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The Future of Fast Food

In conjunction with our Half-Baked Design Challenge to redesign the Big Mac, we look into some fully-baked projects shaping the future of fast food.

In the latest installment of our Half-Baked Design Challenge, we gave some of our most creative friends 30 minutes to redesign the Big Mac. Their solutions are at once absurd, profound, and probably not the answer to all our problems, so we also rounded up the fully-baked ideas at the forefront of this dollar-menu dilemma.

Sergey Brin's In Vitro Meat

Funded in part by Google co-founder Sergey Brin, the world’s first in-vitro hamburger, created by tissue engineer Dr. Mark Post, debuted in August. Scientists grew the meat in a laboratory using stem cells taken from the tissue of a cow at a slaughterhouse, taking three months to create the 20,000 muscle fibers that made up the burger. It’s not quite at Big Mac prices yet, as the first prototype cost $330,000 to produce. The next step will be bringing costs down and making the patty taste less dry. When the dish eventually comes to market—perhaps in 10 or 20 years—it could make a huge difference environmentally, saving up to 96 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions that producing regular beef emits.

Michelle Obama's Let's Move! Campaign

Launched in 2010, the First Lady’s landmark initiative has been cultivating a generation of eaters to be less reliant on fast food as part of their daily diets by pushing simple solutions such as keeping a bowl of fruit within reach, or getting children involved in planning and cooking healthy meals. The program has also produced toolkits and action plans for community leaders and elected officials to eliminate food deserts and to lessen the dependency on fast food in towns and cities across the nation. Let’s Move! has also piloted the Chefs Move to Schools program, a U.S.-based effort to teach culinary skills to children and to encourage them to explore new, healthy food options.

Kevin Watt's Farmstacker

One of the challenges for restaurants wanting to serve responsibly produced meat is finding it. Chipotle, for example, reported in its second quarter filings this year that one of its primary goals is to serve beef that meets its standards for “naturally raised” meat, but that there just isn’t enough supply. Getting more young, sustainably-minded farmers in the industry can help, and FarmStacker, the winner of a recent Hack//Meat event, aims to do that with a new site that’s a farm-themed mashup of Airbnb and eHarmony. Co-founded by Kevin Watt, FarmStacker hooks new farmers up with underused cheap land on other farms, helping to overcome the giant hurdle of finding space for animals to graze.

Illustrations by Thomas Porostocky

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