Lukas Renlund

Anticipating a future of climate change and population growth, a group of artists cooked up renderings of more sustainable, meatless "meatballs."

People won’t be eating the same way 20 years from now.

The commercial meat industry is wildly unsustainable, ecologically speaking, and the UN has estimated that food demand will increase 70 percent by 2050. To keep the world’s ever-growing population fed, we’re going to need some alternate sources of protein to go mainstream.

One group is using the humble meatball as a vehicle to explore what the future of food could look like. The creative team at Space10—a “future-living lab” in Copenhagen sponsored by the company that franchises IKEA—decided to visualize this transition by making and photographing “meatballs” composed of eight viable meat substitutes.

The “meatballs” range from the Mighty Powder Ball—all distilled nutrients without the texture or color that makes food delectable—to the Crispy Bug Ball, which mixes wax moth larvae with mashed potato, pumpkin, and cheese. Creative director Kaave Pour writes in an email to CityLab that they wanted people to get more familiar with foods they hadn’t considered palatable before—after all, he says, people in 80 percent of the world’s nations dine on a total of 1,000 insect species.

”If you had never seen a shrimp before,” Pour writes, “would you think it looked delicious? It is a stalk-eyed insect-looking animal with long whiskers, small legs, and a long tail, and some turn pink when cooked. Would you eat that? Yes, because you are familiar with shrimp and know it tastes delicious.”

These aren’t meant as literal predictions of how we’ll eat, notes chef and food designer Simon Perez, who created most of the models with produce from his urban farm in Copenhagen. For now, then, feast with your eyes—and later, maybe, with your mouth.

To feed a larger population, we could start by wasting less of the food we already produce. (Lukas Renlund)
Algae grows fast and packs a punch of protein, vitamins, and minerals. (Lukas Renlund)
As vertical hydroponic farming scales up in cities, more urban eaters can subsist on food grown within a couple of miles, rather than shipped around the world. (Lukas Renlund)
It’s the sad dystopian society of food, but it still delivers all your necessary nutrients. So, there’s that. (Lukas Renlund)
3D printing converts proteins from sustainable sources into fantastically shaped foodstuffs. Perez, the chef, says this is the one he would serve at a cocktail party. “It creates a real wow effect and would be a great conversation trigger. Plus you have so many possibilities to use different ingredients and create different shapes.” (Lukas Renlund)
The team says the price on lab-grown beef burgers dropped from $325,000 in 2013 to $10 today. Conquering the price gap is one thing; winning the hearts and minds of meat lovers is another. (Lukas Renlund)
Legumes provide a high dose of protein with a lower ecological footprint than meat. (Lukas Renlund)

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