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Posts Tagged ‘Food

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”*…

 

Beef

 

We are on the cusp of the deepest, fastest, most consequential disruption in food and agricultural production since the first domestication of plants and animals ten thousand years ago. This is primarily a protein disruption driven by economics. The cost of proteins will be five times cheaper by 2030 and 10 times cheaper by 2035 than existing animal proteins, before ultimately approaching the cost of sugar. They will also be superior in every key attribute – more nutritious, healthier, better tasting, and more convenient, with almost unimaginable variety. This means that, by 2030, modern food products will be higher quality and cost less than half as much to produce as the animal-derived products they replace.

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. All other livestock industries will suffer a similar fate, while the knock-on effects for crop farmers and businesses throughout the value chain will be severe.

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.

These advances are now being combined with an entirely new model of production we call Food-as-Software, in which individual molecules engineered by scientists are uploaded to databases – molecular cookbooks that food engineers anywhere in the world can use to design products in the same way that software developers design apps. This model ensures constant iteration so that products improve rapidly, with each version superior and cheaper than the last. It also ensures a production system that is completely decentralized and much more stable and resilient than industrial animal agriculture, with fermentation farms located in or close to towns and cities.

This rapid improvement is in stark contrast to the industrial livestock production model, which has all but reached its limits in terms of scale, reach, and efficiency. As the most inefficient and economically vulnerable part of this system, cow products will be the first to feel the full force of modern food’s disruptive power. Modern alternatives will be up to 100 times more land efficient, 10-25 times more feedstock efficient, 20 times more time efficient, and 10 times more water efficient.1,2 They will also produce an order of magnitude less waste.

Modern foods have already started disrupting the ground meat market, but once cost parity is reached, we believe in 2021-23, adoption will tip and accelerate exponentially. The disruption will play out in a number of ways and does not rely solely on the direct, one-for-one substitution of end products. In some markets, only a small percentage of the ingredients need to be replaced for an entire product to be disrupted. The whole of the cow milk industry, for example, will start to collapse once modern food technologies have replaced the proteins in a bottle of milk – just 3.3% of its content. The industry, which is already balancing on a knife edge, will thus be all but bankrupt by 2030.

This is not, therefore, one disruption but many in parallel, with each overlapping, reinforcing, and accelerating one another. Product after product that we extract from the cow will be replaced by superior, cheaper, modern alternatives, triggering a death spiral of increasing prices, decreasing demand, and reversing economies of scale for the industrial cattle farming industry, which will collapse long before we see modern technologies produce the perfect, cellular steak…

A provocative look at the (or at least a plausible) future of food and agriculture. Read the full report here (email registration required).

As to what’s happening in the meantime…

• Undocumented ship-to-ship transfers funnel illegal, unreported, and unregulated fish to market. It’s probably worse than we thought: “Clandestine Fish Handoffs.”

• With a new California Cattle Council now in play, the state’s beef producers will up the ante in research and education: “California cattle producers beef up state’s cattle business” .

• “Eat Less Red Meat, Scientists Said. Now Some Believe That Was Bad Advice

* Hippocrates

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As we dig in, we might recall that it was on this date in 1964 that Teressa Bellissimo, at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York, created Buffalo Hot Wings as a snack for her son and several of his college friends.  Her “invention”– an unbreaded chicken wing section (flat or drumette), generally deep-fried then coated or dipped in a sauce consisting of a vinegar-based cayenne pepper hot sauce and melted butter, and served with with celery and carrot sticks and with blue cheese dressing or ranch dressing for dipping– has become a barroom and fast food staple… and has inspired a plethora of “Buffalo” dishes (other fried foods with dipping sauces).

220px-Buffalo_-_Wings_at_Airport_Anchor_Bar source

 

Written by LW

October 3, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Here too it’s masquerade”*…

 

fake_and_real_guacamole

Left: Fake guacamole. Right: Real Guacamole

 

If you have noticed the guacamole at a taco spot looking and tasting a little more watery than your standard runny, but still rich taqueria guacamole, it’s because it probably never had any avocado in it, to begin with.

What I’m about to share may shock you and may also shake the very foundation for your love of tacos. It may even violate that sacred trust that we all have painstakingly built with our favorite neighborhood taquero, but it must be disclosed. There is a fake guacamole that has very quietly sauced our tacos for who knows how long now. It is a confusingly neon-green, avocado-less crime against taco humanity that no taquero will ever proudly admit to committing…

As avocado prices rise, some Mexican cooks are making a substitution: “Fake Guacamole is Here. The Secret Taquerias Don’t Want You to Know About and How to Spot It.”

* Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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As we aspire to the authentic, we might send brightly-tinted birthday greetings to George Baxter; he was born on this date in 1804.  An artist and printer, he invented the first commercially-viable color printing process.

Color printing had been pioneered centuries earlier in China; but while the techniques spread, they were never capable of printing at a cost low enough to satisfy any but the very wealthiest patrons.  Baxter solved that problem, patented his process, then licensed it broadly.  As measure of how widely color was adopted, it’s estimated the Baxter himself created over 20 million color prints in his lifetime.

220px-George_Baxter_from_family_photograph source

 

Written by LW

July 31, 2019 at 1:01 am

“There is no sincerer love than the love of food”*…

 

French food

 

As the rest of the world had begun to (re)discover their own cuisines and innovate, the French restaurant seemed to be stagnating in a pool of congealing demi-glace.

Elsewhere, places such as Balthazar in New York and the Wolseley in London seemed to be doing the French restaurant better than the French. In France, the old guard of critics and restaurateurs remained convinced that French cuisine was still the best in the world and a point of national pride. The bistros cleaved to the traditional red-and-white checked table cloths and chalked-up menus even as they were microwaving pre-prepared boeuf bourguignon in the back. In 2010, when the French restaurant meal was added to Unesco’s list of the world’s “intangible cultural heritage”, it felt as if the French restaurant had become a museum piece, and a parody of itself.

The perceived excellence of their cuisine and restaurants has long represented a vital part of French national identity. It was too easy to ascribe this decline to a certain national conservatism, complacency and parochialism – facile Anglo-Saxon taunts. The real story is more complicated. The restaurant business always has been subject to changes in society and economic circumstances. Food – what we eat and how we go out to eat it – is constantly evolving, according to trend and time…

French food was the envy of the world – before it became trapped by its own history.  Can a new school of traditionalists revive its glories? “The rise and fall of French cuisine.”

* George Bernard Shaw

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As we ponder prandial progress, we might recall that it was on this date in 1904 (as the Library of Congress notes) that the first ice cream cone was served.

On July 23, 1904, according to some accounts, Charles E. Menches conceived the idea of filling a pastry cone with two scoops of ice-cream and thereby invented the ice-cream cone. He is one of several claimants to that honor: Ernest Hamwi, Abe Doumar, Albert and Nick Kabbaz, Arnold Fornachou, and David Avayou all have been touted as the inventor(s) of the first edible cone. Interestingly, these individuals have in common the fact that they all made or sold confections at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, known as the St. Louis World’s Fair. It is from the time of the Fair that the edible “cornucopia,” a cone made from a rolled waffle, vaulted into popularity in the United States.

Another claimant, Italo Marchiony, actually received a patent in 1903 for a device to make edible cups with handles. However the patent drawings show the device as a molded container rather than the rolled waffle seen at the Fair. Although paper and metal cones were used by Europeans to hold ice cream and pita bread was used by Middle Easterners to hold sweets, the ice-cream cone seems to have come to America by way of “the Pike” (as the entertainment midway of the St. Louis World’s Fair was called).

Randolph Smith Lyon, Mildred Frances Lyon, Mrs. Montague Lyon (Frances Robnett Smith Lyon), Montague Lyon, Jr., eating ice cream cones at the 1904 World’s Fair. Snapshot photograph, 1904.  (Missouri History Museum)

The 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis: site of the national debuts of peanut butter, the hot dog, Dr Pepper, iced tea, cotton candy– and of course, ice cream cones. (source)

 

Written by LW

July 23, 2019 at 1:01 am

“It requires a certain kind of mind to see beauty in a hamburger bun”*…

 

fast food

 

There may be no American institution more polarizing than fast food. Whether it’s wages, health, the environment or those Colonel Sanders ads, the problems associated with the all-American meal inspire lots of detractors. But for many millions, places like McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Steak ’n Shake generate fierce loyalty for their convenience, value, ritual, shock-and-awe menu items and community; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2018 that more than one-third of Americans eat fast food on any given day. As the summer season of road trips and Frosties enters full swing, here are five myths about fast food…

Adam Chandler, author of Drive-Thru Dreams: A Journey Through the Heart of America’s Fast-Food Kingdom, enumerates “Five Myths About Fast Food.”

* Ray Kroc, creator of the McDonald’s franchise empire

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As we chow down, we might send beefy birthday greetings to Rex David Thomas; he was born on this date in 1932.  After rising through the ranks at Kentucky Fried Chicken, then helping to found the Arthur Treacher’s fried fish chain, Thomas founded Wendy’s– the burger chain named for his daughter (whose real name was Melinda Lou, but who was called Wendy, since as young child she couldn’t pronounce her name).

 

Written by LW

July 2, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Where there is power, there is resistance”*…

 

Farage

 

There’s a long history of incorporating food into political protest (Boston Tea Party, anyone?), with written record dating all the way back to the early-’60s CE, when Vespasian, a proconsulate in Africa and a future emperor of Rome, was apparently so unpopular for his economic policies that he was pelted with turnips by the local populace. Although this time-honored tradition has never truly fallen out of fashion, recent years have seen a resurgence in the hurling of foodstuff — particularly eggs, like the one wielded by the teenager known as “Egg Boy,” who cracked one on the head of an Australian politician who blamed immigration for the Christchurch mosque shooting in New Zealand — and now we’ve arrived at milkshakes.

So how exactly does a person choose the perfect food for a protest? Mind you, this isn’t something we recommend you do — lobbing food at someone could constitute battery or assault — but it’s worth considering what makes a good food projectile, whether you’re on the giving or receiving end. Or maybe you’re like us and what you really want is simply to learn

[Following is] a list of historic protest foods, ranked  using the following criteria:

Convenience: How easy is it to acquire and carry this object without suspicion?

Cost: Will hurling this object be the real-life equivalent of the “money with wings” emoji?

Accuracy: How precise of a projectile does this object make, taking into consideration properties like drag, gravity, thrust, and lift?

Messiness: Does the object splatter, stain, or otherwise necessitate cleanup that’s a pain in the ass?

Smell: How much will the physical memory of the act linger in the nostrils, following the target the rest of the day like an unfriendly ghost?

Symbolic or historical resonance: Does the object represent something greater, or reference a long tradition of throwing said object?

Humiliation: While admittedly ambiguous, this last attribute can be summed up as: “You know it when you see it.”…

The ultimate act of dissent? “Milkshakes, Eggs, and Other Throwable Protest Foods, Ranked

See also: “Milkshaking.”

* Michel Foucault

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As we shop with care, we might recall that it was on this date in 1972 that an 18½-minute gap appeared in the tape recording of the conversations between U.S. President Richard Nixon and his advisers regarding the recent arrests of his operatives while breaking into the Watergate complex.

According to President Nixon’s secretary, Rose Mary Woods, on September 29, 1973, she was reviewing a tape of the June 20, 1972, recordings when she made “a terrible mistake” during transcription. While playing the tape on a Uher 5000, she answered a phone call. Reaching for the Uher 5000 stop button, she said that she mistakenly hit the button next to it, the record button. For the duration of the phone call, about 5 minutes, she kept her foot on the device’s pedal, causing a five-minute portion of the tape to be rerecorded. When she listened to the tape, the gap had grown to ​18 12 minutes. She later insisted that she was not responsible for the remaining 13 minutes of buzz.

The contents missing from the recording remain unknown, though the gap occurs during a conversation between Nixon and H. R. Haldeman, three days after the Watergate break in. Nixon claimed not to know the topic or topics discussed during the gap.[19] Haldeman’s notes from the meeting show that among the topics of discussion were the arrests at the Watergate Hotel…

Woods was asked to replicate the position she took to cause that accident. Seated at a desk, she reached far back over her left shoulder for a telephone as her foot applied pressure to the pedal controlling the transcription machine. Her posture during the demonstration, dubbed the “Rose Mary Stretch”, resulted in many political commentators questioning the validity of the explanation…  [source]

Rose_Mary_Woods

Rosemary Woods, attempting to illustrate “The Rosemary Stretch”

 

 

Written by LW

June 20, 2019 at 1:01 am

“It’s all part of life’s rich pageant”*…

 

tshirt cannon

 

There’s an arms race of sorts now taking place in sports arenas. Hence, the Quad.

The Quad is the world’s biggest t-shirt cannon. The massive, four-barreled gatling gun resides in the bowels of the Milwaukee Bucks’ home arena. At some point during each home game, Bango, the Bucks mascot, rides it onto the court like Patton riding a tank into battle. Then he fires off 186 shirts in about 15 seconds, amid a cloud of cryo and shrieks from all the fans wanting something free.

The weapon of mass distraction is the latest brainchild of Todd Scheel, a former wedding DJ and Milwaukee-area businessman who now reigns as the Oppenheimer of arena armaments…

The NBA has invested much more than any other major sports league in “dead-ball entertainment,” or whatever you want to call the sponsor-friendly efforts to keep ticket buyers occupied during game breaks: “How The Milwaukee Bucks And A Former Wedding DJ Won The T-Shirt Cannon Arms Race.”

* Inspector Clousseau, A Shot in the Dark

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As we make ourselves targets, we might recall that it was on this date in 1897 that carpenter and cough syrup manufacturer Pearle Bixby Wait trademarked a gelatin dessert called Jell-O; his wife May and he added strawberry, raspberry, orange, and lemon flavoring to granulated gelatin and sugar.

Gelatin, a protein produced from collagen extracted from boiled bones, connective tissues, and other animal products, has been a component of food, particularly desserts, since the 15th century.  It was popularized in New York in the Victorian era by spectacular and complex jelly molds.  But it was Wait who launched gelatin into the mainstream… where, with some ups and downs, it has remained– though slightly tarnished as a family product by the 1980s advent of Jell-O shots and Jell-O wrestling.  As of 2016, there were more than 110 products sold under the Jell-O brand name.

Jello source

 

Written by LW

May 28, 2019 at 1:01 am

“The great packing machine ground on remorselessly, without thinking of green fields; and the men and women and children who were part of it never saw any green thing, not even a flower”*…

 

beef

 

Cheap beef and a thriving centralised meatpacking industry were the consequence of emerging technologies such as the railroad and refrigeration coupled with the business acumen of a set of honest and hard-working men like… Philip Danforth Armour. According to critics, however, a capitalist cabal was exploiting technological change and government corruption to bankrupt traditional butchers, sell diseased meat and impoverish the worker.

Ultimately, both views were correct. The national market for fresh beef was the culmination of a technological revolution, but it was also the result of collusion and predatory pricing. The industrial slaughterhouse was a triumph of human ingenuity as well as a site of brutal labour exploitation. Industrial beef production, with all its troubling costs and undeniable benefits, reflected seemingly contradictory realities.

Beef production would also help drive far-reaching changes in US agriculture. Fresh-fruit distribution began with the rise of the meatpackers’ refrigerator cars, which they rented to fruit and vegetable growers. Production of wheat, perhaps the US’s greatest food crop, bore the meatpackers’ mark. In order to manage animal feed costs, Armour & Co and Swift & Co invested heavily in wheat futures and controlled some of the country’s largest grain elevators. In the early 20th century, an Armour & Co promotional map announced that “the greatness of the United States is founded on agriculture”, and depicted the agricultural products of each US state, many of which moved through Armour facilities.

Beef was a paradigmatic industry for the rise of modern industrial agriculture, or agribusiness. As much as a story of science or technology, modern agriculture is a compromise between the unpredictability of nature and the rationality of capital. This was a lurching, violent process that saw meatpackers displace the risks of blizzards, drought, disease and overproduction on to cattle ranchers. Today’s agricultural system works similarly. In poultry, processors like Perdue and Tyson use an elaborate system of contracts and required equipment and feed purchases to maximise their own profits while displacing risk on to contract farmers. This is true with crop production as well. As with 19th-century meatpacking, relatively small actors conduct the actual growing and production, while companies like Monsanto and Cargill control agricultural inputs and market access.

The transformations that remade beef production between the end of the American civil war in 1865 and the passage of the Federal Meat Inspection Act in 1906 stretched from the Great Plains to the kitchen table. Before the civil war, cattle raising was largely regional, and in most cases, the people who managed cattle out west were the same people who owned them. Then, in the 1870s and 80s, improved transport, bloody victories over the Plains Indians, and the American west’s integration into global capital markets sparked a ranching boom. Meanwhile, Chicago meatpackers pioneered centralised food processing. Using an innovative system of refrigerator cars and distribution centres, they began to distribute fresh beef nationwide. Millions of cattle were soon passing through Chicago’s slaughterhouses each year. By 1890, the Big Four meatpacking companies – Armour & Co, Swift & Co, Morris & Co and the GH Hammond Co – directly or indirectly controlled the majority of the nation’s beef and pork…

Exploitation and predatory pricing drove the transformation of the US meat industry – and created the model for modern agribusiness: “The price of plenty: how beef changed America.”

* Upton Sinclair, The Jungle

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As we muse on meat, we might recall that it was on this date in 1637 (or nearabouts, as closely as scholars can say) that Cardinal Richelieu introduced the first table knives (knives with rounded edges)–reputedly to cure dinner guests of the unsavory habit of picking their teeth with the knife-points of the daggers that were, until then, used to cut meat at the table (though some suspect that Richelieu was acting in self-preservation).  Indeed, years later, in 1669, King Louis XIV followed suit, forbidding pointed knives at his table; indeed, he extended the prohibition, banning pointed knives in the street in an attempt to reduce violence.

 source

 

 

Written by LW

May 14, 2019 at 1:01 am

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