Silicon Valley turns to food -- and gets it wrong. The new food entrepreneurs want to be "disruptive." So we'll have imitation egg "products" using plants from Hampton Creek Foods and Chirp Bars made of ground-up crickets. (At least it's a complete protein.)
The food system is "bizarre" and "ineffectual" and "lacking innovation," says the fake egg guy, whose non-egg kitchen contains "30 young (and hip) programmers, marketers and scientists." I have no quarrel with hip, but it's an odd comment, given that the food industry has come up with a large number of innovations, most of them lousy, of course -- like fake butter made from hydrogenated soy bean oil, low-fat cheese and HFCS. The founder of Chirp foods says, "You have to think in terms of scaling, like software, and that's what Silicon Valley brings to the food start-ups." Also odd, given that an obsession with scale has already killed small farm operations and good food.
"While a chicken egg will never change," says the fake-egg guy, "our idea is that we can have a product where we push updates into the system, just like Apple updates its iOS." Hallelujah, food as software! The attitude of both young entrepreneurs sounds like Big Food Redux to me. Margarine and HFCS were certainly "scaleable" -- they were grave errors, too.
Dear Silicon Valley Foodists: I double dare you! Here's a partial list of what would be authentically "disruptive" -- and scaleable, too. Full fat milk in schools. Hot school and hospital and prison meals made with real beef, real eggs, real cheese. No JV basketball team dependent on the sale of HFCS to buy uniforms. Twenty or 30 regional grass-fed dairies serving 10 or 12 regional creameries serving real milk, yogurt, cheese and butter to growing humans. Chicken broth made from older laying hens ("who will never change") for all children and convalescents in every grocery store and corner deli. And for those attention-blessed readers who made it this far: What do you propose for food entrepreneurs?