Monday, November 26, 2012

Insects as food

Insects, or mini-livestock as they could become known, will become a staple of our diet.
It's a win-win situation. 

Insects provide as much nutritional value as ordinary meat and are a great source of protein, according to researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. 

They also cost less to raise than cattle, consume less water and do not have much of a carbon footprint. 

Plus, there are an estimated 1,400 species that are edible to man.

Gaye is not talking about bushtucker-style witchetty grubs arriving on a plate near you. 

Insect burgers and sausages are likely to resemble their meat counterparts.
"Things like crickets and grasshoppers will be ground down and used as an ingredient in things like burgers."
The Dutch government is putting serious money into getting insects into mainstream diets. 

It recently invested one million euros (£783,000) into research and to prepare legislation governing insect farms.
A large chunk of the world's population already eat insects as a regular part of their diet. 

Caterpillars and locusts are popular in Africa, wasps are a delicacy in Japan, crickets are eaten in Thailand. 

But insects will need an image overhaul if they are to become more palatable to the squeamish Europeans and North Americans, says Gaye.
They will become popular when we get away from the word insects and use something like mini-livestock.

It's well documented how the appearance of food and its smell influence what we eat.

But the effect sound has on taste is an expanding area of research. 

A recent study by scientists at Oxford University found certain tones could make things taste sweeter or more bitter.
No experience is a single sense experience," says Russell Jones, from sonic branding company Condiment Junkie, who were involved in the study. 

So much attention is paid to what food looks like and what it smells like, but sound is just as important.

What noises affect what tastes?

Hand bells hanging from rope
The Bittersweet Study, conducted by Charles Spence, a professor of experimental psychology at Oxford University, found the taste of food could be adjusted by changing the sonic properties of a background soundtrack.
We're not entirely sure what happens in brain as yet, but something does happen and that's really exciting, says Jones.
Sound and food have been experimented with by chef Heston Blumenthal. 

His Fat Duck restaurant has a dish called the Sound of the Sea, which is served with an iPod playing sounds of the seaside. 

The sounds reportedly make the food taste fresher.
But more widespread uses are developing. 

One that could have an important impact is the use of music to remove unhealthy ingredients without people noticing the difference in taste.
We know what frequency makes things taste sweeter.

Potentially you could reduce the sugar in a food but use music to make it seem just as sweet to the person eating it.
Companies are also increasingly using the link between food and sound in packaging. 

One crisp company changed the material it used to make packets as the cruncher sound made the crisps taste fresher to consumers. 

Recommended playlists could also appear on packaging to help enhance the taste of the product.
Jones says the use of sound is even being applied to white goods. 

Companies are looking into the hum fridges make, as a certain tone could make people think their food is fresher.

Earlier this year, Dutch scientists successfully produced in-vitro meat, also known as cultured meat. 

They grew strips of muscle tissue using stem cells taken from cows, which were said to resemble calamari in appearance. 

They hope to create the world's first "test-tube burger" by the end of the year.
The first scientific paper on lab-grown meat was funded by Nasa, says social scientist Dr Neil Stephens, based at Cardiff University's ESRC Cesagen research centre. 

It investigated in-vitro meat to see if it was a food astronauts could eat in space.

Ten years on and scientists in the field a

Production also requires a fraction of the land needed to raise. cattle. 

In addition it could be customised to cut the fat content and add nutrients.
Prof Mark Post, who led the Dutch team of scientists at Maastricht University, says he wants to make lab meat "indistinguishable" from the real stuff, but it could potentially look very different. 

Stephens, who is studying the debate over in-vitro meat, says there are on-going discussions in the field about what it should look like.
He says the idea of such a product is hard for people to take on board because nothing like it currently exists.
We simply don't have a category for this type of stuff in our world, we don't know what to make of it.

It is radically different in terms of provenance and product.

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