Today, there are 795 million people worldwide who don’t have enough food. This problem is worst in developing countries, where approximately 13% of the population lack adequate nutrition. In places such as Sub-Saharan Africa, that number rises to 25%. There are currently over seven billion people on this Earth, and that number is likely to double by 2100, just 85 years ahead of us. Due to unpredictable food prices, one in eight people already go to sleep hungry at night. In the following years, how much will that number rise? Food prices will only rise due to increased demand, making it more difficult for more people to get proper nutrition. In order to provide enough food for everyone, it is crucial to not only reconsider our food consumption but also improve how food is grown and seek out new types of foods. What does this mean for our lives?
One key aspect to creating more food is looking for new sources of it. Insects, for example, may become a main part of our diet. According to researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, insects have numerous nutritional benefits. They are packed with protein, provide the same nutritional value as meat, and contain rich nutrients such as iron and zinc. Not only that, but insects are less expensive to raise than cattle, take up less space than livestock, and emit lower levels of greenhouse gases. In fact, there are currently around 1,400 species of edible insects available. Morgaine Gaye, a food futurologist, studies food trends to forecast the future. After her research about insects, Gaye notes, “Things like crickets and grasshoppers will be ground down and used as an ingredient in things like burgers.” Today, 80 percent of the world population has already adopted insects in their regular diet, and according to results from studies, this percentage will increase in a few years. Caterpillars and locusts are popular in Zimbabwe, wasps in Japan, and crickets in Thailand. In the Netherlands, the Dutch government invested one million euros for research in insect farms. These countries’ efforts to incorporate insects in their diet show promising evidence that the human race will be able to successfully adapt to the growing hunger crisis. In the future, people will seek insects more frequently as European and North American countries also start incorporating insects into their everyday foods.
In addition to insects, sonic-enhanced foods will also appear in our meals. Sonic-enhanced foods are “seasoned” differently depending on the frequency of the noises surrounding the consumer. These frequencies cause food to taste different, so in other words, people can adjust the taste in foods by changing the background noises. For example, one potato chip company changed the material of their packaging so the bag made crunchier noises and allowed the customers to believe that the potato chips tasted fresher. Russell Jones, a member of the Experimental Food Society and the sonic branding company Condiment Junkie, claims that sound is as important as the appearance and smell of food. He was also involved in a study at Oxford University and concludes that music could actually help companies remove unhealthy ingredients from their food without creating a noticeable taste difference. Jones remarks, “Potentially you could reduce the sugar in a food but use music to make it seem just as sweet to the person eating it.” Following Jones’ advice, some food companies have already started using the effects of sound to appeal to more customers. As scientists develop and discover new ways that sounds affect the taste of foods, it won’t be uncommon for food companies to trick and manipulate us in purchasing a product. Although these sonic enhanced foods won’t necessarily solve world hunger, it will change our eating habits and opinions on certain foods.
As technology advances, countries will search for different methods of meat production. First, lab grown meats will gradually replace natural animal production to meet the population’s rising demands. In 2013, a lab at Maastricht University in the Netherlands created the world’s first beef burger from cow stem cells. Even though this project cost €200,000, it is a quicker and more systematic process than animal production and may be a more efficient way to produce meat in the future. Furthermore, there is a challenge in creating realistic meat from plants. For example, Impossible Foods, a San Francisco bay area company, is starting to produce meats entirely from plants. The company is using the heme protein that gives meat its red color and will attempt to make a meat taste entirely from these plant proteins. According to Patrick Brown, the co-founder of Impossible Foods, the meat patty “looks, cooks, smells and tastes like ground beef.” Not only will their burgers be tasty, but they will also contain no cholesterol, hormones, or antibiotics. With our growing population, we will need to find alternative ways to create healthy and abundant sources of protein.
As the world continues to develop, scientists are seeking new methods to feed the planet. Hunger has been a crisis ever since the dawn of civilization, and today, 10.9% of the world’s population faces undernourishment. Thanks to the advancements of technology, however, we are able to study different types of foods and learn innovative ways to make these foods taste better while producing a more abundant amount. The World Food Programme, the United Nations frontline nutrition agency, already has strategic plans in fighting world hunger. Currently, WFP aims to deliver food to more than 80 million people in 75 countries, and the organization hopes to prevent hunger in the future. WFP believes it is important to work with the government in solving world hunger because governments should have the most responsibility in ensuring that the citizens have enough food. Because of this, they will collaborate with governments and other organizations such as UNICEF and FAO to improve nutrition, shelter, sanitation needs, and agriculture. Like WFP, it is important for us to be aware of hunger crises and other global food-related problems. Next time you go to a grocery store, consider how our food consumption may change in the future and be mindful of what you already have today. In fifty years, instead of looking down and seeing a kale chicken caesar salad, you may see a plant burger with grasshopper french fries.