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The traditional Sunday roast and fish and chips may soon be replaced by lab-grown steaks, cricket salads and azolla burgers on British dinner tables, according to a new report from UK retailer Co-op.

Using cutting-edge AI technology, Co-op has created a glimpse into what the nation's mealtimes could look like in 30 years, as the food industry undergoes a dramatic transformation driven by sustainability and health concerns.

Experts predict that by 2054, lab-grown meat and seafood cultivated from animal cells will become mainstream, while alternative protein sources like insects will also feature prominently in British diets.

Bob Doherty, director of the FixOurFood initiative and dean at the University of York, said: "The last 30 years we have seen scientific leaps into more sustainable produce which were unimaginable to most back in 1994. From lab-grown meat to vertical farming, the future of food is set to revolutionise how we eat."

The rise of urban indoor farming is expected to enable the local production of foods like avocados and olives that were previously imported, while extensive plant breeding will introduce new varieties such as the fast-growing freshwater fern azolla.

The shift towards more plant-based, flexitarian diets will also see insects including locusts, grasshoppers and crickets becoming common ingredients in snacks and main meals, the report suggests.

Cathryn Higgs, head of ethics, sustainability and policy at Co-op, said the changes reflect growing consumer concerns around the environmental impact of food production and a desire for more transparency.

"As a food industry we've made a lot of progress, but rightly shoppers are calling on us to do more, with honesty and integrity at the core of our decision making," Higgs said.

The report, which draws on 30 years of consumer surveys, found that two-thirds of UK shoppers are now more concerned about ethical and sustainable food than in recent years. However, price remains a key factor, with just over half willing to pay more for responsible products.

The shift towards a more diverse, tech-enabled food system is expected to be accompanied by an increase in leisure time and cooking skills, as the UK potentially adopts a four-day work week by 2054.

"By 2054, British people will have edible insects on their dinner plate, and we may see the crushing up of crickets quicker than wholegrains," Doherty concluded. "As we navigate the challenges of climate change, we'll need to embrace these innovations to ensure that we can feed a growing population sustainably."

Research: Lab-grown meat and insect proteins poised to transform UK dinner plates by 2054

Sian Yates

3 July 2024

Research: Lab-grown meat and insect proteins poised to transform UK dinner plates by 2054

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