The future of food is now: Insects, lab-grown meat and biotech farming

The future of food is now: Insects, lab-grown meat and biotech farming

A diet of meal worms and crickets doesn’t sound a whole lot more appetizing than Charlton Heston’s cannibal snacks in the sci-fi classic Soylent Green.

But by the time Heston’s character declares the obvious — “Soylent Green is people!” — no one seemed to care any more. Proof you can get used to just about anything.

“Everything depends on taste,” said Yasmin Akhtar, a researcher at UBC’s faculty of land and food systems. “Reluctance is always cultural, but it doesn’t take long for people to get used to the flavour and the texture of insects.”

Students in her class on entomophagy — bug-eating — often incorporate insects into their daily diet after trying her insect-enhanced cookery.

“The moment they taste it, everything changes,” she said.

Crickets have been on the menu in parathas, flatbreads and pizza several times over the years at Vij’s and Rangoli, where they found an enthusiastic audience, according to chef Meeru Dhalwala.

At the PNE last year’s cricket burgers and cricket fries have been replaced by a cricket caramel apple. Canada’s cricket supplier — Ontario-based Entomo Farms  — also sells its crunchy snacks online.

But bugs really hit the mainstream earlier this year when Presidents Choice introduced 100% Cricket Powder at grocers such as Superstore.

Use it to chirp up your muffin or smoothie recipe with protein and brain-healthy vitamin B-12, said Akhtar.

One note of caution: Crickets contain a protein also found in crustaceans, so it’s a hazard for people allergic to crab and shrimp.

Insect farming is a phenomenally sustainable business, using only a tiny fraction of the water needed for animal protein production, and they can be fed cheaply. Langley’s Enterra insect farm uses fruit and vegetable waste to grow soldier fly larvae to produce high-quality protein and fat used in salmon and chicken feed.

Fortunately, our diet going forward won’t be all about chowing down on miniature versions of Ridley Scott’s alien. Because culinary traditions change so slowly, you almost have to squint to see the creeping influence of technology on food.

Plant-based Beyond Meat burgers introduced across Canada by A&W look just like the real thing, and stay a little pink inside thanks to beet juice.

The heart of the burger patty recipe is pea protein and pulses, some of which are sourced from Canadian farmers.

“Lots of people are curious about it. For a lot of people, it’s about finding plant-based options for their diet,” said A&W president Susan Seneca

The future of food is now: Insects, lab-grown meat and biotech farming