Technically Food

We instinctively favor real food, but this author’s book has our attention:

The inside story of the paradigm shift transforming the food we eat, and the companies behind it.

Eating a veggie burger used to mean consuming a mushy, flavorless patty that you would never confuse with a beef burger. But now products from companies like Beyond Meat, Impossible Foods, and Eat Just that were once fringe players in the food space are dominating the media, the refrigerated sections of our grocery stores, and, increasingly, the world. With the help of scientists working in futuristic labs––making milk without cows, and eggs without chickens––startups are creating wholly new food categories. Real food is being replaced by high-tech.

TECHNICALLY FOOD: Inside Silicon Valley’s Mission to Change What We Eat (Abrams Press; U.S. $27.00; Hardcover) by investigative reporter Larissa Zimberoff is the first comprehensive survey of the food companies at the forefront of this booming business. Zimberoff questions the mania behind today’s changing food landscape to uncover the origins of these mysterious foods and demystify them. These sometimes ultra-processed and often secretly produced foods are cheered by consumers and investors because many are plant-based—often vegan—and help address societal issues like climate change, animal rights, and our planet’s dwindling natural resources. Can these products also be good for our health? 

TECHNICALLY FOOD examines the trade-offs of replacing real food with technology-driven approximations. Chapters go into detail about algae, fungi, pea protein, cultured milk & eggs, upcycled foods, plant-based burgers, vertical farms, cultured meat, and marketing methods. In the final chapter Zimberoff talks to industry voices––including Dan Barber, Mark Cuban, Marion Nestle, and Paul Shapiro––to hear where they see food in 20 years.

As our food system leaps ahead to a sterilized lab of the future, we think we know more about our food than we ever did. But because so much is happening so rapidly, we actually know less about what we are eating. This book will arm food lovers with the right questions as they navigate the supermarket aisles.

Quoted in The Economist, Cows Are No Longer Essential for Meat & Milk, October 2021

As seen in Front Burner in the New York Times.

As seen live on ABC News PrimeTime Live.

Interview with Kate Krader for Book Passage.

READ SOME OF THE REVIEWS:

Ben Wurgaft wrote in the Los Angeles Review of Books: “Larissa Zimberoff, in her admirably skeptical book Technically Food: Inside Silicon Valley’s Mission to Change What We Eat, describes the contemporary food-tech nexus, surveying a wide range of startup companies, mostly based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She interviews dozens of entrepreneurs, encountering them at tech conferences or in the warehouses and labs where they try to grow the future. She hears their pitches and then examines those pitches to see if they survive close scrutiny.”

Publisher’s Weekly wrote: “Zimberoff excels at making complex issues accessible, and she leavens her survey with dashes of dry humor . . . . Anyone curious about the future of food should give this a look.”

Q & A in The Nation: “We’re in the midst of a huge food experiment, she writes, one that is being overseen and engineered by New Food—her catch-all term for the numerous food start-up companies that have emerged in recent years to invest in lab-made solutions. Technically Food gives us a peek at the early results, which indicate that New Food is not too dissimilar from the industrialized food industry we know now.”

Air Mail wrote: “Technically Food reads agreeably and pluckily, like an extended New Yorker–style dispatch from Silicon Valley.” Read the review.

Science wrote: “The reporting behind this book is masterful. I was constantly pulled along by ideas about the food system that I had never considered.”

 

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