美軍研發「戰鬥披薩」 放3年仍可食用 【2014/2/14 21:58】
美國陸軍位於麻薩諸塞州實驗室的研究團隊，鑽研了近兩年的時間，終於開發出不需冷藏、冷凍即可保存3年的「戰鬥披薩」。任職於美軍實驗室研發工程中心的 理察森（Michelle Richardson）表示，之前研發即食披薩一直無法成功，原因在於披薩上的番茄醬、起司及餡料在保鮮上極為不易，不過，現在他們已成功克服保鮮問題， 延長披薩可在常溫下保存的時效。
目前，美軍實驗室研發「戰鬥披薩」，已經進入最後階段，即將準備投入量產。不過，這款披薩究竟口感如何，目前還沒有任何大兵親嚐過這款食物的滋味，但根 據實驗室負責人貝茲（Jill Bates）試吃了最終版的「意大利辣味香腸」口味後表示，「除了比現烤的披薩濕潤了一點，口感沒那麼香酥之外，跟一般的披薩沒什麼兩樣」。
Why Silicon Valley wants to hack the food industry
Can you make mayonnaise without eggs or meat without killing? Tech firms and investors believe they can transform food the way Apple changed phones
"The egg is this unbelievable miracle of nature that has really been perverted by an unsustainable system," Tetrick, a former Fulbright scholar, had explained to me earlier on our tour of the Hampton Creek Foods facility, a well-lit, cavernous space with rows of lab tables, red couches, and chalkboards.
Mod warehouse, hip startup, vegan eggs – it all struck me as a little too precious for the big time. But Tetrick is adamant that his product has a market beyond this rarefied universe. "We're not just about selling and preaching to the converted," he says. "This isn't just going to happen in San Francisco, in a world of vegans. This is going to happen in Birmingham, Alabama. This is going to happen in Missouri, in Philadelphia."
I let the eggless mayo dissolve in my mouth like a truffle. It tasted exactly like the real mayo that I've slathered on sandwiches countless times before. If I hadn't known that it was fake, I never would have guessed.
Over the next five years, Hampton Creek Foods, backed by $3m from Sun Microsystems cofounder Vinod Khosla's venture capital firm, will first hawk its product to manufacturers of prepared foods such as pasta, cookies and dressings – the processed products that use about a third of all the eggs in the United States. The goal, Tetrick explains, is to replace all factory-farmed eggs in the US market – more than 80bn eggs, valued at $213.7bn.
Beyond Eggs isn't the only fake-food startup in Silicon Valley. In the last couple of years, venture capitalists, including Bill Gates and the co-founders of Twitter, have been pouring serious cash into ersatz animal products. Their goal is to transform the food system the same way Apple changed how we use phones, or Google changed the way we find information.
Sounds a little grandiose? Food industry experts think that Tetrick and his ilk might actually have a shot. According to the market research firm Mintel, some 28% of Americans are trying to consume fewer meat products. Patty Johnson, a Mintel analyst, believes that this group, manyfollowing doctors' orders to cut cholesterol, will be game to try meat substitutes that don't require them to change their recipes. "Products that can mimic chicken the best will do well with that group – the reluctant vegetarians," she says.
If there's a TED talk gene, Tetrick has it. A former sustainability associate for Citigroup, investment law adviser for Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and White House intern under President Clinton, he has bright eyes, tanned arms and wiry hands that constantly pantomime his words. When Tetrick pitches Beyond Eggs, he begins with a story about how most US eggs are produced by birds pumped full of corn, soy and antibiotics in giant rows of cages. "Female birds are packed body to body in tiny cages so small they can't flap their wings," he says. "They never see the sunlight. They never touch the soil."
Tetrick is a vegan, but "as a company, we're not about starting a conversation about whether you shouldn't eat animals or you should eat animals," he explains. Regular people should be able to eat what they want without guilt, he says.
To that end, Tetrick's two engineers, six biochemists and 11 food scientists are on a single-minded quest to hack the egg and its 22 functional properties – foaming, emulsifying, coagulating and so on. Their workshop is more laboratory than kitchen; among its host of moisture and texture analysers is a piston that measures the springiness of a muffin.
It all begins, says Megan Clements, Tetrick's former director of "emulsion innovation", with powdered protein isolate, also commonly used in veggie burgers and energy bars. "Our processing isn't any more intensive than chickpea flour that you might buy from your local organic grocery store," Tetrick says.
That's not exactly true. Tetrick estimates that over the last two years his team has looked at the molecular weight of nearly 1,000 plant proteins. His biochemists will buy pea protein isolate, for example, and run it through gel electrophoresis, a method also used in DNA analysis, to find out whether that protein can mimic the way an egg white foams up. The next step is processing – essentially putting the isolates through a mill with very particular specs for heat, speed and pressure. He can't tell me too much past that without getting into patented secrets, but he says that the more gentle the processing, the better.
Tetrick's product has already fooled some key testers. Eight months before my tour, at a high-profile Khosla Ventures investment conference, Beyond Eggs staged a blind tasting of its blueberry muffin and a real-egg version. Tony Blair (who acts as an adviser to Khosla) reported that he couldn't tell the difference. Neither could Bill Gates – who was so impressed he became an investor in the company. Last March, Gates featured Beyond Eggs, along with a fake-meat company called Beyond Meat (no relation) and salt-substitute maker Nu-Tek Salt, in an online presentation called The Future of Food. In it, he enthused: "We're just at the beginning of enormous innovation in this space. For a world full of people who would benefit from getting a nutritious, protein-rich diet, this makes me very optimistic."
Like Beyond Eggs, Beyond Meat is trying to replicate fully the experience of eating animal products: it currently makes imposter chicken strips and soon plans to move on to artificial ground beef and pork. Backed by Obvious Corp, the investing team launched by Twitter's cofounders, as well as Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (one of the first venture capital firms to invest in Amazon and Google), Beyond Meat sees itself as part of the transition to a future in which "meat" can mean hyper-realistic plant substitutes. Beyond Meat's chicken-free strips are sold at Whole Foods and are set to hit conventional supermarkets this year.
"We call it 'transformative agriculture,'" explains Amol Deshpande, a general partner at Kleiner Perkins. Beyond Meat is the first food company Kleiner Perkins has funded, but Deshpande says the firm is expanding: "There are going to be 9 billion people on the planet to feed. We have to think more broadly." Indeed, Beyond Meat calculates that its process is 55 times more efficient than beef farming when it comes to land use, and 18 times more efficient than raising poultry.
If making imposter eggs for use in mayo and muffins is a challenge, creating fake meat that actually feels and tastes like muscle is much harder. Herbert Stone, former president of the Institute of Food Technologists and a member of the first Apollo space mission's food science team, remembers encountering this dilemma around 1963, when he began helping companies develop soy-based extenders. Since then, Stone says that he has consulted for three or four fake-meat companies and has seen 15 or 20 (he won't say which ones) whose products have failed over the years. Current clients looking to perfect fake meat include several Chinese manufacturers
The biggest challenge, Stone says, is that it's almost impossible to replicate the mix of protein and fat found in animal products. The fat in meat provides flavour, and heat from cooking changes the protein to create meat's distinctive texture. Soy protein, on the other hand, is fat free. "The problem always was that it didn't taste like a burger," Stone says. "When I would talk with companies about this, I'd ask: 'Why do you want to create an imitation and call it that? Why not just create a product and call it something else?'" But food marketers didn't want vegetable patties or soy croquettes – they wanted to sell burgers. A product that is genuinely indistinguishable from meat, though, might be a different story, and Stone believes that Beyond Meat just might be able to pull it off.
After sampling its southwest-style chicken-free strips, I tended to agree with Stone's cautious optimism. They really did taste startlingly similar to what I remember from my pre-vegetarian days. There was a tissue-like resistance – I could tear off strands that felt like muscle.
The lifelike texture is the result of nearly a decade of tinkering at the University of Missouri, where Beyond Meat's lead researcher, Fu-hung Hsieh, found a way to put soy and pea proteins through an extruder to realign them into fleshlike strips. Like Beyond Eggs, the Beyond Meat team uses a combination of heating, cooling and pressure to break the proteins' molecular bonds and put them back together, but the complex sequencing of that process is what Beyond Meat claims separates its products from dull fake-meat patties already on shelves.
"If you're comfortable with how bread is made, you'd be comfortable with how our product is made," Ethan Brown, Beyond Meat's founder and CEO, told me. But he wouldn't go into specifics about his company's energy balance sheet – this information, he said, is proprietary. That lack of transparency is part of why some foodies dismiss meat substitutes in favour of sustainably raised real meat. "I think it's a big can of worms," Will Turnage, the creator of Carv, an online platform that helps users figure out which farms, slaughterhouses and packers their supermarket meat came from. "What I worry about is, OK, we're going to create an egg substitute, and then 10 years down the road, we're going to realise there's some unknown effect," Turnage says.
True, there's a little more chemical complexity to the raw materials for fake eggs and meat than what goes into a loaf of bread. Commercial soy isolate, for example, is commonly produced by bathing soybeans in a chemical compound called hexane, whose emissions are a main component in smog. Soybean processing accounted for 42% of hexane emissions catalogued by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2011. Small amounts of hexane have also turned up on some soy products – a troubling finding, since it's a known carcinogen and neurotoxin. The US Food and Drug Administration doesn't regulate hexane, and it's unclear how any residue might affect consumers, but there are other risks too: In 2003, for example, hexane was released during routine maintenance at an Iowa soybean plant. The resulting explosion killed two workers
Tetrick's Hampton Creek Foods doesn't use soy in its egg products, but Beyond Meat lists it as a primary ingredient in its chicken-free strips. "Hexane is not part of Beyond Meat's recipe or production process," Hilary Martin, a company spokeswoman, told me in an email. But Martin confirmed that Beyond Meat buys soy protein isolate from DuPont-owned Solae, whose Illinois plant released 281,000lb of airborne hexane in 2011, according to the EPA. Martin said that Solae provides Beyond Meat with data that shows no traces of hexane on the protein isolate. When I asked Brown whether he was concerned about hexane, he called the residue complaint "a red herring". He said he had never heard that it was an air pollutant but promised he'd look into it.
How much will consumers really want to know about how the fake sausage is made? We may soon find out. Last spring the Founders Fund, one of the first venture capital firms to invest in Facebook, Napster and Palantir, invested $1m in Beyond Eggs, and in September Whole Foods stores in northern California began selling the fake mayo I tried. This year, Beyond Meat's plant-based beef crumbles will make their supermarket debut. Though it won't divulge any details, Hampton Creek Foods says it is also working with Heinz (which wouldn't comment) and other Fortune 500 companies to roll out more products.
Of course, some food technologists are already thinking beyond Beyond Meat. Nasa began investigating in vitro meat grown from turkey cells as early as 2001, and by 2008 the animal welfare charity Peta offered a $1m reward to anyone who could produce chicken from a petri dish. In August, using blood from fetal calves to nourish cow cells, a Dutch team finally succeeded in making the world's first lab burger – a two-year, €250,000 project funded by Google cofounder Sergey Brin. The live-streamed taste test aired on more than 1,000 TV channels around the world. According to Chicago food critic Josh Schonwald, one of the three testers who sampled the burger, the texture was good but the taste was too lean. "I miss the fat," he said. Still, "the aim is to, of course, make a consumer product out of it," lead scientist Mark Post said in a promotional video. "It may take 10 years, maybe even earlier."
Brown isn't worried about competition from lab-grown meat – not yet, at least. For now, he's focused on brainstorming new plant-based products. One idea: a protein slab that tastes like fish and contains all its nutritional properties, but doesn't actually look like a fillet. "Would that be interesting?" he asked me, seeming genuinely curious. "Or do you think we would perfectly have to mimic fish? Because we could do that."
Pure hubris? Maybe. But braggadocio is a job requirement for Brown and Tetrick – even if their products aren't perfect yet, their pitches are. In his most impassioned speeches on fake meat, Brown often refers to the advent of the automobile: cars were not another kind of horse-drawn carriage. "We're not trying to be an alternate to chicken," he says. "We're trying to be a new chicken."
This article first appeared in Mother Jones magazine