Meet dulse, a seaweed with a secret. This translucent red alga grows along northern, rocky coastlines of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. And its colourful, leathery fronds hide a remarkable flavour. When tossed with oil and fried in a pan, they taste like bacon.
“I think it is a food of the future,” says Chris Langdon. This marine scientist has been studying dulse for more than a decade. During that time, he has found new ways to grow it faster. The alga not only grows cheaply and easily, he notes, but also is rich in protein. Those qualities haven’t been lost on creative chefs who are searching for new ways to incorporate this unlikely treat into their recipes.Scientists are partnering with chefs to bring it to the menu of your favourite restaurant.
People need to seek out new foods because the world has so many mouths to feed. As of 2017, there are more than seven billion people on Earth, according to the United Nations. And by 2100 that number may double, according to some predictions. Feeding all of these people means not only improving the way food is grown, but also finding new sources of nutrition.
And that quest is becoming ever more urgent. If nothing changes, within 35 years, the world’s appetite will be greater than the amount of food produced. That’s according to a report released last year. It was prepared by the Global Harvest Initiative, a private agriculture group based in Washington, D.C.
Global warming, too, is changing food production. Scientists predict that rising temperatures will reduce the growth of important crops like wheat, corn and soybeans. Low-income developing countries will be hit the hardest. When harvests fall, crops become more expensive. And since those foods are also used to feed animals like cows and pigs, meat prices, too, will rise.
All over the world, researchers are racing against the clock to figure out how best to feed more people in a feverish world. And some surprising ideas have begun to emerge. Two years ago, scientists unveiled the first burger made from meat grown in a lab, rather than taken from a carcass. (The project cost more than $300,000, but it’s a start.) Other researchers are developing seeds that can survive high temperatures and drought. Still others are finding ways to modify the genes of meat animals so they produce more meat and can stand the heat.
Dulse isn’t the only readily available food that’s long been overlooked. Aaron Dossey thinks it’s time for people to eat more bugs. A biochemist in Athens, Ga., he’s thinking about crickets.
These insects are sold as fish bait or as food for pets such as reptiles. In the 1990s, roasted crickets were even served at The Insect Club in Washington, D.C., which included other insects on its menu.
Insects are common foods in some areas of the world. These crickets are from Thailand. But eating bugs is a harder sell in places like Europe and the United States.
We are aware of what we call the “ick” factor — the natural aversion many people have to eating bugs. The ick factor doesn’t seem to be as substantial as most people think, at the same time, he thinks whole crickets are at a disadvantage compared to other bugs. People may actually be less repulsed by eating a mealworm because it looks like a little Cheeto, whereas the cricket has its appendages and may get stuck in your teeth.
For the past two years, the scientist has been making and selling powdered crickets through company's, All Things Bugs. The product is exactly what it sounds like: Lots of crickets blended together, then dried and ground into a fluffy dust that looks like light brown flour. Already, cricket powder has caught the attention of health-food makers. They have begun adding it to protein shakes, snack chips, other snack foods and protein bars.
These locusts, for sale at a market in China, are ready to eat. Insects are already part of the diet for people in some parts of the world.
Scientists have identified more than 2,000 edible insect species worldwide. In some parts of the world, Dossey notes, eating insects is common. These bugs are even referred to by some scientists as mini-livestock. But in North America and Europe, this menu item has not caught on (or “grown legs,” you might say). Some studies suggest this distaste for bugs comes from the negative portrayal of edible bugs in the news media.
Researchers like Dossey say it’s time to look at eating bugs with fresh eyes. Nutritious, easy to grow and abundant, crickets show promise as a healthy source of food.
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