Is It Too Late? You Tell Me!

Listen up ppl, straight talk from a fellow citizen, NOT MSM!

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U.S. Economy Contracted Almost 3 Percent in First Quarter

“The U.S. economy contracted much more than previously thought during the first quarter of this year, revised estimates show. Rather than the 1 percent growth the Commerce Department reported last month, gross domestic product fell by 2.9 percent, the worst performance in five years. That brings total growth down by 3 percent since the government first reported its estimates in April. There hasn’t been a larger difference between the second and third revised estimates in 38 years, the Commerce Department said on Wednesday.”

http://www.nbcnews.com/business/economy/u-s-economy-contracted-almost-3-percent-first-quarter-n140336

We ain’t doing so good! What a goddamn understatement. The American economy has ‘contracted’. Now what does that mean? It means that the American economy has shrunk, declined, dwindled, decreased, got smaller. It means that the American economy is fucked up and ain’t about to get off life support for some time to come. Actually, the plug…

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Brave New Food – New Tech’s attempt to Feed the World

Weather is pummeling our food supply

through droughts, wildfires and the changing climate. Meanwhile, the global population is exploding, so the world needs to produce a staggering 70 percent more food by 2050.

Meet the groundbreaking, though in some cases unsettling, foods that their creators say will aid the planet and change the way we eat.

I. The New Food Rules

Dried crickets taste like dirt something died in. They’re crunchy. They stick to your tongue and teeth in a wholly unpleasant way. The wings are the worst part.

But crickets and other creepy crawlies can be quite palatable, according to a slew of entrepreneurs. “Insects are a beautiful, delicious food,” said Megan Miller, founder of San Francisco-based Bitty Foods, which makes cricket-flour cookies and baking mixes. Miller, 36, has blonde hair, chunky black sunglasses and the self-assured air of a PR pro (she worked in media, with a stint in a pastry kitchen and a study of sustainable agriculture before founding Bitty).

Her job, she said outside of a popular Bay Area coffee shop, is to make insects a “trendy” protein-packed food. “Crickets are a sustainable protein source. They can be farmed much more efficiently than meat and some plant proteins,” she explained. “They don’t need as much land or water,” adding that there are nearly 70 grams of protein in one just cup of cricket flour, much more than almond meal or other grain-free flours. Her high-protein cricket cookies, which taste, well, like cookies, are just a small part of San Francisco’s new food tech scene.

One of Bitty Foods’ first products, chocolate chip cookies made with a high-protein, cricket flour blend. (Credit: Bitty Foods)

In some circles — typically those of the young, affluent and health conscious — the idea of eating insects, or entomophagy, has caught on, fast, spurred on by a 2013 pro bugs-as-food report from the U.N. The only argument against insects as a sustainable protein is the Western “ick” factor, the report said, writing “from ants to beetle larvae — eaten by tribes in Africa and Australia as part of their subsistence diets — to the popular, crispy-fried locusts and beetles enjoyed in Thailand, it is estimated that insect-eating is practiced regularly by at least 2 billion people worldwide.” (The dried crickets previously mentioned were grown and dried in Thailand and shipped to the U.S. through a London-based company, an example of how hard it still is to get human-grade bugs stateside.)

Bugs aren’t the only environmentally friendly food produced in the Bay Area. In San Francisco’s SoMa district, there’s Hampton Creek. The company goal: Create the world’s first plant-based egg that scrambles, emulsifies, bakes, feels and tastes just like the real thing. No small feat for even the most-talented brains Silicon Valley can offer.

Also in the business of plant protein is Beyond Meat, a company headquartered in El Segundo, California, near Los Angeles. The company’s technology was born out of research from Dr. Fu-hung Hsieh and Harold Huff at the University of Missouri. The two scientists created a new method of mixing, heating and pressurizing plant proteins to mimic the fiber structure of real meat, a novelty among soy meat replacements.

Perhaps most controversial of all, innovators in The Netherlands and the U.S. are growing meat in a lab — cultivating real cattle muscle cells that are then “assembled just like you assemble a regular hamburger patty,” researcher Mark Post, of Maastricht University in The Netherlands, told weather.com. “And then basically you just fry it, and eat it.”

These three distinct technologies raise questions about what constitutes “real food” — that 21st-century buzzword popularized by Michael Pollan and the like, to indicate a whole food, nutrition-minded lifestyle. All three technologies also emphasize that sustainable food — not to mention human health and animal welfare — is more important then ever.

“The timeline to act is really now,” Danielle Nirenberg, the founder of Food Tank, a food sector research institute, told weather.com. “It’s to our detriment to think that we have 50 years to solve the issue of unsustainable agriculture.”

What’s about to happen to our planet and our food supply is sobering. There are a variety of factors steering the globe toward crisis.

A concentrated animal feed operation, considered to be one of the most environmentally damaging farming systems. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Geological Survey)

First, sheer numbers. Today, there are 7.2 billion people in the world; 842 million of those individuals are undernourished, according to the U.N. The population is projected to increase by 1 billion over the next 12 years, eventually reaching 9.6 billion by 2050. These additional humans, as well as climatic factors, mean the world will need 70 percent more food, as measured by calories, to feed the world, the U.N. stated in late 2013.

Climatic factors at play include one-off events, such as droughts, storms and wildfires, which have and will continue to destroy crops. Also, a generalized temperature increase is projected to diminish crop yields as early as 2030, according to a review of studies published by the University of Leeds in March.Without productive crops, there might not be enough to feed the world’s livestock, the most resource-heavy food there is. It is also particularly “fossil fuel vulnerable,” Nirenberg said, meaning that livestock agriculture needs to lessen its reliance on fossil fuels in order to thrive.

Future resource shortages aside, food animals are damaging the environment now. They account for 14.5 percent of all human-caused global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.N. Another U.N. study placed this figure as high as 18 percent.

Food animals also use 30 percent of earth’s land surface, according to a 2006 figure. Many of these animals live on land that is protected from erosion through soil best management practices, such as buffers and terraces, which help reduce runoff and erosion. But some of these animals, degrade the ground they live on through overgrazing, compaction and erosion. (When soil is compacted by animal feet, it’s less able to absorb rainfall and increases runoff and soil erosion.)

A 2006 report from the U.N. fingers livestock as “among the most damaging sectors to the earth’s increasingly scarce water resources, contributing among other things to water pollution, eutrophication [the enrichment of water with fertilizers and sewage] and the degeneration of coral reefs,” or reef damage through poor nutrients and decreased sunlight.

On top of the meat already eaten by the developed world, as developing nations become more affluent, they want more meat, “the most resource-intensive product they could be eating,” Dana Gunders, a staff scientist who studies agricultural sustainability for the Natural Resources Defense Council, told weather.com. “When we look at that picture, we’re going to need to find a balance [of] eating the right amount of meat. In the U.S., that means eating less to find a sustainable amount of meat to be eating.”

II. Eating Insects

Meat or no, people need protein, which is where the insects come in.

“This bag by itself, which is about the size of a shoebox, will put out about two pounds of edible meat, which is nutritionally equivalent to chicken,” Andrew Brentano, a founder of Tiny Farms, an edible insect farm production company, explained to weather.com in his Berkeley garage. He was showing one of his company’s “grow-your-own mealworm kits,” mesh bags hanging on PVC-pipe frames, a foot or so high. What he means is that it would be possible to raise a chicken in this space — which gram for gram, has the same amount of protein as a mealworm — but the space is too small to do so in a way that would be humane for the bird.

Brentano’s small, single-car garage (he shares the adjacent apartment with his co-founder and wife, Jena Brentano) holds roughly 100,000 insects. It might be the only garage in Northern California to do so, giving it a peculiar smell, sort of musty, like dirt and even a bit like a cat’s litter box.

Andrew and Jena Brentano with one of Tiny Farms’ grow-your-own insect kits at their Berkeley, California, home. (Credit: Laura Morton)

On an unseasonably warm spring evening, just a few weeks after Tiny Farms started shipping mealworm kits to customers, Andrew Brentano continued his explanation of exactly why a couple in their mid-20s would fill their suburban garage with insects. “Although you could put a chicken in a cage and get the same amount of meat [in this space], you couldn’t create an ethical rearing system,” he said. Beyond sustainability, animal welfare is the other top concern cited by the pro-entomophagy crowd.

Below the bag, which is puffed with nearly grown mealworms, there’s a small amount of what looks like a fine powder. It’s frass, or mealworm waste, Jena Brentano explained. The frass automatically filters out of the bag, a sharp contrast to the billions of pounds of ammonia-rich chicken manure generated every year.

Chicken manure is used as a valuable fertilizer on both conventional and organic farms. But when fields are over-fertilized, combined with improper soil management, they erode. Nutrient-rich runoff then hits nearby waterways, damaging ecosystems and potentially sickening the people who swim or fish in the water. Conventional chemical fertilizers are a massive part of this problem, too.

Insect farmers view their product as a way to offset this damage from both types of farms through lessening the need for such massive agricultural outputs.

In the case of Tiny Farms, its frass filtration system sets its technology apart. It’s a simple, but impactful, improvement on the plastic bins in which mealworms are currently commercially raised. In the United States, commercial bug farms raise food for pets, such as lizards, birds, fish and turtles; these insects are fed foods not approved for human consumption.

With one of Tiny Farms’ bags, you can harvest about two pounds of mealworm meat every 26 days. And meat it is. When dried, the insects are more than 50 percent protein. Unlike other food animals, 100 percent of a mealworm is edible. They taste nutty and dirty, but from experience, they’re easier to eat than crickets because there are no legs or wings to contend with.

Jena Brentano holds a mealworm that was grown in one of Tiny Farms’ mealworm farming kits. (Credit: Laura Morton)

The couple said mealworms are meant to merely supplement the standard American diet. “It’s not that people are going to stop eating meat all together and start eating insects,” Andrew Brentano said. “People like meat. It’s good. It’s good for you if you don’t eat too much of it. But the way we eat meat now is just not sustainable.”

The Brentanos and the company’s third co-founder, Daniel Imrie-Situnayake, 27, have tech and design backgrounds, which they’ve used to create their “open-source bug farms” in part because — believe or not — the demand for human-grade edible insects far outstrips the supply, according to the half-dozen insect entrepreneurs weather.com spoke to for this article.

It’s a boom that has happened just in the past year and a half. Tiny Farms can’t make and ship their farms fast enough. Bitty Foods and other product lines, such as Exo, a Kickstarter-funded protein bar company, have received so much support they were both initially having trouble keeping up with orders. Sourcing and growing human-grade insects is part of the problem, which is where Tiny Farms and other supply companies, such as the Austin, Texas-based World Ento, started by an undergraduate at the University of Georgia, enter the scene. Most product start-ups are also working directly with existing commercial insect farmers to source insects for human eating.Tiny Farms believes entomophagy will catch on, “from the bottom up and top down,” Jena Brentano said. “They’re an inexpensive protein we can incorporate into products instead of whey and soy — that’s the value proposition,” Andrew Brentano explained. “If it can be produced less expensively, and it’s as high quality nutritionally, it will be used.”

On the high end of the foodie spectrum, world-class chefs are interested, too. At Noma in Copenhagen, the best restaurant in the world, according to a recent ranking, they’re already occasionally on the menu. Ants have even been served live.

“In five years, everyone will have heard of eating insects,” Jena Brentano said. “A lot less people are afraid to eat a bug than [you would think].”

III. Test Tube Hamburgers

If eating insects is an ancient answer to the modern protein problem, lab-grown meat — made from the stem cells of live animals — is a solution from the future.

You can’t buy an in vitro burger at your local grocery store just yet. Mark Post, the Dutch researcher, who unveiled his product to the press for the first time in August 2013, estimates they will be commercially available within a decade.

The process sounds mind-boggling, but it is conceptually simple. First, you need a vial of stem cells from an animal. “The most innocuous way is just sticking a needle into the cow’s butt and taking a small piece of muscle out of it. That has a couple of hundred stem cells, from which you can grow thousands of kilos of meat,” Post said. Post is well practiced at explaining his product to in vitro meat novices, but he seems almost mystified at questions on the process’ details, because to him, it is so straightforward. You just harvest, feed, grow, cook and eat your test tube hamburger — easy.

That first burger presented in August cost 250,000 euro (about $342,000), Post said, factoring in all the research and development. With the current technology, price of materials and no automation of the process, a scaled product is currently projected to cost about $65 per kilogram (about 2.2 pounds).

Food technician Peter Verstrate (seated) works in a cultivated meat lab with Dr. Mark Post at Maastricht University in The Netherlands. (Credit: CulturedBeef.net)

Other issues include the fat content and color. Both need to be changed in the current prototype. “You can tweak [the tissue] a little bit, so with the feed that you give to these cells, you can make fat with more polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, so it is healthy,” Post said. One burger currently costs hundreds of dollars to produce. Post and his team are working on a sustainable production and scaling system.

Post’s background is in medical tissue engineering. He worked on blood vessels and cardiovascular tissues grown from human stem cells for surgical use, a cutting-edge technology. When Post was asked to join the cultivated meat project, spearheaded by Willem van Eelen, a Dutch entrepreneur, he said he became interested in its environmental benefit. A survey of the general Dutch population found similar sentiments, he said. Sixty-three percent of survey respondents said they were in favor of the development generally, and 75 percent were “positive or leaning toward positive” on trying it themselves if it were available in the grocery store. But a new poll from the Pew Research Center and Smithsonian magazine found that only 20 percent of Americans feel the same way.

Stateside, the technology is not as advanced. PETA offered a million-dollar prize to any scientist who can create real meat without killing an animal (the contest has expired). Nicholas Genovese, Ph.D., a PETA-funded scientist at the University of Missouri, is converting stem cells into striated muscle cells, but is not producing meat. A company split between Moffett Field, California, and Columbia, Missouri, Modern Meadow, is working to create “supply side” 3D printed proteins from real meat, as well as 3D printed leather.
Modern Meadow’s meat particles are grown and prepared like Post’s. Then the tissue is printed into a familiar, edible form. It’s all very preliminary technology.

Right now, meat production is on hold, and the leather is in prototype phase, the company said. It costs about $10,000 per yard, Modern Meadow founder Andras Forgacs said at a panel event coordinated by VLab, the Bay Area chapter of the MIT Enterprise Forum at Stanford, in February. (Forgacs’ father, Gabor, is the company’s chief scientific officer and tech lead. Like Post, he also previously worked on tissue engineering for medical applications through his company, Organovo.) Neither Forgacs would grant an interview for this article.

Modern Meadow is putting meat on the back burner in favor of printed leather’s more immediate commercial value. But it has unveiled “shelf-stable and food safe ‘steak chips,’” for private tastings and tests, Forgacs said at the Stanford event. “To my knowledge, [the testers] are still alive and well,” he joked. “It’s crunchy. [A] really good tasting snack food product that is actually healthy and doesn’t require killing animals.”

Winston Churchill famously dreamt up in vitro meat in his essay “Fifty Years Hence,” writing, “We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium. Synthetic food will, of course, also be used in the future.” In his view, the pleasures of eating need not be banished, “that gloomy Utopia of tabloid meals need never be invaded.”

Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York University and consumer advocate, with no relation to the Nestle food company, thinks lab-grown meat is exactly that — a gloomy Utopia. She likened the technology to the ’70s science fiction flick Soylent Green, which depicts a world suffering from pollution, depleted natural resources and climate change. The movie is named for the disgusting processed food rations the citizens of this futurescape eat to stay alive.

A Soylent shake, created by software engineer Rob Rhinehart as a way to “free your body” from the need to cook and eat nutritionally balanced food. (Image courtesy of Soylent)

(Interestingly, another start-up, Soylent, is harnessing the film’s name to promote its product positively. Soylent is an all-in-one nutrition shake meant to “free your body” from the biological need to eat solid food, according to the company’s website. Started by a then San Francisco-based computer programmer, Rob Rhinehart, after he felt eating nutritionally was too cumbersome, Soylent comes as a powder containing every essential nutrient the body needs. You just mix the powder with water and an included tube of “oil blend” (a mix of canola and fish oil) to create a creamy, beige shake that tastes like a run-of-the-mill, unflavored protein powder drink. It’s not terrible, but living on the stuff seems unfathomable.)

“These things will never replace real food,” Nestle said in an email on in vitro meats. “They just don’t taste as good.” She added that while she believes less meat would be better for the environment, the rising demand for it in the developing world is an issue.

Post disagreed. “It’s different in people’s minds from a cow that is grazing,” he said. “[But] in the end we produce something that is exactly the same, just through a different route.” This question — what is real, what is processed, what defines the two — is one that constantly crops up during any discussion of food technology. All the innovators in this story call their products “real food,” thanks to their recognizable, GMO- and chemical-free ingredient lists. Whether consumers will feel the same remains to be seen.

Forgacs, for one, likened this visceral negative reaction to the technology to the way consumers once reacted to soy, seitan, tempeh and tofu — plant-based proteins that were once considered fringe in the United States, but are now commonplace. The bug people — Miller and the Brentanos — compared their product to sushi. “[We] saw it take about 25 years for sushi to go from sort of an obscure thing you could only get in San Francisco and Los Angeles to something that’s everywhere,” Andrew Brentano said. “So I think, similarly, insects will probably creep in from the coasts.”

Nestle’s reaction to this: “I hope not in my lifetime.”

Hampton Creek and Beyond Meat are creating foods with more recognizable, familiar ingredients than insects and in vitro meat. Although the companies produce processed foods, they are still “real food” — just in new forms, according to their founders.

IV. ‘Food Needs a New Operating System’

“We really make sure there’s nothing artificial in our product,” Beyond Meat CEO Ethan Brown said over the phone. “It’s all plant-based inputs that go through a heating, cooling and pressure process. If you’re willing to have bread, you should be willing to have this.”

The product is undeniably processed. It is not soy in its natural form. Beyond Meat contains additives (titanium dioxide, dipotassium phosphate) for coloring and flavoring, Kim Hoban, R.D., a New York-based dietician in private practice, told weather.com. “But nothing too controversial or dangerous, especially for a healthy person,” she said.

In the company’s Columbia, Missouri, processing facility, machines whir and hum, mixing the product’s core ingredients — soy protein isolate, pea protein isolate, amaranth, some oil, some seasoning — and then spit out long, thin “chicken-free strips.”

After they’re made into strips, they are then grilled, cut, flash frozen, packaged and shipped across the country. The strips are currently available in Whole Foods, Publix and other chains, with the goal of 5,000 stores by the end of the year.

The machines, which produce tens of thousands of pounds of strips every week, are a compact, simple and clean stand-in for chickens, the plant manager, Varun Singla, remarked. “Animals eat plant protein and convert it into muscle fiber. Dr. Hsieh took the animal out of the equation,” creating a plant protein fiber that mimics animal muscle, he said.

French toast made with Hampton Creek’s Just Scramble, which is a plant-based egg designed to cook (and in this case, carmelize) like a chicken egg. (Credit: Laura Morton)

The chicken-free strips certainly tear and cut like the real thing. The taste and texture are nearly identical, too, when they’re mixed into chicken salad, for example, or hidden in a fajita. Alone, the strips are not an exact match though they are markedly closer than other soy meats. Brown said the technology is continually changing. “The constant focus of our research and development is improving existing products.”

For his part of the puzzle, Hampton Creek CEO Josh Tetrick, 34, is focused on eggs, that culinary marvel that emulsifies and binds like no other food.

In the front of Hampton Creek’s San Francisco headquarters, there is a small army of desk workers, crammed around one large table littered with laptops, iced coffees and iPhones. The top boss doesn’t even have a place to sit, not that he would want one. Tetrick is a flurry of energy, flitting from person to person, pacing around and talking on his iPhone in his Alabama accent.

The back of the room is where the science happens. There, biochemists, molecular biologists, bakers and two world-class chefs, Chris Jones and Trevor Niekowal, who met working at the famed Chicago molecular gastronomy hotspot Moto, work. The scientists pass their latest creations around to other departments for taste testing and cooking. Everyone refines the product multiple times a day.

The goal is Just Scramble, an egg substitute made entirely from a plant — the company won’t say which one — that cooks, tastes and bakes just like a chicken egg. Just Scramble is also wheat, gluten and soy free.

The current prototype is close. The raw eggs are thin, like Egg Beaters. When cooked, and fluffed a bit with a plastic spatula, the texture is pretty much spot on. Just the color and taste need slight tweaks. Right now, the end result tastes bland and slightly plant-y, in the way that tofu doesn’t have a distinct taste.

A prototype of Just Scramble, cooked and plated at Hampton Creek’s San Francisco headquarters. (Credit: Laura Morton)

The company’s plant-based mayo, now in stores, Just Mayo, is made from yellow pea protein. There’s also a soon-to-be-sold product, Just Cookie Dough, made from sorghum. Both of these have it right. The mayo tastes just like the conventional stuff, and the cookies are even better, moister, than typical store-bought fare.

Once the Just Scramble mimicry is 100-percent there, Tetrick’s goal is to bring their product everywhere, cheaper and more humanely than the chicken-involved version. “Good people are doing things that aren’t in line with how they see the world, what’s good for the world, how they want their bodies to be,” Tetrick said. “Our mission is to change that … to create a system in which we’re bringing a healthier, a more sustainable food system to everyone, everywhere.”

Right now, their mayo product is the lowest price per ounce of any sold at Costco, Tetrick said, bouncing up and down on the toes of his sneakers. Just Scramble should be priced below factory-farmed eggs when it hits stores next year, he added. That is the only way to bring real change to the system, he believes. “We see a world in which my dad goes into any grocery store, and he sees a dozen eggs for a $1.50 that come from not always the best places. And then he see something we have for 49 cents,” he said. This proposition works for food producers, too.

Hampton Creek has the backing to make this dream happen, thanks to influential investors such as PayPal’s Peter Thiel and Bill Gates. (There’s a poster of Gates and Tetrick on the wall.) This, as well as the way it approaches product development, gives it the feel of a tech startup/kitchen hybrid.

“If we’re going to feed 9.5 billion people by 2050 in a way that sustains our bodies and the planet, food needs a new operating system,” Tetrick said.

But his food is more than tech, he added. “We’re not doing synthetic engineering. We’re not manipulating DNA. We’re not infusing chemicals into anything … the current way of doing things [in the food system] is the epitome of unnatural,” he continued. “It couldn’t be farther divorced from our concept of nature … so we look at all that, and we think ‘Wow! We need a new way to do this.’”

Nearly all of the food sector innovators weather.com interviewed for this article made this argument: Their way might be new, but it is not unnatural. These new technologies might be even more “natural” than today’s scientifically advanced agriculture with its genetically modified seed, antibiotics and chemical fertilizers.

The best way forward might be a little bit of all these strategies — plants, lab-grown meat, insects, sustainable farming practices and a less wasteful system from top to bottom. As Nirenberg, of Food Tank said, “The food of the future should [help] people to be able to afford not just calories, but nourishment, the vitamins and micronutrients we all need to live healthy, developed lives.”

To some, these solutions are unsettling. But to others, they are simply an eater’s way to save the world.

Credits

Story written and reported by Annie Hauser

Edited by Laura Dattaro and Kevin Hayes

Annie is the health editor of weather.com, where she covers all the incredible ways the natural world can impact public and personal health, through violent storms, seasonal allergies, viral pandemics and much more. Click here to follow her on Twitter.

Photography by Laura Morton. Additional images courtesy of Beyond Meat, Bitty Foods, Soylent.me, David Parry / PA Wire, the Cultured Beef Department at Maastricht University in The Netherlands and the U.S. Geological Survey.

DO NOT FAIL TO READ: A Follow-Up to “The flu is not the flu” . . . The public needs to what the FDA has been doing to ban the production of essential IV solutions and to shut down compounding pharmacies . . .

Ppl if you care about your own health and those of your loved ones, please take some time to read this, it just might save your life!