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People in flying cars don't eat real seafood

Meat alternatives are not science fiction; they are a hot food trend that has implications for seafood.

The Jetsons was an American TV cartoon show that originally ran in the early 1960s. It showed a futuristic version of the world in which there were flying cars, happy-to-please robots and every imaginable gadget to make everyday life as convenient as possible – including eating.

The Jetsons family -- George; his boy, Elroy; daughter, Judy; Jane, his wife -- all had a funny way of eating -- they generally got all of the nutrition they needed from synthetic food from a machine or by swallowing a pile of pills.

No match for a nice surf and turf, but so be it.

Is this the path we are on?

What got me thinking about the Jetsons and their futuristic eating habits was a story we posted last week about a company working on growing salmon and other meats in a lab.

Meat alternatives are not new but interest in them is growing rapidly and so is investment in companies developing these products.

In the story we posted, the company, Wild Type, attracted $3.5 million (€2.8 million) in investment. Another company, Impossible Foods, recently raised $114 million (€98 million). Tyson Foods, the largest meat producer in the United States, was part of a $55 million (€44.8 million) round of investment in Beyond Meat, which now has products in over 11,000 US stores, including Walmart, Target, Whole Foods, Kroger, Safeway, Publix and Sprouts. Tyson also invested in Memphis Meats, another meat-substitute manufacturer.

The makers of plant-based tuna, Ocean Hugger Foods, were showcasing their product at this year's Boston seafood show, offering, perhaps, a glimpse of what is coming.

We aren’t at the Jetsons scenario yet, but clearly the idea of food is changing, and what that means for seafood suppliers is largely yet unknown.

It seems to me that as food -- especially meat -- moves further and further down the convenience/nutrition continuum, it will likely move further and further away from being food in the traditional sense -- i.e. from animals.

A shifting mindset is seeing the raising of animals and all of the associated environmental impacts as something unsustainable, given population growth and climate change.

We are constantly reminded that a growing global population will challenge our ability to feed humans properly in the future. Where will animal meat -- be it beef, pork, chicken or fish -- fit in?

It's a big question, but worth thinking about now before flying cars are in your garages and synthetic salmon is being dispensed from your FoodTronic 2062 machine.

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