The Future of Food
The Future of Food
Humans seem to love animal protein. There is some evolutionary reasoning for this, we have evolved as omnivorous beings, and as much as there is a growing trend towards veganism (a trend that is likely to grow), humans are predicted to rely on animal protein for the foreseeable future.
A sector of the animal protein industry predicted to grow at a faster rate than other sectors is aquaculture – producing fish for humans to eat. Fish farming appeals to many because it can boast more sustainable credentials than other methods of animal farming. Fish are efficient at converting feed into edible nutrition, but the most unsustainable facet of aquaculture is the feed itself.
Many people think plant protein must be sustainable, but sadly soy farming is responsible for extensive deforestation.
Currently, feed for aquaculture is made of ingredients often sourced from across the world. Two of the biggest sources of protein in animal feed across species are soymeal and fishmeal. Soymeal comes from soy, which is produced in vast quantities in Brazil, where it is responsible for a great deal of Amazonian destruction. Humanity’s demand for soy is driving deforestation all across the world and is responsible for biodiversity loss at a terrifying scale as species including the jaguar are facing existential threats.
Fishmeal is a high-protein, highly digestible flour made from rendered fish, commonly anchovy species. It takes about 5 kilograms of fish to make 1 kilogram of fishmeal. Wild fish are harvested from the ocean, often through destructive and polluting techniques. Although the FAO is recording a growing amount of fishmeal as coming from industry by-products, fishmeal production is still considered on the whole to be a highly damaging practice. The most cost-effective wild-caught fish to target for fishmeal are forage fish, which are highly sensitive to ocean temperature, as demonstrated by the fishmeal price changes during the El Niño cycle. Their availability will decrease as global warming pushes ocean temperatures to increase further.
Anchovies are associated with tin cans and Basque markets, but are eaten more by fish than humans.
In short, protein comes from finite resources. If we are to meet the growing demands of a growing population, we need to find sustainable ways to feed the animals we eat. This is what is driving a growing trend throughout the supply chain of looking for sustainable solutions for the protein we include in feed. It is possible to make protein renewable, by sustainably growing plants and using animals or microbes to convert those plants into proteins.
Insects are one example of a sustainable solution. Fungi are another. We have no shortage of actual solutions, nature worked out working symbioses millennia ago, what the world lacks is adequate resources going towards developing and commercialising those solutions. There is growing interest in sustainable start-ups like ours, but the planet needs more research, more commercialisation and more actionable, funded solutions if we want to create a feasible way to feed humanity as it grows.
There are solutions, we just need to act on them.