Bio Design / Critical and Speculative Design / Social Media Art
Designer/Director: Leyu Li
Illustrator: Ola Maslyk
Actress: Maria Alpha
Printing: Zhang Kai
Settings: Chenyue Zhang
Scientific Consultancy: Hoxton Farms
This project explores the potential public reaction to cultivated meat products in the future by introducing a set of fictional cultivated meat products on TikTok. The designed TikTok videos are intended to provoke debates, dialogues, and public discourse on the subject of lab-grown meat as if it has already arrived in our present reality.
The supermarket shelves today are already filled with plant-based meat. Cultivated meat is on the horizon. Currently, plant-based meat alternatives are often placed on a spectrum between plants and meat according to their similarity to meat. People share their plant-based food reviews everywhere and anytime on TikTok. This has made me curious about what reactions the population might have to cultivated meat products of the future. What debates, dialogues, and public discourse will occur when lab-grown meat becomes a reality? How will in-vitro biotech change people’s daily life and food culture?
MAKING THE UNREAL REAL,
INVITING THE FUTURE INTO THE PRESENT
I created a fictional biotech company called “Plant+ Meat-” and developed its brand identity and some discursive props. Delivery boxes and three fictional cultivated meat product props, Broccopork, Mushchicken and Peaf, were designed and created. I created a TikTok account called “Meaty Auntie” and conducted a series of short videos to introduce the three future hybrid meaty plants to the public in order to provoke discussion and dialogue about in-vitro meat and collect people’s feedback.
The reactions were diverse. People really believed it was a reality and expressed concern about this biotechnological development. I received accusations of satire, as well as requests to purchase the products. Surprisingly, even a food institutional manager reached out to ask me to give a commercial talk about Broccopork. Some people recognized the project as a fictional speculative design project. Many other TikTokers reposted and dueted with the videos, amplifying the reach.
I am still receiving notifications on social media and reactions to the fictional products I designed. Broccopork continues to generate discourse online about the future of meat products. So far, videos on TikTok have gained nearly 3 million views and thousands of comments and followers to the account.
SHAPING THE FUTURE OF FOOD
Why “Broccopork”, “Mushchicken” and “Peaf”? These fictional products, developed in consultation with cellular agriculture startup Hoxton Farms, these hybrid meaty plants are a speculation on cultivated meat products in the future. They were designed based on the current capabilities of tissue engineering. The plants’ surface works as scaffolding for the meat tissue cells to grow along their structures. The result is a captured existence of both meat and vegetables in the same product. The cognitive controversy and visual inconsistency stimulate the collision of different discussions and dialogues about meat, lab meat, plant-based meat and plants.
This project invites the future of meat into the present by way of social media to create a virtual space for discussion, reflection, and imagination of the future as if it is already here. These online public debates and conversations are shaping, fueling and navigating our collective imagination of the future of food.