And we’ll also include updates on some other research towards environmentally-friendly meat alternatives, such as this mock chicken product.  But if you hunger for MORE in vitro meat/meat alternative news,  for nearly daily updates from the mock/cultured meat frontier, the best spot is the New Harvest site, which has assembled a massive collection of citations, by Jason Matheny.  

  • November8th

    As urban-farming geeks know, one of the most audacious-sounding vertical farm plans was for Toronto, Canada. 58 floors, costing $1.5 billion. It was to be a pioneering test of the idea that the key to food security is not to connect ourselves to nature, but to depend on technological systems.

    It also would bring locally grown, organic raspberries and bananas to Ontario in January.

    Now, I’ve always thought that most likely spot for the inevitable debut of skyscraper farming would be Japan or Dubai: places with a dense population, limited arable,  a strong economic rational for a SkyFarm.

    Still, the idea that the Canadians could lead the way in vertical farms made sense. Canada, the Great White North, has been pioneering indoor farming for years.  If you buy a tomato in Chicago in January, there’s a decent chance it’s coming from a hydroponic farm in southern Ontario.  And the British Columbia-based company TerraSphere, a one-time medical marijuana grower, has been on the cutting edge of using hydroponic technology to develop highly efficient, eco-friendly urban-based growing systems.   (Plus, there’s plenty of locavore foodies in Toronto and Montreal who would love the idea of locally, produced organic greens in February)

    But last month, Gordon Graff, the young architect who conceived the SkyFarm, told The Walrus (my favorite Canadian magazine) that he now thinks it’s extremely unlikely the farm will ever happen. The space in downtown Toronto, slated for the farm, is now home to the Toronto International Film Festival.

    Graff thinks the economic rationale is simply not there for the Gates-ian expenditure necessary to justify SkyFarm.  Graff believes that for vertical farming to happen there will have to be a stronger economic incentive to support locally grown produce He also believes that the economic viability vertical farms hinges on their ability to produce their own electricity. One promising technology: A new waste disposal method called plasma arc gasification would allow vertical farms to recycle solid waste into usable energy without producing harmful emissions.

    Graff says he’s shifted focus to smaller scale urban indoor farms.

    For more on vertical farming, take a look at Dickson Despommier’s Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century.  Despommier, a prof. of public and environmental health at Columbia, and vertical farming’s biggest cheerleader, provides details and schemata on how high-rise farms could work.   To go inside a functioning indoor farm, circa 2011, here’s a short tour through this English farm,  a pioneer of small-scale vertical farming, which grows produce for a zoo..