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How to Pack like a Food Scientist

New Harvest's Isha Datar on lab-grown animal products and her favourite inflight meal.

Isha Datar

Isha Datar is rethinking the meaning of meat. As CEO of the New York-based “cellular agriculture” non-profit New Harvest, Datar and her team have kickstarted an industry where animal products – like ground beef, milk and eggs – can be made from lab-grown tissue cultures and proteins. Now, she’s bringing that knowledge to scientists around the globe. We touched base with the Saskatoon-born, Edmonton-raised wunderkind before she left for New Harvest’s biannual Lab Meet (not meat) in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

What’s your packing style?
I bring as little as possible. I like to coordinate items that I can mix and match, and I have no qualms about repeating outfits.

How is New Harvest changing the way we think about food?
I hope that we’re helping people to consider the impacts of our diets, and to be mindful of how food reaches our plates. Whether it’s from a farmer’s field, a factory farm or a bio- reactor, all food has a story, which we’re opting into with our choices.

When will we see lab-grown animal products in stores?
Oh, this is hard to estimate! Science and research are so unpredictable and non-linear. We’ll definitely see lab-grown milk proteins on store shelves sooner than we will meat products, since it’s easier to produce proteins than living tissue – some say as early as in the next two years.

What are staff lunches like at New Harvest?
Our team is really small, so we often pack our lunches. When we gather with all of our active researchers for our Lab Meets, we’ll go to restaurants that serve new foods, like the Impossible Burger 2.0.

Do you have a favourite inflight meal?
I’m not vegetarian, but on long flights to Europe or Asia I will request a vegetarian meal. And I don’t mind if there’s a little chocolate mousse on the side.


What's in the bag of Isha Datar

01 BACKPACK
I just can’t be a rolling-suitcase person, but this Millican duffle makes me feel like a savvy traveller. Plus, the side laptop pouch makes security ridiculously easy.

02 SNACKS
If I don’t pack my own, I end up opting for Sour Patch Kids and chips. Indian chevda is a protein-rich alternative to pretzels and peanuts, and Haw Flakes and Want Want senbei rice crackers cover my sweet and savoury bases.

03 SWEATSHIRT
I always travel in a sweatshirt. This one is a new favourite by the Vancouver label Priory, co-founded by Eunice Quan, my best friend from kindergarten.

04 SHOES
These Fryes are more like slippers. They don’t take up much room and go with anything.

05 TATTING SHUTTLE AND CROCHET HOOK
I picked up tatting, a form of lacemaking from the 1600s, last year to keep my hands busy and my eyes screen-free. Don’t worry: The crochet hook is on the TSA’s safe-travel list.

06 FANNY PACK
This was a gift from my friends at Superior Elevation Records in Bushwick. I like that I can carry my passport, headphones and travel chopsticks right in front of me.

07 NECKLACE
I bought this necklace at Love Adorned in Nolita a couple of years ago. It’s actually made for women who are pregnant, which I am currently, because the ball makes a tinkling sound as it rolls across the belly.

08 PERFUME
A few years back, my grandma gave me a Ziploc bag of half-filled perfume bottles. This one – I have no idea what it is – is my favourite, and a nice memento when I’m away from home.

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