7 Ways Science is Reengineering Your Turkey Dinner

Military-grade turkey jerky. The Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, located just outside of Boston, Massachusetts, is looking at ways to jazz up MREs.

Soldiers on the battlefield could soon be hooked up to sensors that detect nutritional deficiencies and notify a 3D printer to start preparing a customized meal—with the necessary nutrients—back at base camp. The new kind of MREs could include a variety of vegetable products, fruit, and protein like hearty chunks of turkey jerky the Natick team refers to as “osmo-meat.”

On a similar mission, food giant Nestle is working on a way to analyze the level of nutrients in a person’s body and then print personalized food according to nutritional needs and preferences.

3D-printed pumpkin pie. 3D Systems recently added ChefJet into its commercial product line for bakeries and food manufacturers. Right now ChefJet is limited to printing sugar-based products like cakes and candy, but in time it could expand its repertoire to include other food types.

Non-chewy chow down. Cooking for an aging parent or neighbor this Thanksgiving? German company Biozoon Food Innovations GmbH produces a line of foods that is easy to chew but nutritionally dense and appetizing. Biozoon uses real foods—like meat and vegetables—and gels and foams called texturizers to recreate meals that look and taste like the actual foods, but are easy to swallow. Buy the texturizer kits online and then take a one-day molecular cooking class to hone your skills.

Insects au gratin. Wilderness survival 101: Insects are an excellent source of protein. In fact, insects provide 65 to 80 percent protein compared to the 20 percent in beef. But while many cultures embrace our six-legged friends as yummy treats, folks in the West tend to be more squeamish.

Enter British researcher Susana Soares who spends her days pummeling a variety of insects into a paste and using it to print edible 3D objects like butterfly wings or honeycomb structures. Or the Organization for Applied Scientific Research in the Netherlands which is extracting protein, carbohydrates and micronutrients from algae, seaweed and insects to print food that resembles meat or chicken. The organization believes this could be a huge step forward in sustainable and environmentally friendly food production.

Cloned roast. While your holiday turkey may be genetically modified for superior taste and plumpness, it’s not cloned (yet). The structure of birds’ eggs makes the cloning process very difficult for turkeys and chickens. That cut of beef, however, could possibly be the offspring of a cloned animal—unless you shop at Whole Foods or reside in the EU, which just last week passed new legislation banning the use of cloning techniques in homegrown and imported animals.

Test tube turkey. Although a recent Pew survey found that 80 percent of Americans would not eat meat grown in a lab, a slew of biotech food entrepreneurs are on a mission to retrain our minds. To make cultured beef, Modern Meadow uses muscle cells from cattle and a mixture of amino acids, vitamins, minerals and sugars to grow tissue. It then adds a variety of flavors—like teriyaki or barbecue to “enhance” the flavor.

Cognitive cooking, disruptive dining. Prefer to go out for Thanksgiving? No problem. Spanish company Reimagine Food, whose goal is to “rethink the world of food and cooking”, will offer 12 special people the ultimate 3D dining experience at a yet to be disclosed location.

The “Tribute to Complexity” will provide diners with 3D printed architecture, dinner service, cutlery and food. Wearable technology will also be featured, and REEM—a full-size humanoid service robot—will interact with guests.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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