CELESTE HEADLEE, HOST:
Unless you've been hiding under a burger bun for the past week, you've probably heard the story about the lab-grown burger. The test-tube piece of meat took three months and cost more than $300,000 to grow, but its makers hope the experiment might help feed the world someday.
It's Morgaine Gaye's job to think about what we'll be eating in the future. She's a food futurologist, and she joins me now from our London bureau and she joins me now from our London bureau. Welcome.
DR. MORGAINE GAYE: Hello there.
HEADLEE: Well, it's hard to imagine anyone is going to be eating a $300,000 burger anytime soon. But is lab grown meat part of our future?
GAYE: I think it is. I think we only have to look back to the 1970s, for example, when TVP was something that was considered to be in an edible sort...
HEADLEE: I'm sorry, what's TVP?
GAYE: Textured vegetable protein. Most people don't know what it is because nobody really ate it. But it was the alternative to meat back then. So like the soya proteins that we see today - tofu, tempehs - and I think that the lab-grown meat is another solution to that question of can we eat something that tastes like meat without hurting/harming animals or creating environmental issues.
What's really interesting right now is that we've been in a time of constriction. Food prices are going to go up - they are going up - meat prices are set to double in the next five years, and it will change our relationship to waste and to food. And I think meat is going to become much more of a luxury item. And in that way we're going to start seeing it in different ways. So, it's the kind of the bacon, the sweet bacon things, the treats - meat as a treat - I think we're going see that coming.
HEADLEE: One of the other things that's just coming up recently is the idea of insects as food. And, in fact, you can actually do searches on the Internet and find restaurants that feature either ground-up insects or insects whole.
HEADLEE: Could we be seeing more and more insects creeping into our food?
GAYE: It's already quite popular in a few European countries, especially the Netherlands where they're, year on year, growing and selling many more insects. But also, there are countries like Australia where they've decided to call locusts flying prawns or flying shrimp, and they found that people eat them much more readily if they have a different name. But also, ground-up grasshoppers ground into bars such as muesli bars with fruits and nuts, using a cricket flower. People actually don't know it's insects at all.
So, I think when we grind them up and we make insect patties - mixed with vegetables and onions - people don't really know any different.
HEADLEE: Have you eaten them?
GAYE: I have eaten them. Actually pretty good and they all taste quite differently; some are quite cheesy, others are a bit like lemon, and some are sort of nutty. And I think that's it really is just about the way we're socialized around animals and insects where we think, ew, creepy crawlies or bugs or they're dirty. But the way in which they're bred is actually incredibly hygienic. They love to be bred in captivity in small spaces.
HEADLEE: Tell me what's the gateway insect? What's the insect that you recommend to an amateur insect-eater to try first?
GAYE: Ooh, that's a difficult one. Mealworms are very cheap.
GAYE: They're cheap. You get them from a pet store. They deep fry quite easily. I don't know if people are more are repelled by something that looks like a worm or a maggot, or something that actually has legs and wings...
HEADLEE: I'm going to do with a maggot, Morgaine.
GAYE: You're going with the maggot?
GAYE: Hmm, because there are also some larvae from I think it's a moth and that looks a little bit like a cocoon. And they're great - they're super crunchy and in there a bit cheesy. I would keep away from the giant ants 'cause they burn your throat.
GAYE: And I don't like those at all.
HEADLEE: What other kind of things, food-wise, are coming in our future?
GAYE: Texture is one of the unexplored areas in food. We've been in flavor for a very long time looking at, for example, salts and savory and sweet becoming combined together. And I think that we're going to start looking at texture and how texture is going to affect mouth feel.
HEADLEE: What do you mean? Tell me what's a well-textured food?
GAYE: Well, not necessarily about well-texture but an unexpected textures. For example, one of the things I developed recently was a non-drip ice cream.
HEADLEE: How do you get it to not drip?
GAYE: I can't possibly tell you.
GAYE: But it's great for places like Australia we're talking about temperatures of 40-plus degrees, you know, 90 degrees upwards. And it's hard to have an ice cream because straight away it's down your arm and your elbow. So things like that, that eating ice cream with a knife and fork, we don't expect to do that. We don't expect solid things in a creamy form. Or vice-a-versa: more crunch, different mouth feels.
We know that texture is one of the things that repels most people from food. So there's a big place to go in unusual textures. We're already seeing these unusual textured spoons coming in, where it affects what you feel about the food because the spoon itself is textured.
HEADLEE: All right, not only eating bugs and lab-grown meat but we're eating with a bumpy spoon.
Morgaine Gaye joined us from our London bureau. Thank you so much.
GAYE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.