Tomorrow’s Meatballs: Algae, lab-grown meat, insects

By Alice Foster contact

- Last updated on GMT

Tomorrow’s Meatball project by Ikea’s research lab
Tomorrow’s Meatball project by Ikea’s research lab
Algae, lab-grown meat and insects rolled into balls could be used to replace the traditional meatball in the not-too distant future, according to Ikea’s research lab.

The retailer’s Space10 research lab, based in Copenhagen, has taken photographs of eight balls made from unusual ingredients as the food industry starts to look for alternatives to meat.

The project, called Tomorrow’s Meatball, aims to find sustainable ways to meet the growing demand for food caused by the rapidly increasing world population.

Kaave Pour, from Space10, said: “We used the meatball's shape and size as a canvas for future foods scenarios, because we wanted to visualise complicated research in a simple, fun and familiar way.”

Potential offered by 3D printing

Tomorrow’s Meatball examined the potential offered by 3D printing, urban farming, waste reduction and powdered foods when designing the balls.

Meat production impacts global warming, uses dwindling water supplies, causes soil erosion and destroys forests and grasslands, according to Space10.

Bas van de Poel, who was creative in residence at the research lab, said: “It's quite difficult to picture that in the near future we will be eating insects or artificial meat.

“But, with the increasing demand for food, we need to start considering adding alternative ingredients to our daily menu.”

Wageningen University research

Algae was among the meat alternatives suggested by Wageningen University researcher Costas Nikiforidis at Food Ingredients Europe (FiE) earlier this month.

The aquatic plant, which is digestible and can be produced sustainably, had more potential uses as an ingredient than as a pure protein source, Nikiforidis said.

“It gives a very specific off-flavour. If you want to use algae, you must know that it will always be green,”​ he told a conference at FiE.

Nikiforidis also highlighted hemp, green pea proteins, lupin proteins and quinoa during a speech on plant protein sources at the trade show in Paris on December 2.

Meanwhile, Terminator actor Arnold Schwarzenegger urged consumers to cut down their meat consumption​ in a bid to battle greenhouse gas emissions. 

Tomorrow’s Meatball Menu

  1. Artificial meatball​ ​ lab-grown meat
  2. Wonderful waste ball​ – waste food
  3. Urban farmer’s ball​ – food grown in cities
  4. Mighty powder ball​ ​ powdered foods
  5. Lean green algae ball​ - algae
  6. 3D printed ball​ – food from 3D printers
  7. Nutty ball​ ​ grains, legumes and nuts
  8. Crispy bug ball​ – insects

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