WE STOP EATING FOOD?
the population of the world is set to grow by 35 per cent – or more than a billion people. But to feed them, we’ll need to double the world’s production of crops. That’s because only 55 per cent of crops are fed to people directly; the rest are used to produce livestock (36 per cent) or to create biofuels. And as the world’s population grows, a greater number will be able to afford a meat-based diet. In addition, animal agriculture contributes more to climate change than any other form of transport combined. That’s in addition to the flow-on effects on biodiversity, deforestation and deterioration in water quality. We’re eating ourselves to death. One solution is to phase out meatbased protein for plant-based varieties. Melbourne company Aussielent offers powdered and ready-to-drink alternatives to traditional meals. “There’s massive interest,” says founder Paul Carpenter. “The modern world is really busy and this is a solution that gives you a healthy meal, but saves time and money.” Unlike similar products, Carpenter says Aussielent is not intended as a complete food substitute. Current Australian regulations mean total meal replacements must be prescribed and consumed under medical supervision. Instead, Carpenter sees his product as an addition to traditional food and to cut down on waste – since Australians throw out 20 per cent of food they buy. “We get anecdotal evidence of customers getting up to 80-90 per cent [of their meals from Aussielent], and they’ve been happy. But most people replace one or two meals a day,” he says. “There will always be a place for going to nice restaurants. But this provides a meal on the go for today’s busy lifestyle.” The idea of meal replacements has been a staple of science fiction for decades. But while the Jetsons ate a single ‘meal pill’, the reality is less compact – one Aussielent ‘meal’ equals 130g of powder, plus two-three glasses of water. But maybe that’s not so bad. Food is fun, too. We need only look at the number of cookbooks and TV shows– or the fact that almost two-thirds of Australians are overweight – to know that. It’s part of the reason Carpenter is exploring other meal replacements that retain the satisfaction of eating – things such as ‘noodles’ or ‘burgers’. Us-based Impossible Foods has already generated interest in its plant-based burgers, raising $195m in funding from the likes of Bill Gates. The company is currently building a California factory, which plans to make four million burgers a month when it opens later this year. “There’s a big role in countries where people are not getting as much nutrition as possible,” adds Carpenter. “As people become aware of the nutritious properties of these meal replacements, I see a big future.” The bad news is that we can’t keep eating the way we do. But maybe the future lies in cleaner, more efficient and accessible alternatives. And that could be a good thing.