Fake Meat, Pea Milk, And An Avocado Time Machine: 2016 In Food

Plus a handy reminder to not eat ramen.

What does having a truly balanced diet really mean? Technically, it’s about making healthy choices, avoiding cheap junk, and counting calories correctly. But the world is warming up, and many around the globe are starving. The resource-intensive way that many commodities are made and transported isn’t helping.


Food businesses have definitely recognized that. In 2016, they provided consumers with food that tastes good and is made in good taste. In other words, companies are addressing how managing their own ecological impact and environmental footprint might push everyone to eat even smarter. Consumers now have an array of choices to feed both personal and global health.

Experimental farming is leading that charge. Be it CRISPR’s gene-editing technology that provides a glimpse into the endlessly customizable, bountiful, and resilient array of crops that may soon await us. Or the ambitious rooftop garden and vertical farming projects, “fully closed-loop” settlements reminiscent of Bio-Dome, and, yes, even urban-farming preschools plowing forward.

At that same time, ag startups are yielding surprising (and even oxymoronic) breakthroughs: Vegan steaks! Pea-based milk! Stay-green avocados! Plus, eating such things could make you more attractive! (For men, at least.) Point is, the menu of diverse, litter-free, and even politically subversive options has expanded to fulfill the needs of more socially conscious eaters. You can read more below. As one stomach-churning story points out, even hospital food has been reinvented.


1. This New Neighborhood Will Grow Its Own Food, Power Itself, And Handle Its Own Waste
ReGen Village outside of Amsterdam doesn’t need a grid or food systems. It’s a model for a future, fully closed-loop settlement.

2. Want To Lose Weight? Eat Like These People: More Fiber, More Fat
MyFitnessPal sifted through 4.6 million users to find the ones who lost the most weight, and then compared their diets to the rest of us.

[Photo: Flickr user Elsie Hui]

3. Add Instant Ramen To The List Of Foods That Can Kill You
Are those cheap lunches worth a heart attack?


4. This Pea-Based Milk Is Healthier Than Almond Milk, And Actually Tastes Almost Like Milk
From one of the founders of Method comes Ripple, a nondairy milk that won’t quite fool you into thinking it comes from cows—but is far better for the planet than the milk that does.

[Photo: DebbiSmirnoff/Getty Images]

5. With Litterless Lunches, Canadian Schools Try To Get Parents To Pack Zero-Waste Meals

Just about the only thing that litterless lunches don’t save for parents is time.

6. This Preschool Doubles As An Urban Farm
Kids learn among the plants and animals in this design for a radically different educational environment.


7. The Avocado Time Machine Keeps Guacamole Green
A solution to one major, major first-world problem.

8. This Startup Hires Refugee Chefs To Cook You A Traditional Meal
Eat Offbeat will introduce you to foods you haven’t ever heard of.

9. Engineering A Vegan Steak Even A Carnivore Would Love
A Dutch startup called the Vegetarian Butcher is taking on the fake meat world’s greatest challenge: a big, juicy steak.

[Photo: Max Zerrahn/Getty Images]

10. Hospital Bosses Eat Hospital Food For A Week, Then Revamp Its Entire Food System
Every business executive should be forced to experience their business from a consumer perspective.

11. Why Chicago Is Becoming The Country’s Urban Farming Capital
With a cornucopia of new ag startups, from rooftop greenhouses to high-tech vertical farms, the city’s growing agriculture movement is looking to deliver fresh produce, even in the coldest Chicago winter.

[Illustration: Eric Palma for Fast Company]

12. CRISPR Is Going To Revolutionize Our Food System—And Start A New War Over GMOs
The gene-editing tool could create drought-resistant grain or allergy-free peanuts. Will a society on edge about genetically modified food embrace this newest innovation?

[Photo: Westend61/Getty Images]

13. Men Who Eat Fruits And Veggies Apparently Smell More Attractive To Women
Sweat with higher levels of carotenoids was described by women as “floral, fruity, sweet, or having medicinal qualities.”

14. Bernie’s Yearning— A New Ice Cream Flavor From Ben & Jerry’s Ben Cohen
Break up the top 1% layer of chocolate, and mix it into the 99% of mint ice cream below.


About the author

Ben Paynter is a senior writer at Fast Company covering social impact, the future of philanthropy, and innovative food companies. His work has appeared in Wired, Bloomberg Businessweek, and the New York Times, among other places.