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We are on the cusp of a disruption in food and agricultural production (rethinkx.com)
154 points by satchet 12 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 156 comments





> By 2030, the number of cows in the U.S. will have fallen by 50% and the cattle farming industry will be all but bankrupt.

There's an impressive lack of humility here. Predictions are hard, particularly about the future. I challenge the authors to construct a longbets.org wager on the above. I wonder if spelling out verifiable details and putting a significant amount of cash on the line would soften their certainty a bit. If the terms of the bet reflect the assurance in the executive summary I'd be willing to take the other side of it.

Even if they're completely accurate about the benefits and the economics, I think they're greatly underestimating the canalization of human food choices.


This is where I stopped reading. How can somebody claim to be on the cusp of disrupting a market when they evidently don't understand the consumer? Nutritional equivalence will not bankrupt the cattle industry.

I'm too lazy at the moment to look up a link but fast food restaurants are already adopting these faux-beef burgers and people love them.

The thing is that the faux-beef burgers are good, but different. I don't see them as being a beef replacement as much as another choice of food available. Many fast food restaurants offer other options beyond beef, like chicken, pork, and fish burgers. People also love those options, but beef remains a viable industry regardless. The faux-meat industry has a lot of potential to be viable, but it is not clear why that it is at the cost of another industry. There is room for both.

That's not even technically an anecdote, let alone data, but here's a more accurate description of what's "already" happening: A vanishingly small fraction of fast-food restaurants are taking small steps to experiment with offering faux-beef burgers as an additional menu option for the small percentage of their customers who might want that.

In the cold light of morning...

Here we go: https://www.nbcnewyork.com/entertainment/the-scene/Plant-Bas...

> A number of fast-food chains have introduced plant-based meat alternatives in recent months, partnering with meatless companies Beyond Meat or Impossible Foods.

> They are reacting to consumers' increased appetite for those foods: from April 2018 to April 2019, the plant-based retail market has registered 11% growth, according to data published on the Plant Based Foods Association website.

- - - -

Or this: https://www.starherald.com/news/nation_world/impossible-burg...

> Impossible Burger debuted on store shelves earlier this month, immediately becoming the No. 1 product sold at some of America’s favorite grocery stores -- and remaining the top performer ever since.

> Since its Sept. 20 debut, Impossible Burger has remained the No. 1 packaged item at Gelson’s 27-unit chain. Since its launch, Gelson’s has sold more Impossible Burger than all types of ground beef from cows, based on both revenue and total number of pounds sold.

> “No one could have predicted this level of pent-up demand for Impossible Burger,” said John Bagan, Gelson’s Chief Merchandising Officer.

- - - -

I think we are at the base of the "hockey-stick" curve and that meatless meat is about to eat beef's lunch.


I highly doubt your last paragraph. Meatless would have to be clearly better on at least one axis that matters to customers, and not significantly worse on any other axis. I don't see that happening.

(And don't bother to say "no animals harmed". That isn't an axis that matters to customers of beef.)


The value of the US plant-based meat retail market is still less than 2% of the value of the US animal meat retail market. I think it would be incredible if this were the base of the "hockey-stick" curve, it would fundamentally transform what agriculture looks like in the United States; but there are a lot of reasons to think that growth will slow substantially before the two markets are even in the same ballpark.

I’ve had the impossible whopper. It was fine. I didn’t hate it. I didn’t love it. I also probably won’t buy it again because there isn’t really any reason to.

How about if it cost half the price of the regular burger?

Eating less meat is enough reason for me, so if I somehow end up at a Burger King, I would quite probably buy it. (Note that I plan to continue eating meat, just less of it.)

yes, but i doubt that cost-parity alone will get people to stop eating meat. there has to be more than that. the popularity of these alternatives is an indicator but not everyone primarily eats burgers.

there is also still the general problem with all processed foods being less healthy than naturally grown foods...


From the report:

> The cost of proteins will be five times cheaper by 2030 and 10 times cheaper by 2035 than existing animal proteins

This is about more than nutritional equivalence. The meat in a burger is usually the most expensive component so artificial proteins could lead to a reduction in the price of a burger by approximately 5x.

Also, naturally grown food means different things to different people. As mentioned elsewhere in this discussion, much of the naturally grown food we consume now is produced in a vastly different way than it would have been 100 years ago, sometimes to the detriment of nutritional value.


A farmer friend of mine opines: "organic just means bugs have crawled over it before you eat it"

The rise of veganism, mostly on ethical grounds, shows that nutritional equivalence may in fact be a minority concern, and that the ethics of "cruelty-free" eating supercede all nutritional concerns.


I’m not big on organic produce per se, but the other side of that argument would be non-organic just means your food has been lathered in chemicals that the insecticide industry puts a lot of money into “proving” isn’t carcinogenic and destroying the food chain in other ways.

It’s easy to see bugs, it’s not so easy to see or ever know the externalities of invisible chemicals.


Put another way, “organic means a bug was able to crawl over your food without dying”.

If the bugs eat the crops, there isnt any crawled over food left.

I like that. I'll tell him when I see him next :)

I think the cost will decline rapidly while the quality (in general and in how closely it resembles real meat) will increase. Even if people prefer to eat animal flesh the economics will drive mass consumption to faux-meat, IMO.

> there is also still the general problem with all processed foods being less healthy than naturally grown foods...

Yer preachin' to the choir: I'll never eat these franken-burgers for love nor money.


I saw lots of talk about the meat industry, not a word about dairy. (Admittedly only read the executive summary.) I've seen quite a lot of this over the past year or two: Lots of "we're going to end cattle farming" when all they're really talking about is beef. Industrial dairy operations are horrible: carbon intensive, noisy smelly and cruel, but I don't see anyone claiming to have synthesized dairy replacements, and without that, the cattle business is in no serious danger.

If anything, the large and fairly mature market of dairy replacement (soy almond milk etc) shows how crazy this article is on meat. I've been vegan myself, but to think just because the market now has an alternative to an animal product that everyone will stop using the animal product is crazy.

The dairy replacement market, while mature, doesn't do a very good job of competing directly with the dairy industry. Non-dairy milks cost easily twice what the dairy milks do.

It's not even possible to buy a gallon jug of soymilk. They simply don't exist.


No snark intended, but the article mentions "dairy" four times.

Addendum: Actually, you might be talking about the discussion here, rather than the article...


While I don’t disagree with the sentiment of the report, I do question its credibility. They don’t cite their sources, but do make bold claims with broad statistics and buzz words.

Looking into the authors, they don’t lack credentials, but it seems like they’re newsletter and report writers, not people who are putting skin in the game to back their claims.

First impression: be skeptical of “the Seba Technology Disruption Framework™“, named after the founder, but open to a change in opinion.

Does anybody have experience with these guys? I could be way off!


try looking at the linked report, it has about 116 references.

money! money! money!

very few of the citations are scientific in nature


Did you not read the actual report?

I know that "did you not read..." comments are normally (rightly) down-voted, but in this case I think it's a reasonable question.

The article makes a number of bold claims, without citing evidence. This is only acceptable because it's a summary of a larger report which _does_ cite evidence, but the presentation of the page doesn't make this as obvious as it could. It would be quite easy to skim-read the post, observe that there are bold un-sourced claims being made, and fail to notice that the full report is available to download.


Thought the same thing; sounds like marketing copy

No experience with them. I think they might just be riffing off some trends that may be emerging now and projecting them out. I’ve definitely wondered at this disruption as well. I think it’s a good avenue to supplant protein production with more environmentally friendly processes.

I guess we'll never learn from things like margarine and other lab invented foods. Beyond Meat is heavily dependent on seed oils which are terrible for us (expeller pressed canola oil is ingredient #2). Red Meat actually isn't unhealthy at the levels most people currently eat it. While it wouldn't surprise me if more people ate Beyond meat and its ilk in the future, it doesn't make it better for us and will likely just make us sicker.

https://annals.org/aim/fullarticle/2752326/effect-lower-vers...


There is no consensus that seed oils are "terrible for us". Though as in all things nutrition it's easy to find a fringe voice that claims a position. Canola is considered a fairly healthy oil, obviously in moderation. Some fear-monger about hexane extraction however the Beyond Meat burger expressly uses pure pressed canola with no chemical extraction.

Having said that, by far the overwhelming position on the "non meat burgers" is of environmental/reduced animal suffering positions. I've seldom (actually never, thinking about it) heard it pushed for health reasons.


Is canola oil pressed without chemicals? I can't find anything about that...

Fast food has never been a cornerstone of healthy living, and I reckon few people eat hamburgers at home.

The real benefit, in my mind, is not removing the staple treat of fast food from the market, while vastly reducing our need to farm red meat.

I would posit adoption of plant based diets "under the hood" of fast food (and hopefully restaurants) is one of the easiest, most effective ways of dramatically reducing red meat consumption. This has an enormous impact. Most cropland is used for livestock feed, and 1/3 of ALL US LAND is used for pasture.

This is why a plant based diet is on the top 10 ways to fight global climate change (4. Plant-rich diet), and starts to remove incentives for slash-and-burn agriculture (5. Better tropical forest health). Growing a lb of meat requires significantly more land, water, (and therefore fertilizer, etc), than the equivalent macros from plants.

"That is, even if nothing about our energy infrastructure or transportation system changed—and even if people kept eating chicken and pork and eggs and cheese—this one dietary change could achieve somewhere between 46 and 74 percent of the reductions needed to meet the target. "

https://getpocket.com/explore/item/if-everyone-ate-beans-ins...

https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2018-us-land-use/

https://www.drawdown.org/the-book

Next we should tackle ethanol (1/3 of corn yields go to ethanol).

Any "well it may not be better for you" argument against this approach does seem to ignore that we believed red meat was bad for you for decades and we still spend so much of our resources growing red meat.


"I reckon few people eat hamburgers at home."

There are a lot of choices for hamburger in the grocery stores I go to. Both fresh ground meat, and frozen preformed hamburgers. Have you looked? Someone must be buying them.


Fair dues, that was dumb.

Not many people like to talk about this point because it seems off mode but those things made me quite sick. I was disappointed because I’m always in for a good burger no matter what it’s made with. (Don’t extrapolate that on me please!)

There were several threads on r/vegan that spoke to the same symptoms, but with only vague guesses to the cause—like the oils.

There is a lot of hubris displayed in the world of nutrition when any scientists I’ve spoken to in the research (rather than product) space seem to conclude that there isn’t enough known about the complex interactions that occur in our bodies when we eat a “whole” food utilizing the variety of compounds and their structured forms/proportions to say whether or not we can realistically and safely just supplement them yet. I’ve always been told, sure go ahead and supplement but just eat the food as well. Just don’t over eat. And eat mostly real food, shy away from processed stuff.


I haven't heard of any kind of (edible!) oil acutely making people ill. Why is that the assumption with Impossible Burgers?

Well by definition things that make people ill aren't regarded as edible. Technically castor oil is edible, but you shouldn't consume it.

What’s wrong with oils though? And if canola is bad why can’t they switch it out for olive oil?

Olive oil is not that good for you, and most importantly, it burns at really low temperatures, and ends up tasting horrible when it happens.

Why respond with begging the question and then bringing up something totally irrelevant?

Olive oil doesn't have trans fat, is low in omega-6 (unlike seed oils), has a high ratio of monunsaturated fats to saturated and polyunsaturated fats, and has a bunch of vitamins and antioxidants as well. It's pretty much the healthiest fat in existence.


That's actually very incorrect and misleading. Olive oil, expecially extra virgin olive oil, can withstand higher temperatures than sunflower, peanut and the like. IIRC the smoke point for EVO is around 210C. You could literally fry in olive oil, it's just too expensive to do so.

Where are you getting your data from? I'm an avid cook and have always thought EVOO to be a low smoke point oil, especially compared to something like peanut oil.

I did a quick search and found this: https://www.seriouseats.com/2014/05/cooking-fats-101-whats-a...

which suggests that EVOO has a relatively low smoke point compared to sunflower and peanut oil.

I'm still open to other numbers though, since I'm not sure what study if any these numbers come from.


I've exclusively fried stuff in EVOO all my life. I fill my deep fryer with EVOO. It's perfectly fine.

You could literally fry in olive oil, it's just too expensive...

Depends on where you are. If in the USA, maybe it is, and be prepared for much worse: Mr. Trump is threatening with 25% minimum tariff for our oil. Funny that it's some kind of retaliation for Airbus, while Airbus finally will be spared. In the bright side, it should be even cheaper for us.


They could use avocado oil. It has a smoke point of 500F. Should be fine for searing.

That's patently false. There is no proof whatsoever that olive oil is not good for you. Every study on extra virgin cold pressed olive oil shows it is associted with increased longevity. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17879997

The low temperature smokepoint scaremongering for olive oil has been debunked: https://health.usnews.com/wellness/food/articles/why-you-sho...


Canola is super cheap which is one way they can keep prices low.

Most seed oils in the Western diet come from fast food and the fryer which increases the chance of lipid oxidation.

We need both omega 3 and omega 6 but the Western diet is so heavily skewed towards omega 6 that it's killing us.

https://chriskresser.com/an-update-on-omega-6-pufas/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4808858/


What is your source that margarine is more unhealthy than red meat? And what do you mean by "healthy" anyway?

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-truth-abo...

The worst type of dietary fat is the kind known as trans fat. It is a byproduct of a process called hydrogenation that is used to turn healthy oils into solids and to prevent them from becoming rancid. Trans fats have no known health benefits and that there is no safe level of consumption.

There are trans fat free margarines now, but historically margarine have been a tub of trans fat.


Margarine is poison. Margarine is not food.

Animals, insects, mold or bacteria, will NOT eat margarine.

It's not even digestible.


Red meat is a likely carcinogen and processed meat is a known carcinogen.

Oils in general, even extra virgin olice oil are not health foods (which is a common misconception).

Beyond burguers are not healthy, they are junk food. Plant-based junk food, but still junk food.

If people are looking to learn how to eat healthy, the science say's its whole food plant-based. Don't eat plant extracts like oils, you need to eat the whole thing.

Eat peas and not pea protein isolate, eat olives and not olive oil. And so forth.

Just because something is plat-based does not make it healthy, Oreos are plant-based for example. Does anyone think they are healthy?

It's about the perception of the public on certain foods, that is very hard to break as its built on decades of conditioning via advertising and pop culture.


username scotch_drinker :/

Beyond Meat has never claimed to be a healthier alternative to meat and it's a bit of a straw man to comment like they did. I also don't see many margarine induced illnesses or deaths. Everything is fine in moderation.

> Beyond Meat has never claimed to be a healthier alternative to meat and it's a bit of a straw man to comment like they did.

Not sure why you'd think that's a straw man when they explicitly state it on their website. First sentence on their Products page:

"Imagine your favorite meaty dishes like burgers and tacos delivering the juicy, delicious taste you know and love, while being better for you and the planet." [0]

[0] https://www.beyondmeat.com/products/


Marketing speak is almost always going to be dubiously credible. It definitely can be made more healthy than red meat in future revisions of the recipe. But it’s undoubtedly better for the planet than to be “raising” and killing cattle for red meat. You don’t need 660 gallons of water to make plants for 1 pound of beyond burger like you do for one pound ground chuck.

Well, and, technically, if the world can survive longer and have better water, because of a shift in how we make food, then yes, it's healthier for you too - even if you don't eat it!

Yeah, as a desert dweller, I’m not entirely happy with the farmers nearby using our already scarce and diminishing water to raise cattle.

Looking around I see examples like this everwhere, where the science seems to be rapidly advancing new approaches and techniques which will feed, cloth, transport, teach, and entertain billions of people in ways that are more economical and ecological.

Examples like these are why I'm convinced that environmental impact reduction and ultimately rejuvenation is possible without massively disrupting life as we know it.

It would be great if governments could better align taxes and incentives for the development and real-world deployment of these technologies, but they seems to be progressing quite well even in a maximally dysfunctional political environment.


It’s also important that whatever we invent, we gift them to developing countries so that that they orient their country’s development towards a sustainable path without having to go through the carbon hungry middle stage.

I'll believe that when our CO2 output per year stops accelerating (never mind when it actually starts shrinking!)

CO2 emissions have been falling in the US for over 10 years: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenhouse_gas_emissions_by_th...

That page needs some love - this page has more recent and comprehensive data https://www.c2es.org/content/u-s-emissions/

I don't even care if they're wrong. It's just good to hear people starting to say hopeful things again.

I totally agree! It’s like we’ve been in a dystopia since like 2010. Ok more like 2006. Or 2001...

Silent Spring was published in 1962.

That seems counterproductive to achieving an actually better outcome.

Life... finds a way.

Someday, we'll hit a Malthusian bottleneck that we can't innovate our way out of, presumably. However, to date, every time disaster looms, something occurs that kicks the can down the road. It makes it very difficult to take seriously the endlessly repeatedly claims that the world as we know it is coming to an end in the short term - the result of such hysteria seems to be to induce a lot of self-righteous and largely pointless churn, while unheralded technology quietly solves the crisis du jour without fanfare.


No idea why you're getting downvoted - this is perfectly true.

I guess because people secretly long for the world to end. Rapture, Climate Change, nuclear armageddon, AIDS, Y2K, Peak Oil, take your pick. It's been a constant of life in Western civilisation for the last 50 years at least. There has never been a period in my life when there hasn't been some impending catastrophe that was going to destroy life as we know it.

I would blame the media - and that is definitely part of it. But the media only does this because we lap it up. Something about human psychology loves this idea that we're in the End Times.


Maybe it's the function of development levels we've reached? It's only in the last 60 years that we've reached a level at which we can cause a man-made Armageddon. In the "boy crying wolf" story, the wolf eventually came.

> Peak Oil, Climate Change

Makes more sense if you consider this (and other related scares) as symptoms of the same phenomenon, which shows no sign of stopping.

Let's talk about how we're going to innovate ourselves off the exponentially growing resources -> consumption -> trash pipeline we're running. I don't see much happening that would address it.


Mostly agree. However:

>In the "boy crying wolf" story, the wolf eventually came.

... and what would have helped the boy was if he hadn't been crying wolf unnecessarily.

As marcus_holmes points out there always seems to be something.


Agenda-setting in politics seems to require some amount of crying wolf, paradoxically.

> It's been a constant of life in Western civilisation for the last 50 years at least.

A little longer than that. E.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apocalypse

The difference is we didn't have nuclear weapons, genetic engineering, chemistry (for chem weapons), etc. We could actually do it now.

"We are as gods and might as well get good at it."


It's interesting that the psychology remains the same, even when there was no actual danger.

I think it's a concomitant aspect of civilization itself. I mean, it's only what? 12K years since we started living in towns, right? Despite it's advantages civilized life kinda sucks in general. I think people long for the pre-civilized "Golden Age" and that's the underlying root of the apocalyptic longing for the world to end.

(I'm not saying that pre-civilized life was an actual Golden Age, just that it satisfied us on a deep biological level in a way that urban/civil life doesn't.)


Addressing `marcus_holmes`'s initial prompt in the sibling comment - Malthus simply had no clue what he was talking about.

I'm curious how one is attracted to precision "chemically engineered" food. As I am gaining interest week by week in consuming foods in their most natural form, I want the opposite of what this article claims is "the future" (I'm a vegiterean too, it's not an animal VS impossible burger thing for me).

What am I missing here to be excited about a future of custom fermented food products?


What would you say if you knew 50% of European produce never saw soil, and was instead growing on top of some chemical "water"? Disruptive "scientific" companies are buying high-quality cheap soil in Eastern Europe and impregnating top layer with their experimental chemical ingredients, leading to prediction the soil will be written off in 20 years; it survived thousands of years, reaching top quality, yet some get-rich-quick companies from Netherlands and Denmark destroy it within a single generation, while shouting "we are green" to their investors. I can't wait until these companies manage to disrupt the whole food production that we end up with famine.

I would like to more about this can you give me a few links for further reading about this?

A guilty conscience concerning global warming?

People who don't want to personally change their lifestyle seem to frequently look for "magic" solutions at the societal level, often overlooking logic fails in the scenario that is being painted. It's like they imagine if the whole world changes, then I don't have to. Or something.


Isn't that exactly what technology enables? Ways of living and solving problems that were previously impossible with little to no additional effort from the actual consumer?

If the whole world changes, your life changes with it, often in ways you didn't anticipate.

If you want to keep eating like you currently eat and this prediction comes true, then you have to put in additional effort to try to keep doing the same things.


Yeah, I see now what you're getting at.

Not always.

The shitshow of American agriculture is due to the technological wonders that moved most vegetable production to the California desert and the over utilization of the Midwest aquifers.

Most of our sustainable east coast growing areas are subdivisions now.


Sure. There are always unintended consequences. In some cases they outweigh the benefits.

(Quoting:) > Isn't that exactly what technology enables?

'Ways of living with no additional 'customer-effort' ?'

Yeah, I see now what you're getting at.

^^


I'm very sympathetic to this argument, but it's really hard not to imagine this article being monologued by a supervillain while Bond is being lowered into a lava pit.

The reduction in land could be even higher if the energy for the fermentation is produced by non-biological means. That is, instead of feeding the bacteria plant-derived compounds, feed them CO2, water and electrical energy. Photovoltaics are an order of magnitude more efficient than photosynthesis, can operate in places and times plants cannot grow (deserts, below freezing conditions), and require negligible amounts of water.

at sea

I dont think this is correct, food contains many trace elements and things we need that we dont fully understand.

Even slightly changing the natural feed of an animal we eat dramatically changes the quality and nutritional value.

thinking that you can so dramatically change the production (and only produce one part of a food - one of the proteins) all the other elements we need are lost.

It sounds like a recipe for malnutrition.


I am highly skeptical of what this piece is claiming. I doubt it will be as radical as what industrialization did to agriculture a 100 years ago.

I also doubt that it will be 5 times cheaper for the consumer. When you include all the costs, not just productions, but government incentives and environmental costs for examples, one might claim that it will be socially cheaper, eventually... One can hope. It will also be easier to transport the system to another planet.

But, this is very speculative, and the 5-10 years milestone is very very optimistic and probably takes into account some fairy magic dust here and there.


Meh.

The hippies were right.

Eat food your grandmother would recognise.

Eat it as unprocessed as practical.

Eat a lot of it raw.

But I bet where people have no choice (in prison, public hospitals, schools, on food stamps...) it will become compulsory.


Or how about the billions more people we will have in the coming decades? Population growth in the global south in addition to crop destabilization due to climate change will be a crisis. This is one possible solution.

Eating "real" food may end up a luxury for most.


Not sure why are downvoted, You have made some valid points

It sounds like the real solution is to stop making babies.

Past experience shows that this does not happen until countries reach a certain level of wealth. We'll get there as a planet eventually.

"Eat food, not too much, mostly plants."

My grandmother didn't live to 70.

Neither did mine, but she both smoked like a chimney and ate garbage. That seems to be common.

Yes, but isn't it predicted that the average life expectancy of the current generation will be less than that of the prior generations?

Probably many factors involved, but a 5 second search yielded "Life Expectancy Drops Again As Opioid Deaths Surge In U.S."

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/12/21/5720803...

So maybe just stay away from the opiates when you eat your raw broccoli.


While I think it is good to create inexpensive healthy high protein foods, I also think we should have a fair free market for people who want to continue buying real meat, organic foods, non GMO foods, cheap foods produced with GMO and petrochemicals. Free choice and a free market, with strict accurate labeling laws is what I want.

For sure. I mean, claims like:

> The impact of this disruption on industrial animal farming will be profound. By 2030, the number of cows in the U.S. will have fallen by 50% and the cattle farming industry will be all but bankrupt.

This is ridiculous. I'm not going to stop eating beef because of the availability of cheap weird unproven lab-grown protein. I might try the latter, maybe feed it to my pets, but as long as I can reasonably afford to eat real meat, I'm going to do so.

The market that will suffer most is probably going to be the non-GMO organic stuff you mention, because it's already that much more expensive than the cheap stuff, so it will be even harder to justify for most folks, esp. if the lab-grown replacements get endorsed as being Healthy by the right Authorities on the issue.


You might be not factoring in how long of a time 10 years will be.

Do you ever eat at Taco Bell or McDonalds? Their beef is pretty much flavored soy at this point. Most consumers aren't going to be "knowingly" apart of this shift, I feel.

Citation?

"McDonald’s hamburger patties in the U.S. are made with 100% USDA-inspected beef. They are cooked and prepared with salt, pepper and nothing else; no preservatives, no fillers."

From: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/mcdonalds-100-beef/


The angle is more on the lackluster taste than any concerns composition, I believe.

No I do not!

> fair free market

If we had that there wouldn't be so much meat in the first place. Currently, each year, American taxpayers subsidize the animal food system to the tune of $38 billion.


And...

> inexpensive healthy high protein

Most people don't know how much protein they should actually be eating [0]. And while they're focusing on "high protein" they fail to understand the need for "high fiber". The Western diet focused on proteins isn't doing us any good in the long run by using the majority of our farm land for feed crops. And then we've been told eating chicken [1] 7 days a week, twice a day is "healthy". What Canada did by boxing out big agriculture and regroup their dietary recommendations is impressive by making it evidence based and not lobbyist driven [2].

[0] https://www.health.harvard.edu/diet-and-weight-loss/when-it-...

[1] https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article-abstract/110/1/24/5494...

[2] https://www.cbc.ca/news/health/canada-food-guide-healthy-eat...


The problem with the free market is that mass starvation can perfectly be a market optimal, of all the things that are subsidized, food is the most important.

There are many ways to prevent starvation without heavily subsidizing animal agriculture.

Good point, and it is probably even more than $38B in subsidies.

We already have the resources to feed the hungry. A third of all the food produced is thrown out.

The problem is how we distribute it. Systemic change is the only thing that can address this problem in a meaningful way. Efficiency is great but producing more when we already have enough is completely missing the issue at hand.


I used to work in the food distribution system, and regularly witnessed entire dumpsters full of perfectly good food being destroyed.

Consumers, as usual, are the key to changing this. We'd have to change the eating and shopping habits of an entire generation to change this.

Changing the system won't work without changing the way we think about food and food shopping.


Can you write some detailed stories of what led to those dumpsters being destroyed? I think there's not a good understanding of what leads to larger-scale food waste.

For instance, I've seen a few people online pitching "ugly produce" startups. But what prevents Campbells Soup and Jamba Juice from buying all the ugly fruit/veggies?


The distribution food chain in the UK (and I assume the EU) requires all refrigerated food to be between 0C and -5C (iirc - this was a while back) for the entire journey. At least once a week a truck would turn up with a fridge problem that caused the temperature to go above 0 for over 5 mins. We would dump the entire lot. The food was perfectly good, it was still frozen, perfectly edible, and the warehouse guys regularly snatched their lunch from it. But unsuitable for public consumption.

Orders were often mis-placed or fat-fingered, and too much food would get delivered (or too little, but that's another story). Sometimes the stores would accept an over-delivery and allow it through, most times not, so it got destroyed.

Food deliveries to our centre had a specific 15-minute window. If the vehicle arrived outside that window, we would try and accomodate it if we could, but often couldn't. In extreme cases the truck would not be unloaded and have to return to the producer. Sometimes they took the food back with them. Sometimes they dumped it at our place and went back empty, because it would go out of date before it could be re-delivered.

The saddest case I saw: a supermarket chain buyer found an artisan cheese producer in Wales who was making amazing cheese. The buyer set up the contract, the artisan bought a van to deliver the cheese to us. But no-one told them the specs. They turned up in a nice little refrigerated van, when all our docks only accepted articulated trucks. We couldn't handball the produce without exposing it to ambient temperatures, so we couldn't accept delivery. Poor sod had to drive back to Wales with a van full of unsold cheese that was going out of sell-by date and was packaged in <supermarket chain> packaging. I expect most of that was destroyed.

This was one interaction in an entire distribution chain. Every interaction was this leaky. And that didn't count the final stores who (as everyone knows) routinely destroy perfectly edible food that has reached its sell-by date.

There have been initiatives to get this edible food to people in need. All of them run into the legal problem that you cannot serve people food that has passed its sell-by date. It's perfectly edible, but if someone gets food poisoning after eating it then that's on you, and there's no way of dodging that liability. People in poverty have a right not to be poisoned.

The "ugly food" thing is a product of EU legislation (in the UK anyway). I was amazed when I moved to Australia at how ugly the veggies are ;) I'm pretty sure that the ugly food gets sold at a lower price to food manufacturers (as you say).


> Global food loss and waste[1] amount to between one-third[2] and one-half[3] of all food produced.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_waste

Start here?

https://duckduckgo.com/?q=food+waste+story


None of those sources tell me what marcus_holmes has personally witnessed.

No, but they speak to your statement, "I think there's not a good understanding of what leads to larger-scale food waste."

Keep in mind: logistics and product-market fit are both hard problems.

Sometimes they sound like smart words used to deflect people from the issue that some products and services shouldn't be on the market if they waste so much of their inputs. There needs to be extra pressure applied to reduction of waste all across the supply chain.

As others mentioned, this reads more like a PR piece than a research claim.

More importantly, the health benefits claim has been debunked before: https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/impossible-burger-or-b...

> The challenge here is that these offerings aren’t actually any healthier. The Impossible Whopper, for instance, not only has comparable caloric and fat levels as its meat-based counterpart, but it has more salt per serving; the Del Taco options are comparable. The Impossible Slider has more calories, more fat and more sodium than the meaty original (before you add cheese to either).

The salt content is significantly higher and protein sources are ultra processed, which we have ample research to show that ultra processed foods have adverse health effects.

The environmental claims appear more straightforward, but we don’t need to engineer our food to drastically reduce impact - simply switch from beef to chicken.

“No question chicken is a fraction of beef’s carbon emissions and it likely has the lowest carbon footprint of any animal protein,”

Source: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/06/choos...

In short, we don’t need to wait until 2035 to cut our overall food carbon footprint in half. Better yet, let’s include more unprocessed vegetable sources and eat less animal protein all together. (I know... not going to happen)


You are assuming that fat and sodium are unhealthy.

I suggest the real health problem of beef could be a particular carbohydrate (Neu5Gc) that non-human mammals have Impossible Burgers would avoid this.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N-Glycolylneuraminic_acid


Did you also not read the 90 page research paper on the topic that was linked on the page?

Do you have a source on how "Processed" clearly relates to adverse health effects.


I'm worried that these new constructed foods will be lacking in components or structure in a way that our natural selection created digestive system is poorly optimized for, leading to mass malnourishment.

Surprise! Current food is deficient in many ways, and not what our digestion is optimized for.

The opportunity is, to create foods that better match what we need. Instead of eating the random cow we fixed on for our modern meat supply.


My first reaction was, "Wait - world food supply is about to be disrupted?"

Then I realized "disruption" was meant in the marketing sense. This is why I read the comments first.


I almost didn't click on the link because I didn't care to read another depressing prediction of imminent doom —- so I was pleasantly surprised to see the report was about an optimistic disruption.

While beef is an easy target, we are able to produce chicken at an incredibly low price per gram of protein.

Many people have a guilty conscience over how we achieve that incredibly low price. That will be a strong motivator.

It always boggles my mind how cheap chicken is now. A whole chicken, grown, fed, slaughtered, prepared, roasted, and ready to eat at the supermarket for a few dollars.

Color me skeptical about these bold, precise and seemingly unsourced confident assertions.

Prediction is very difficult, especially if it's about the future.

-- Niels Bohr


Many comments here by people who would have said the iPhone was impossible, or Tesla could never succeed. Or that the iPhone is actually bad or a Tesla is actually bad.

Not a lot of facts though. Such gleeful negativism in our gene pool.

"Just because you don't know how to do something doesn't mean you can't."


The author had me till they said "This is the result of rapid advances in precision biology that have allowed us to make huge strides in precision fermentation, a process that allows us to program microorganisms to produce almost any complex organic molecule."

Is there anything on the market now that uses this technique?


Yes - this is how impossible foods makes the heme protein which is central to their burger tasting "meaty". There are tons of startups working on this for other food products, but it's well established in other industries. Many pharmaceuticals are produced via synthetic biology, for example.

And xanthan gum, another example of this general process (perhaps without the "programming"), has been around since the 1960s: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xanthan_gum

Just don’t let it go near infants apparently. Holy hell! https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Necrotizing_enterocolitis


Something like this? https://solarfoods.fi

I love the optimism in this. Just hope "intellectual property" and corrupt politicians will not fuck this up. Unfortunately the latter is very likely to happen here in Germany. Our pork industry for example is abhorrent.

This all sounds great I hope they're right

I don't understand why we would need to synthesize proteins. My understanding is that the body breaks proteins down into amino acids and then builds them into the proteins it needs. So could we just ingest amino acids? Would they be simpler to synthesize than proteins?

Finally with Food-as-Software, world is eating the software.

The purpose of this article is food deregulation advocacy. If you thought unregulated sugar was bad, just wait.

I like the idea of returning pasture etc to forest and bush, but where will the raw materials for food manufacture be sourced?


Feel free to beta test that new "food". Ill stick with real animals thanks.

Even as those animals destroy the ecosystem?

Wouldn't the correct buzzphrase be "Food as a Service" not "Food as Software"?

They certainly make bold claims and some cites sure would help to convince me as to their claims.


Food as a Service is basically a restaurant; known for millennia and does not sound disruptive enough.

This reeks of theranos level obfuscation. It’s exactly the kind of investor-speak you use when trying to separate fools from their money.

i think this approach might work well to replace milk, juices, pulps, and possibly some ground/processed meats etc.

It will take much much longer to replace a good steak, ribs, a crisp apple, etc


Food production will continue to get cheaper, while food quality will continue to worsen. We are rapidly approaching a future of "let them eat cake" where the non-wealthy subside on fake food.

Too much rant, too little if any data and facts.

If that happens the numbers of starving and diseased livestock will be a significant issue.

More disruption? Seems normal now;)

filthy



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