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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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September 08, 2015

Can Techies Improve Food?

By Mark Sisson
68 Comments

Technology has improved our lives, whether through the creation of new tools or by upgrading existing ones. Taxis were okay, but Uber and similar car service apps make them better (and self-driving cars will improve upon car service further). Craigslist makes classified ads free and easier to access. E-readers save trees and let people store entire libraries in the palm of their hands. Whereas world travelers used to have to wait a month for their postcard to reach a recipient (with another month for the reply), emails sent from Bangalore to Boston arrive in milliseconds. And perhaps most importantly of all, knowledge has been democratized. You can read anything from almost any time period using a device that fits in your pocket. You can talk to people halfway across the world in real time. Without technology, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do on a daily basis. Using the tools created by tech enthusiasts, I can reach millions of people every day and millions of entrepreneurs are creating new lives for themselves and new services and tools for others.

But are there limits to technological progress? Can technology improve everything?

We’ll find out. There’s talk of a “food revolution” brewing in Silicon Valley, helmed by engineers and entrepreneurs convinced they can do food better than both nature and traditional agriculture.

There’s Soylent, the food replacement shake that promises to render home kitchens obsolete save for dedicated hobbyists and save millions of hours better spent working and “being productive.” They’ve raised over $20 million in venture capital funding and are taking orders for Soylent 2.0, due to ship in October.

There’s Hampton Creek, the food tech startup seeking to replace eggs with plant-based substitutes and make food healthier and safer “for everyone, everywhere.”

Now, I’m not one that thinks pre-made foods have absolutely no place in a Primal eating plan. There are some incredible food manufacturers doing some really useful and important things using only fresh ingredients. There’s Exo, whose cricket bars are raising awareness about how delicious and nutritious insects can be. Heck, I’ve made my own foray into the food world with Primal Kitchen™ Mayo and Primal Fuel. In these cases what’s really provided is convenience without sacrificing quality or nutrition. And for most people these days, when time is so scarce, that’s genuinely worth something. I know that matters to me and I’m willing to pay a premium in many cases. But what’s important is that the food doesn’t suffer. That the quality is maintained. That nutritional compromises aren’t made. And that these foods remain adjuncts to an otherwise healthy diet.

The human brain is this planet’s ultimate technological innovation to date, and we’ve used it to improve food before. Watermelons were seedy, fibrous gourds before we used breeding to expand and redden their edible placentas to encompass the entire interior. The wild ancestor of corn, teosinte, contained only about a half dozen kernels per ear, each covered in a stony, inedible casing. Wild bananas are riddled with seeds and mostly inedible to humans. And generations of human intervention created the delicious, well-marbled wagyu breed of cattle. Our ability to wring edibility out of harsh wild plants and unpredictable half-ton beasts with selective breeding has been a huge boon to us as a species.

But bananas, watermelons, corn and wagyu cattle are still complex biological systems. They are food, and we treat them like it. We’re not trying to break down, catalogue, and reduce them to their constituent parts, transforming them into something barely recognizable.

Should we really “optimize” food in this way? Can we?

Rob Rhinehart, the founder of Soylent, thinks so:

Two years ago today I decided to bet my life on the idea that food could be empirically rebuilt. I theorized that food and the body were reducible and a novel foodstuff could be superior to that which was naturally occurring.

I’m very skeptical. In theory, we can recreate all the possible components of a given food — if we could only identify them. With the relatively infantile base of knowledge we currently possess, I don’t think any engineered food powder will contain all the micronutrients we get from real food.

Infant formula has improved by leaps and bounds over the years. They’ve introduced DHA, prebiotics, various specific nutrients like taurine, inositol, and choline, and played with the macronutrients to get it closer and closer to the real thing. Yet it’s still inferior to breast milk. Now, some time out in the future, maybe we’ll finally pin it down. Maybe parents won’t have to take leave at all. They’ll just strap the kid to the android wetnurse, refill its lab-grown mammary sacs with optimized formula, and head straight back to work. Progress!

But you see my point, don’t you?

Every major time we’ve tried to engineer food, we’ve encountered unforeseen consequences.

Margarine was supposed to improve upon butter. It was worse.

Vegetable oils were supposed to improve upon animal fats. They seemed awesome (cheaper, more profitable, “healthier”) but were worse.

Trans-fats were supposed to replace saturated fats. They looked good on paper but were way, way worse.

We can’t foresee what we don’t know. If we’re constructing our diets using isolated, reduced nutrients, we risk missing out on food-based nutrients we have yet to catalogue or whose importance we have yet to uncover. If we construct our diets using food, we get those unknown nutrients — even if we have no idea we’re consuming them.

Look at all the components that make up a simple banana. People usually cite this image as a rejoinder to chemical scaremongering, but it also illustrates the folly of thinking we can engineer the perfect food by mixing together powdered grains and synthetic vitamins. That is a huge list of “ingredients” in a simple food. Does Soylent include every last component comprising the food it attempts to replace?

And even when it comes to what we do know about what’s in food, Soylent falls short (PDF).

It’s got vitamin K1, not vitamin K2. The latter is the form that protects bone and heart health and which is missing from most normal diets. You can convert K1 to K2 if you have the right gut bacteria, but I’m not sure eating Soylent will support that conversion.

It’s got vitamin D2, not D3. D3 is better-absorbed by humans than D2.

It’s got soy protein, which makes for good vegan-friendly headlines but is of questionable nutritional worth when compared to whey protein, particularly in the context of resistance training and weight loss.

It’s fairly low in protein and the protein isn’t of sufficient quality. You can get away with plant-based protein as long as you’re eating a lot of it and low protein intakes as long as it’s animal-based protein. But lower levels of plant-based protein may not be adequate for sedentary people, let alone active people.

Where’s the prebiotic fiber? The latest (1.5) version of Soylent powder comes in at 3 grams of fiber per serving. Were it raw, the oat flour supplying the bulk of the carbs in Soylent would provide a good amount of resistant starch, but since they go rancid quickly the majority of oats on the market are heated.

It contains no phytochemicals beyond the ones found in the oat fiber/flour and soy protein components. Cocoa flavanols? Nope. Blueberry anthocyanins? None. The founder’s skeptical of their importance in our diets, doubting most “humans in history were even getting broccoli and tomatoes.”

Broccoli and tomatoes aren’t the only plants with phytochemicals. Every plant has them, and every human throughout history has consumed plants. Even historically low-plant food cultures like the Masai and the Inuit regularly consumed wild plants high in phytochemicals. The Masai cooked their meat with anti-parasitic spices, drank bitter (read: tannin- and polyphenol-rich) herb tea on a regular basis, and used dozens of plants as medicines (PDF); the Inuit utilized a wide variety of phytochemical-rich plant foods including berries, sea vegetables, lichens, and rhizomes. They also made tea from pine needles, which are high in vitamin C and polyphenols.

In related news, Hampton Creek has promised to render eggs obsolete and replicate their gelling, emulsifying, and binding culinary properties using specialized textured pea proteins. They’ve got a cookie dough and mayonnaise on store shelves and hope to bring pancake batter and a realistic scrambled egg substitute to market. They talk big, touting their ever-growing in-house database of novel plant proteins they plan to use to emulate animal foods.

I get the motivation. Wanting to save the world is laudable. Trying to eliminate the need for cruel and destructive egg farming is a just cause. But from a health and nutrition standpoint, these aren’t the Eggs 2.0 they and their supporters are hoping.

Hampton Creek’s responses to these interview questions are telling:

When asked about the status of the scrambled egg substitute and whether its nutritional profile was similar to that of actual eggs, they answered only the former (“hopefully by next summer”) and ignored the nutrition question.

In another answer, they reiterate that they’re “not focusing on the strict nutritional details at this time… so even if it is a little healthier, (e..g no cholesterol in your mayo) that is a start.” So that’s “healthier”: a lack of cholesterol. They’ve fallen into the same trap as the Soylent people — failing to realize that nonessential nutrients can still be beneficial. And the failure to mention the choline, vitamin A, DHA, folate, and biotin real eggs provide indicates that those nutrients will also be missing from the egg substitute.

Mostly, they don’t seem to care about the nutritional details. It’s about the environment, or humaneness, or cruelty. But for any food to be a worthwhile caloric source for humans, it must contain adequate micronutrition. If you’re going to replace a source of nutrition as complete as the humble egg, you’d better know what you’re doing.

Those are the two most egregious attempts at better feeding through technology, but they certainly won’t be the last. Again, I understand the sentiment behind both Soylent’s total meal replacement and Hampton Creek’s mock eggs. The techies may very well one day address the issues I’ve raised and the issues that arise in the future, and their current efforts may beat the standard American junk food diet (particularly if you throw in some colorful fruits and vegetables, a bit of liver, some raw potato starch, and maybe some whey protein), but they smack of hubris.

And when your stated goals are the replacement of the foods we’ve used for hundreds of thousands of years to fuel our brains and our cells and build enzymes and endogenous antioxidants and muscle tissue and grow new life inside our wombs, hubris doesn’t cut it.

But the potential micronutrition deficits aren’t even my major issue. My biggest qualm is that eating Soylent (even if it’s got every nutrient we require) or ditching real pastured eggs for some equi-nutritional glop that comes out of a carton and lasts for years in the fridge is missing the point of food. Food is supposed to taste good. It’s supposed to be chewed, savored, and shared with others. About the most depressing communal meal I can imagine is a bunch of 20/30-somethings sitting around together, staring into their smartphones, and sipping Soylent. Optimizing food is like optimizing sex; while I’m sure there’d be a few people interested in a pill or device that produced instant orgasms so they could get back to work, that’d be missing the point entirely. It’s the journey that makes the destination.

They’re trying to solve a problem that doesn’t really exist. Is stocking the kitchen with Soylent a better option than ordering a bunch of pizzas and cokes for your engineers so that they can get back to work right away? Maybe, maybe not. But the vast majority of people look to food not just to sustain their health and provide the necessary calories, but also to bring pleasure to their lives. To create and maintain connections with our dining companions and to do what humans have been doing for millennia: creating, sharing, and enjoying meals made out of raw plants and animals with our own hands.

Thanks for reading, everyone. I’d love to hear from you down below. What’s your take on the techies’ attempts to optimize, improve, and replace real food?

Prefer listening to reading? Get an audio recording of this blog post, and subscribe to the Primal Blueprint Podcast on iTunes for instant access to all past, present and future episodes here.

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68 Comments on "Can Techies Improve Food?"

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Gary
Gary
1 year 19 days ago
*puts on heavy cloak of sarcasm* I say “Bring it on!” If all the people stupid enough to fall for the marketing hype and poor nutritional science behind these products stop buying conventional real food, there will be more space for grass fed cows, pastured pigs, free range chickens, organic “broccoli and tomatoes” (and avocados) etc etc. Supply up and demand will drop and prices will go down. Then we all (that is, those of us in the know that ignore it) get to eat good stuff for less money while everyone else dies early of the unintended consequences of… Read more »
Bel
Bel
1 year 18 days ago

Amen!!!

Erica
1 year 19 days ago

Leave food alone. Planting it in the earth, growing it, and eating it, is a formula that’s worked fine for hundreds of thousands of years.

RenegadeRN
RenegadeRN
1 year 19 days ago

Hard as it is for me to understand, I’ve met people who see food as a necessary, but pain in the butt thing to deal with. WTF? Eating is a pain? Necessary evil?

I will never fully understand that attitude toward food, but it absolutely exits. Kind of sounds like the Soylent creator, eh?

Also, why oh why would you name a product-that is meant to be taken seriously- after the name of a 70’s movie about killing old people to make food?? Remember “Soylent Green”?

Wenchypoo
Wenchypoo
1 year 19 days ago

Let ’em eat batteries!

Gary
Gary
1 year 19 days ago

My wife is like this. She doesn’t “get” eating. She would probably like Soylent.

zach
zach
1 year 19 days ago

Agree completely with the post and the comments. There is still so much we don’t understand about nutrition, micronutrients, phytochemicals, enzymes, etc, and the efforts to reduce food needs to a short list of raw chemicals is absurd. Potentially a GREAT product for emergency food stores, but for everyday consumption? Ah, sorry but no. And who thought of co-opting the absolutely revolting Soylent name which is mostly reminiscent of the “Green” product in the film of a dystopian future??

And now I’m going to spend a few minutes in making an omelet of free range eggs and butter…

Pauline
1 year 19 days ago

Sure do. As soon as I saw the name, soylent, I thought of the movie with Charlton Heston.

More useless food crap being foisted on the public, there’s more than enough land to grow real food and humanely grow animals and chooks for us to eat. Get rid of some of those millions of acres used for growing useless inedible grains, get rid of all the roundup and artificial fertilisers that are poisoning the land.
Grrrrr!

Kathy
Kathy
1 year 18 days ago

First thing I thought of was Soylent Green???? Are they serious. I was waiting for the punch line.

RenegadeRN
RenegadeRN
1 year 19 days ago

Exists* not exits… Sorry for the typo.

Wenchypoo
Wenchypoo
1 year 19 days ago

Thus is the downfall of machines and devices: they cannot taste or touch. All their limited sensory output is reliant upon our input. Unless somebody figures out how to interpret the taste centers on a tongue to a machine or device, we humans will always have the superiority of a sense of taste.

Jaws76
Jaws76
1 year 19 days ago

“It’s the journey that makes the destination.”

I’m on the cusp of 40 and am just figuring this out…

Dootsy
1 year 19 days ago

Wow, Doesn’t anyone remember the old movie Soylent Green. Who would ever name their product, Soylent, with the association that comes with that name.
Putting aside my paragraph above. Real food is the way to go!

Clay
Clay
1 year 19 days ago

They are being intentionally ironic with the name. It’s meant to start of a conversation and be a bit jarring.

Aria
Aria
1 year 19 days ago

Actually, I would totally get behind Soylent Green protein bars. 🙂 That would be hilarious.

ShaSha
ShaSha
1 year 19 days ago

Great post, Mark! Thanks.

I also know a person or two who really don’t like to be
bothered with eating and don’t really get the idea of sharing pleasurable meals with others. Guess that leaves more of the good stuff for us.

Still, I just can’t imagine living in a world where we all get our nutrients from powders. I suppose it will eventually happen, but I’m glad I won’t be around to see/taste it.

Christopher Henderson
1 year 19 days ago
There is an especially large glut of money flowing into the Bay Area right now for tech start ups. Yes, it’s been there for some time now, but in the past several years it has been of particular note. Everyone is throwing crap at the wall to see if they’re accidentally the next “unicorn” (a tech company valued over $1b). With that in mind, unless I see client lists or actual shipments, I assume that most of the talk coming out of companies like this are fishing expeditions for investment. “Why, I’ve solved FANTASTICALLY complex problems before! And, oh my!… Read more »
Merky
Merky
1 year 19 days ago

Mark, I love this post! I have recently fallen for a “shake replacement” scheme and quickly realized how much I miss eating actual food, and how much sitting down to a meal with my husband means to both of us. These companies, and many others are assisting us in our “were too busy for life” downfall, when we really need more people like you preaching to slow it down and enjoy the small things like food (and sex) 🙂

Jessica O
1 year 19 days ago

From a purely scientific aspect I can understand why people are excited about creating these foods. With a world population of over 7Billion, we need to figure out how to feed everyone. However, as has already been posited, these ‘foods’ are nutritionally inferior to the real deal. Ultimately the effects of malnutrition would become evident if these were widely consumed, to the exclusion of nutrient dense, whole foods. I’ll stick with my plants and animals, and the occasional insect based treat.

Nocona
Nocona
1 year 19 days ago

I’m always flabbergasted by scientists that want to figure out how to feed 8 billion people. We need scientists to figure out how to stop the madness of mankind reproducing like a virus.

These companies are just producing more Frankenfoods. Let the Vegans have at it!

Aria
Aria
1 year 19 days ago

The problem is that a lot of the breeding is completely logical. Birth control is inaccessible or too expensive. Diseases and famine are rampant… you need to have eight children just to have a few survive to adulthood.

My thought about feeding 8 billion people though… we won’t. There will be starvation. The world is very cruel sometimes.

Paleo Bon Rurgundy
Paleo Bon Rurgundy
1 year 19 days ago

Bring on the tomacco!

Jack Lea Mason
Jack Lea Mason
1 year 19 days ago
Hubris summarizes these tech endeavors well. These “world changers” are missing the boat. Their focus should not be conococting achemy nutrition. They should be developing technology to produce natural foods more efficiently. I am more impressed by someone who creates a hydroponic vegetable plot on a city rooftop or maintains healthy clutch of bug eating backyard chickens. Spirulina is natural aquatic alge that is processed and repackaged with technology. I would imagine spirulina to be superior to ingestible lab food. It was used as a food source by primal mesoamericans before the lakes were drained for agriculture.
Jen
Jen
1 year 19 days ago
The answer to Mark’s question is a resounding NO, they can’t! This idea that food can be “engineered” is disturbing. Not only does it smack of hubris, but it also smacks of a deeper fear. These guys are control freaks, and life can’t be controlled. Duh. Engineered food nearly destroyed me. I’d like to see what this Rhinehart guy’s health is like after a few years of consuming his ‘Soylent.’ I’d rather support someone like Joel Salatin who figured out how to work with nature instead of against it to get a healthier product. This post reminded me of the… Read more »
CFB
CFB
1 year 19 days ago

This is just angling to feed 10-14 billion people with what comes out of a factory.

Troels Rasmussen
Troels Rasmussen
1 year 19 days ago
Hear, hear! The ideas that you have to be very efficient, and that you need to strive for something beyond what you have, seem to me to be very characteristic of industrial society. It’s fine if food is just something to get over with to get back to something you’re really passionate about, but people shouldn’t be led to believe that being productive in itself is generally such a good thing. Having just spent time in another country, I was negatively impressed by their use of dairy, and a product that is a mixture of skimmed milk, vegetable oil, emulsifiers,… Read more »
Groktimus Primal
1 year 19 days ago

I think these things are a good occasional crutch when you really don’t have the time or food availability to truly eat Primal. We all wanted to be an astronaut when we were kids but Tang and Space Food Sticks (remember those?) never composed a healthy diet and never will (at least during the lifetime of anyone reading this).

RenegadeRN
RenegadeRN
1 year 19 days ago

Ha ha! My aunt and uncle worked at NASA during that time and would bring home “astronaut food” I remember freeze dried strawberries…back in 1968! Poor astronauts.

Dr. Dana Leigh Lyons
1 year 19 days ago
What I find particularly frightening is how much even whole, real foods have changed over the past century (usually as a result of intentional efforts to make things sweeter, more homogenous and less perishable). Jo Robison’s book Eating on the Wide Side offers a highly fascinating, highly disturbing look at this in regards to fruits and veggies. Looking at the differences between isolated compounds and whole foods, there’s a parallel with Chinese herbs. Decocted in their natural state, herbs have numerous compounds interacting in ways modern science has yet to fully understand. Gets even more complex when we put various… Read more »
Steven
1 year 19 days ago

“I’m very skeptical. In theory, we can recreate all the possible components of a given food — if we could only identify them. With the relatively infantile base of knowledge we currently possess, I don’t think any engineered food powder will contain all the micronutrients we get from real food.” — True. However, I feel that natures does the best job in any given situation. The need to make things “better” is a human construct.

Aria
Aria
1 year 19 days ago
This reminds me of a British show I watched, where a fat person and a thin person had to eat each other’s food for a week? Month? Anyway, I remember where the thin person ate nothing but rice with raw garlic. The fat person thought he could eat anything but he met his match with that. He said, “This is food for people who hate food.” Where am I going with this? Things like soylent strike me as food for people who hate food. People for whom food is nothing but fuel. I can’t get behind that… I enjoy food… Read more »
Jack Lea Mason
Jack Lea Mason
1 year 19 days ago

I was under the impression that people in the UK who hate food ate Quorn. Quorn is that fungus derived tofuesque protein mass engineered to taste like chicken.

Aria
Aria
1 year 19 days ago

I think that show was filmed a while ago. Maybe Quorn wasn’t around yet and raw garlic was the thing. 🙂

Gary
Gary
1 year 18 days ago
Unfortunately Quorn has been around far too long in the UK. I wrote to the Advertising Standards Authority 3 years ago to complain at their ads saying you could make spaghetti Bolognese healthier by replacing the meat with Quorn. I suggested that the only thing that could be replaced by Quorn and stand a chance of being healthier was the spaghetti! Unsurprisingly I got a standard response saying there was no foundation to my complaint. Ha! The ASA supporting Big Food, whatever next? And now Mo Farah advertises it. I mean, I applaud his running achievements as much as the… Read more »
Joshua Crosby
Joshua Crosby
1 year 19 days ago
It’s a small, remote point, but I do like to point out the misconception that less paper = saving trees. Paper isn’t made from trees. Paper is made primarily from the brush and undergrowth that grows up in a tree farm around the trees. What parts of the tree do get added to the feedstock for paper would only be a waste product of forestry otherwise. Finally, the trees that are used even indirectly in paper production are planted with use potential in mind. So, without the demand for paper and – more accurately – building products, these trees woudn’t… Read more »
Vanessa
Vanessa
1 year 16 days ago

That’s interesting.

Bob Niland
1 year 19 days ago

Engineering a meal-replacement food that is optimal presumes that we known what an optimal diet is, and we seem to be some decades from that. Then of course it can’t be just one product, as “optimal” is apt to be specific to goals, genotype, phenotype, gender, age, incep status, lifestyle, etc.

But I’d be happy with a decent snack bar that isn’t loaded with junk – something like a Quest bar with vastly more [specific] fats, and no sucralose or corn byproducts in any of the flavors.

Karen
Karen
1 year 19 days ago

I had a Quest bar a couple weeks ago and thought I was going to die of sadness. Think I’ll stick to Epic bars and nuts when I need road food.

Mrs Rathbone
Mrs Rathbone
1 year 17 days ago
“Engineering a meal-replacement food that is optimal presumes that we known what an optimal diet is, and we seem to be some decades from that.” Well said. I collect diet books, and have many from the late 1970’s – ninteties that rail against saturated fats and red meat, insist you MUST avoid coconut oil like the very plague, and same with palm oils, and focus instead on eating as many grains as you can physically choke down. Even CW has relented somewhat on “grains make you thin” and coconut oil gets a green light from the most conservative CW sources… Read more »
His Dudeness
His Dudeness
1 year 17 days ago

My wife’s neurologist sent her home with a nutrition guide for MS patients last time she was in. They seem to have relented a little on the grain front, but any time saturated fat is mentioned, there’s an adjective in front of it (unhealthy). It suggests canola or corn oil as substitutes. If it wouldn’t take up so much of her already short appointments every quarter, I’d go with her to the appointment, and run them through the ringer over it.

Valerie
Valerie
1 year 19 days ago

Soylent does not contain soy protein. Read the label you link to: rice protein and soy lecithin, but no soy protein.

And to other commenters, yes, the name is a tongue in cheek reference to soylent green. It might not be everyone’s favorite type of humour, but is certainly is memorable.

Valerie
Valerie
1 year 19 days ago

Just read the soylent 2.0 notes on the soylent website: its seems they will be switching to soy protein, indeed. My mistake.

Stuart
Stuart
1 year 19 days ago

The person that invents the insta-sex pill needs to be stopped before it gets turned into a product!

Barbara Morris
Barbara Morris
1 year 19 days ago

If you want to be ‘enlightened’ about food manufacturing, read Joanna Blythman’s book “Swallow This”. If you’re not already turned off processed food you probably will be after reading it.

Mike
Mike
1 year 19 days ago
I for one would like the most nutritious and best -tasting food possible. I don’t like linking food to reward though. Hey, if you spent the whole day farming the food, then cooking the food, I can see why it was a big deal. With calories being so cheap and ready, continuing the tradition seems to be unnecessary. I don’t use food as a treat or incentive in my house, but that doesn’t stop me from buying ice cream or chocolate sometimes. Hey they mate well with other foods of the day, just like broccoli does. I also think that… Read more »
Mrs Rathbone
Mrs Rathbone
1 year 17 days ago
Is it really choice these days whether or not to own a mobile phone, though? It seems not – just as it’s no longer a choice not to use the net, when some government business needs to be filed online. And try bringing up your kids to embrace that “choice” – you’d probably get social services investigating you! This is the problem – get the world thinking meal-replacements are the moral, laudable, responsible thing, and it stops being a choice and becomes the expected thing. “Heck, there are 7 Billion of us, and they are willing.” For how long though?… Read more »
Terry Parks
Terry Parks
1 year 19 days ago

Hampton Creek’s target customers aren’t the home cooks – they want to sell to the commercial bakers of the world. That’s why they focus on making an egg substitute that can make good cakes and donuts. The current egg shortage (due to bird flu?) is their opportunity, and they’re going to run with it. This will have no impact on anyone who wants to use real eggs.

Shameer M.
Shameer M.
1 year 19 days ago

Wanna help with the egg shortage? Raise a few chickens in your backyard.

CFB
CFB
1 year 19 days ago

I thought you were joking about the Soylent. Ick.

Didn’t we already discover that vitamin supplements and fish oil capsules didn’t really do anything? Is liquefied food that’s absorbed almost immediately exactly the opposite of how we’re built to absorb food? I know we can get by and live on almost anything, but the whole idea of ‘composed’ food in a liquid form or highly processed form just seems to be another way to put factory food into our faces.

Karl Kelman
1 year 19 days ago

Real Soylent Green was as Paleo as it gets: Nothing contains all the nutrients a human needs quite as well as a human.

Joshua Crosby
Joshua Crosby
1 year 18 days ago

Yeah, but soylent red tasted so much better.

Shameer M.
Shameer M.
1 year 19 days ago

Best thing I’ve read all day!

Laurence
Laurence
1 year 18 days ago

I was horrified a few days ago when I read about researchers (not cooks, researchers!) developping ice cream that doesn’t melt, but this is even worse! I wish they’d just leave our food alone.

Tuba
Tuba
1 year 18 days ago

The chemist in the kitchen has a very poor track record… sweeteners, dyes, transfats, low-fat et cetera… and Apps are usually incompetent. The real problem is people today prefer to rent information in their hand than own it in their head. Which means when the battery goes dead they are empty and ignorant.

Sonja Mcclung
Sonja Mcclung
1 year 18 days ago

They would be far better served to take all that money and work at finding a solution to lesson the cruelty to animals, and find a way to make healthy food at a lower price point. Not to mention spending some time and effort on educating the masses about what really healthy food is. Of course, most of the masses just don’t want to know and there might be a slight decrease in mega profits if you actually do it right. I echo what someone else said above. PLEASE just leave our food alone!

Mrs Rathbone
Mrs Rathbone
1 year 17 days ago
“They’re trying to solve a problem that doesn’t really exist.” This completely sums it up. Let’s look at the “problems” Soylent solves: 1. variable intake of nutrients – gives the same “dose” in every helping. It’s possible our bodies thrive on highs and lows though, including via hormesis, and even more probable that consistant intakes of certain proteins, over time, creates intolerances, which then cause sub-clinical malaise and gut disorders. 2. enjoying a variety of fresh, in-season foods – this “problem” means that if Soylent and things like it ever come to be seen as the “responsible” dietary mainstay, small… Read more »
Mark Lopiccola
Mark Lopiccola
1 year 18 days ago
I really have a hard time putting anything to words that isn’t offensive – this type of thinking galls me so much. I suppose this is the next logical step from bread in a bag and cake in a can. Industrial GOO in a tube! Don’t ask whats’ in it, just eat it. This really seems to stem from people becoming lazy. Too lazy to cook, too lazy to shop… Pretty soon Google will make you too lazy to even drive. Technology seems to be making people lazy. I would hope that wasn’t the intent, but you really have to… Read more »
Marc Verwaerde
1 year 17 days ago
I for one think Tech improves lives as you do seem to think Mark. There are hundreds of entrepreneurs trying to “disrupt” food around the globe, and I think of it as a positive thing. People want to change the status quo. Hampton Creek don’t really want to bankrupt farmers, they want to compete against Helman and other Mayo guys. Fine. I do think all the momentum around Food&Tech should bring more positive than negative things. I believe (this is the purpose of the startup I’m launching btw) that tech can help us cook. Not by inventing yet another fancy… Read more »
Mrs Rathbone
Mrs Rathbone
1 year 17 days ago
The anti-cruelty argument doesn’t wash since most of these things will at some point need to be tested on animals (and those tests are horrific), plus any “oops we didn’t really know what we were doing” moments, as happened with trans-fats and the shift towards a starch-based diet, will create illnesses that then lead to the development of new drugs. Each of these drugs, including the many that don’t make it out of early development, will again be tested by inflicting pain on animals, often not anaethetised at any stage (as with research on IBS & Crohns, the pain is… Read more »
Zenmooncow
Zenmooncow
1 year 17 days ago
Let’s look at the problems “solved” by both products. Soylent – time . Okay but working more hours is proven less effective even when self-imposed. Skipping cooking and or chewing time only feels productive because it’s less effort. This already has a low-tech solution, eat one amazing real food high quality meal a day. Hampton Creek’s eggs . turn low quality cheap mass produced plant proteins into something resembaling a real food. low tech solution : tofu , tempeh. I’m all for making pea , rice and other plant proteins more palatable , but the egg is taken hens own… Read more »
ValerieH
ValerieH
1 year 17 days ago

Very good points, and well stated. I really enjoy Mark’s writing.

Kelli
1 year 17 days ago

Protein bars. Nut bars. Soy powder. Carob extract protein powder. Oh my.

Why can’t people just eat wholesome foods? Though I’ve known many people in my own life who view cooking as a “chore”.

Becky
Becky
1 year 12 days ago

I’m all for innovation but man did Mark hit the nail on the head: we haven’t one-upped nature on any other food “innovation” so why should this be any better? A few people said “hubris”. Can’t think of a better word for it.

Michael
1 year 12 days ago
Mark raises such a great point with this post of concerning and growing issues and confusion that resonates deeply with us. Food is so much more to us than just a way to give yourself “maximum nutrition with minimum effort” (directly from the Soylent site). I believe what a large part of nourishing our mind, body and soul comes from the actual mindfulness of food preparation and the company we share the nourishing moments with. Hunters/Gathers anyone?… So much growing and healing comes from these simple acts associated with food than just the quantitative aspect of what these food tech… Read more »
Michael
1 year 12 days ago

Forgot to note that I do understand and agree that we are certainly facing a global food issue/shortage. However, IMHO, the primary questions/issue to address isn’t how to create cheaper, more easily reproduced food, but rather why and how we waste so much food and what we can do to solve that.

doc
doc
10 months 20 days ago
I’m going to try this to see what happens. I plan to drink Soylent when I don’t have leftover food from dinner. So I expect it will replace 100 percent of my breakfasts and about 50% of my lunches. It seems interesting. If I like it, then I’ll keep doing it. If I don’t like it or get bored, then I’ll stop. Looking at the data so far, I know it’s better than a lot of the food I currently eat. So for me it isn’t a choice between truly primal versus soylent. It’s more of a choice between frequently… Read more »
paula rm
paula rm
10 months 1 day ago

ty <3

John Espey
John Espey
9 months 26 days ago

Steve Case had a great response to Soylent. He points out that the real good work being done by food entrepreneurs involves REAL food. http://recode.net/2015/06/08/the-future-of-food-is-food/

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