Future food

last subsistance lunchWhat will we eat in the future? What will future food look like? A programme on BBC2 raised these questions this week having followed a family through the decades since the 1950’s and then had a look forward.

How about a synthetic mixture of proteins, vitamins etc. as a drink? Probably not, the family tried this and couldn’t stand the taste. Anyway drinking a liquid however nutritionally balanced misses the point, food is a social thing and its difficult to be social over grey gunk.

Meat. We have got used to cheap meat. The environmental, energy costs and health in the future will be high. These and the demand due to rising richer populations worldwide will mean meat will be much more expensive and we will be eating a lot less of it. This brings us to future food ideas to replace meat. Something low in fat and high protein anyone? Insects -thought not? A third of the world eat insects on a regular basis. For people in the west this something of a tall ask. There is something of a yuk factor around insects but the protein in meat will not be easy to replace (although arguably we overdose on protein and its not great to do so healthwise).

One food trend is that the time taken to prepare meals has plunged from an average of 4.5 hours to 20 minutes now. This time reduction is due to our oil laden processed food. Not only is processed food not great for you for the most part, in the future its unlikely to be as common and more expensive. It is quite possible however to cook nutritious food from scratch in way less than 4.5 hours. There is also danger that processed food is not social food. People take their microwave meals away and eat them in front of the TV. Food is also everywhere when we leave the house with snacks and cafés etc, will this be in the case in a more food limited future?

Another big question is where we will buy this food from. The supermarkets that have come to dominate our lives have in the last few years gone into decline (Tesco’s announced a huge loss today). Many of them of dropped plans for out of town stores and have opened small “local stores” and are loosing money. People increasingly are doing small shops in local shops. The whole food distribution system is very energy intensive. Food grown locally and bought in small shops, this seems to be the trend? In the UK there has been an astonishing 25% increase in small local food shops since 2012. Its not coincidental this has all been at a time of high oil prices. It looks like there is one trend under way that future proofs us to an extent against peak oil

Incidentally whilst it raised some interesting questions the programme blithely ignored the energy of food question completely going along with the abundant energy business as usual scenario although it think meat was not sustainable environmentally. Instead it seems more likely we will have to grow more food ourselves, spend a bit more time in the kitchen and much of what we eat will be seasonal and more expensive. Much in the meat/fruit line will be rarer and more of a treat. On the plus side we will be healthier and food will hopefully become more of a social occasion. Lets hope there will be no food banks.

My homegroup is going to a study on food and the bible. I will write a blog post on this in about a month.

Neil

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