'Fate Of Food' Asks: What's For Dinner In A Hotter, Drier, More Crowded World? | Connecticut Public Radio
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'Fate Of Food' Asks: What's For Dinner In A Hotter, Drier, More Crowded World?

Jun 3, 2019
Originally published on June 7, 2019 2:47 pm

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Climate change is affecting the weather. And droughts, floods, storms and unseasonal temperatures are affecting the global food supply. Tech startups, as well as mega companies, are developing new, high-tech ways of growing vegetables and fruits, farming fish and growing meat without harming animals.

3D food printers, laboratories where meat is grown from cultured animal cells, robots that can weed crops without using chemicals and indoor farms where vegetables are grown without soil or sun are some of the new approaches investigated by Amanda Little in her new book "The Fate Of Food: What We'll Eat In A Bigger, Hotter, Smarter World."

She's traveled to 13 states and 11 countries researching changes in our food system. Her reporting on energy, technology and the environment has been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Rolling Stone and other publications. She's a professor of journalism and science writing at Vanderbilt University.

Amanda Little, welcome to FRESH AIR. Tell us some of the ways in which climate change is affecting the global food supply.

AMANDA LITTLE: Well, let's just start in my own region. I live in Nashville, Tenn., and we've heard recently that in the Midwest - in Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa - there have been terrible storms and tornadoes that have had huge impacts on grain production, soy, and corn, in particular. I think they've said that there is a historic delay in the planting season because of the sodden fields.

The farmers just simply can't plant their soy crop because they have - you know, there haven't been enough dry days. And the same goes for corn. In the past five years, in 18 states that produce the majority of corn had 90 percent of their plant in the ground by now and they have only about 55% because of the rain and flooding.

So that's just sort of one example of, you know, these subtle changes that farmers are having to deal with. In this case, related to flooding. But drought, heat, invasive species and insects, diseases, crop diseases and so forth have been affecting virtually every, you know, farm in the world.

GROSS: So this made me think. You're right that the greenhouse gases that now threaten the future of the world's farmers are also largely produced by the farms themselves, especially the big, mechanized ones. Would you explain that paradox?

LITTLE: That's true. (Laughter). It's sort of - agriculture has got us into this mess, and now climate change is biting back. And I will say, you know, agriculture is one of sort of many aspects of modern civilization that's, you know, contributing to the, you know, global warming phenomenon. But I believe food production is responsible for about 15 to 20% of total greenhouse gas emissions globally, which is about as much or more than all transportation forms combined.

And, you know, there are huge fossil fuel inputs that go into food production, and certainly into, you know, both the farming and the distribution of that food. And it results also from livestock production, methane emissions from livestock production. So there's a cumulative effect that's been very intensive.

And by the way, it goes beyond, you know, emissions themselves. I believe it's 70% of fresh water used by humans flows to farming. Agriculture has altered, you know, every inhabited place on earth. And we can see the impacts of agriculture probably more than any other human activity, not just in climate change but in the way that it's transformed rivers, and lakes and land.

So it's a story that's been building for millennia since, you know, the dawn of civilization (laughter). I mean, it's really coming to a head right now.

GROSS: So big agribusiness companies, some of them are starting to invest in this new technology. I guess there's a couple of reasons. One is that it might have big payoffs in the long run, but also they're worried about the problems of climate change. And some of this new technology can kind of circumvent some of those problems.

But there's also people from the sustainable food movement who have kind of joined this, like, high-tech future. And some of the people who you write about who were in the sustainable food movement decided after a while that the movement couldn't provide enough food and couldn't provide it at affordable prices.

So basically, they were growing food or raising livestock to feed a few very prosperous people. So the few people you write about decided that wasn't enough for them. They wanted to do something that contributed more to a larger group of people, and with affordable prices.

LITTLE: That's right. It was really interesting to me, for example, when I spoke with these folks at Blue River Technology and was really concerned, (laughter), when I heard that this scrappy young startup that was here to disrupt the agrochemical industry was being purchased by John Deere. And I said, you know, aren't you concerned that the agribusiness folks are going to kind of squash this insurgent idea? And they basically said, no, the pressures are so significant that we need to collaborate with big businesses to scale this quickly.

Because, you know, in order to get very expensive robotic weeders on the ground, you need scale, and you need to make this affordable and accessible to not just U.S. farmers, but farmers all over the world. And we don't have - you know, we need to do this in five, 10, 15 years. This is - you know, we're facing such severe challenges and pressures ahead.

GROSS: Well, let's talk about some of the new high-tech ways of farming. Let's start with vertical farming. This is a form of indoor farming. Give us the basic description of how it works.

LITTLE: So I visited a farm in Newark, N.J., that's located inside an old warehouse that was once a laser tag arena. And it's in sort of an industrial part of Newark. And I walked inside and entered this sort of "Blade Runner"-esque sort of cathedral of indoor plant production (laughter).

They grow leafy greens for now, but eventually other kinds of high-nutrient foods, on trellis structures, or these stacks of trays that go up about 30, 35 feet high. Metal trays. And the plants are not grown in soil but, rather, they're grown into a fabric. And the roots dangle down into a nutrient mist that is continually nourishing these roots.

There are other forms of indoor food production that is not aeroponic, as you call this one, but hydroponic, where the plant roots are dangling in a water solution that's continually kind of cycling through. But in this case, aeroponic indoor production has the advantage of growing plants with about 90% less water than, you know, conventional in-the-soil lettuce production or crop production. And that of course, can be a big advantage in water-scarce areas.

The lights that are radiating down from right above these trays of little leafy greens that I saw are a mixture of blue and red-spectrum lights that can - combined with sort of extra oxygen that's pumped in. And extra CO2 that's also pumped in into this - along with this nutrient mist can cause the plants to grow 30% or more faster than they grow in the field.

GROSS: So plants don't necessarily need soil to be fed nutrients. They can get the nutrients in other ways.

LITTLE: Precisely.

GROSS: So why is it mostly leafy greens that are being grown in vertical farms right now?

LITTLE: Great question. Well, I mean, the leafy greens, you know, the baby leafy greens that you buy in the supermarket - baby spinach and arugula and so on - sell for about, you know, $4 or so a box. And they grow very quickly. They are - they wilt very quickly.

So they're mostly grown - lettuces are mostly grown in Salinas Valley in California and in Yuma, Ariz. And so they have to be trucked long, long distances and refrigerated. They're mostly water, so they're very vulnerable to wilting. And as we know, they're vulnerable to diseases - you know, E. coli and so on.

So the water intensity of that crop, the high cost of those baby greens and the, you know, food security challenges around growing greens and transporting them long distances makes it a really great crop to do in a local vertical farm because there are a lot of costs saved, even though there are a lot of costs added when you're doing indoor farming.

GROSS: So I'm wondering if the leafy greens taste any different when they're grown indoors like that - if you tasted any of it. And are stores selling it yet? Can we actually find that? Or is this still very much in the experimental phase?

LITTLE: Oh, yes, they're selling it everywhere. So I was expecting it to be pretty bland and sort of floppy as - for example, if you get the hydroponic lettuces that are in those sort of plastic shells that have been available for a long time, I've always found them to kind of lack flavor and lack sort of structure and texture. But the ones that I tried, interestingly, in the AeroFarms facility, were really peppery and bright and even crunchy and tasted, to my palate anyway, as good as anything I've had from soil.

What's interesting, too, is that they're monitoring these plants and what they need and how they grow with hundreds of thousands of data points. And so they can actually sort of dial up and down certain characteristics of these plants. So if they wanted to taste a little bit more peppery or if they wanted to be a bit sweeter or if they want the leaves to have a sort of reddish edge or if they want it - so, you know, look or taste a certain way.

They can actually add this nutrient or reduce this amount of oxygen or CO2 or whatever. And they can actually sort of control all these characteristics of the plant. And so they're learning, eventually, how to begin to sort of control terroir or the sort of environmental conditions that contribute to the flavor and phenotype of edible plants.

GROSS: Let me reintroduce you. If you're just joining us, my guest is journalist Amanda Little. She's the author of the new book "The Fate Of Food: What We'll Eat In A Bigger, Hotter, Smarter World." We'll be right back. This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF HUGH MASEKALA'S "GRAZING IN THE GRASS")

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. And if you're just joining us, my guest is journalist Amanda Little. Her new book is called "The Fate Of Food: What We'll Eat In A Bigger, Hotter, Smarter World." So there's a lot of advantages to these vertical farms. It uses less water than conventional farms. No pesticides are needed. You don't have to worry about the weather. No soils needed. What are some of the downsides?

LITTLE: There are many. It's interesting - throughout the reporting of this book, I was always sort of coming to terms with this. You know, the risk or reward is often sort of neck and neck, you know? And so there's something that's pretty absurd about the idea of growing food without soil and sun, in particular sun, right? 'Cause it's freely available to everyone.

And so to create artificial sun and use electricity to create artificial sun and grow plants, you know, with that you know energy-intensive formula seems like it would be an environmental disaster, right? So you know there's some question as to whether - you know, yes, it might be much more water efficient. But how efficient is it in terms of fossil fuel inputs for the electricity, right?

And certainly, if you can have a solar-powered vertical farm or, you know, wind-powered or hydro-powered vertical farm then you can offset the fossil fuel inputs that go into that production and the - you know, again, the sort of manufacturing of artificial sunlight. One of the other advantages, though, that the AeroFarms folks were quick to point out is that this is a 24-hour cycle - right? - of growing. You don't - the plants need to rest a little bit at night without sun. But they won't be interrupted by seasons. And they won't be interrupted by, you know, bad weather or drought or whatever.

So it's a much more sort of reliable supply of food. And if - as they have, you know, located their production facilities near a wind farm or a hydroelectric facility or, you know, solar panels, eventually, they can get around the problems of the, you know, energy inputs.

GROSS: So I'm just thinking, like, is beautiful farmland going to be paved over for vertical farming?

LITTLE: Well, the - so they work, in particular, in, you know, dense urban areas right. So the idea would not be to put these facilities in, you know, in rural areas but instead very close to population centers, which is appealing given how quickly the world is urbanizing.

GROSS: And you eliminate the trucking costs...

LITTLE: Right. You...

GROSS: ...And the fuel that's going to go into the air.

LITTLE: Exactly. So you're right. You're cutting some fuel inputs. And then you're adding some others. And, you know, there are lots of different numbers on exactly the sort of, you know, cost-benefit analysis from the, you know, energy input standpoint. But yes, I mean, the vision is, look. If we can then take that, you know, thousand acres that was growing arugula or rather, you know, romaine lettuce, and we can do that in a facility next to, you know, an industrial wasteland in, you know, the outskirts of Newark and supply these - those, you know, populations nearby, then we could return that rural area that was growing, you know, single crops to much more diversified food production or even to sort of preagricultural forestland that would become a carbon sink, which is a very sort of romantic vision, right?

OK, we could turn sort of lettuce farms into forestlands and carbon sinks. Whether that will happen, you know, is a stretch, but in theory, it's very interesting.

GROSS: A lot of people have given up meat, and that's for several reasons, including they don't want to see cattle slaughtered, they don't want to see animals treated inhumanely in factory farms, they don't want the cholesterol of meat. So now there's, like, meat alternatives being grown - actually, forms of meat being grown in laboratories. And basically, it's from cloned cells, right?

LITTLE: So it's from biopsied cells that are removed from a living animal and then are cultured. So they are replicated in sort of what they call a bioreactor, which is basically a very sophisticated crockpot. And the cells, live cells are self-replicating, so they actually select cells that can continue to replicate themselves, which is a - which is a natural process.

Cloning I don't think is quite accurate because cells do this on their own; that's, you know, how living creatures grow. These cells that are harvested and then cultured in the laboratory are alive. They're so alive that they, in fact, can flex or spasm, you know, when stimulated.

And this was really something that - this really got me both excited and sort of semiterrified, honestly, about the prospect of eating this stuff, was these cells are - they're living cells; they're just not attached to a sentient being. And they, in fact, die when they're harvested from the bioreactor and then are not fed oxygen any longer, and the asphyxiation then kills the cells, and they are no longer reactive.

GROSS: Got it. But does it have, like, the flavor of meat?

LITTLE: It does have a lot of flavor because what we're eating, I mean, in the meat we consume is just that; it's muscle, connective tissue and fat. And the meat that I tried, which has a lot of different names for it. We've heard sort of, you know, cultured meats is one way of putting it; cell-based meats is another, lab meats is another. But the laboratory meat that I tried was duck meat that had been freshly harvested from a bioreactor in Berkeley, Calif...

GROSS: Yum.

(LAUGHTER)

LITTLE: ... In the headquarters of a company called Memphis Meats, which is not selling its products in the world quite yet but has gotten lots and lots of investments from major meat producers. And there are lab meats that are - are companies producing lab means that are also doing lab-based seafoods. And you know, the idea is that you can essentially do any meat, any meat that came from any kind of living animal, whether it's livestock or fish, can be produced in this manner, as long as you can sample some cells and help them replicate and grow.

And in my case, the duck experience was pretty staggering because the - and I haven't eaten a whole lot of duck in my life. But what I did eat, which was just this kind of lump of duck meat with salt and pepper that had been sauteed in a pan, tasted very much as advertised, as meat.

And (laughter) it - there's a difference between the plant-based meat products that we're hearing about on the market, like Impossible, the Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat, and these lab meats because the lab meats are identical on a cellular level to the meats we eat. So they're actual meat. But (laughter) they're not, you know, derived from plants; they're derived from the cells of animals.

GROSS: My guest is Amanda Little, author of the new book "The Fate Of Food." After we take a short break, we'll talk about 3D food printers being developed by the military. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOHN ADAMS' "FEARFUL SYMMETRIES")

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Let's get back to my interview with journalist Amanda Little, author of the new book, "The Fate Of Food: What We'll Eat In A Bigger, Hotter, Smarter World." It's about new high-tech ways of growing fruits and vegetables and farming fish in the era of climate change. When we left off, she was talking about a tech company that's growing meat in a lab with cultured animal cells. She tried some of the company's duck meat, freshly harvested from a bioreactor.

Before you tasted some of this cultured duck, you had to sign a waiver, and the waiver acknowledged that culture meats are experimental and their properties are not completely known, and you had to agree that you accepted all risks of loss, damages, injury or death...

(LAUGHTER)

GROSS: ...That may occur as a result of your participation in this tasting. I was thinking, thank God, I don't have to sign this before every meal. But did that give you pause? Because it's still so experimental they can't really say for sure, like, what the long-term effects of this are. I don't know how worried they are about problems that this meat might cause in the long-term future. But how did you feel about signing this?

LITTLE: You know, I didn't feel concerned, in part because the use of stem cells in medicine and, you know, cultured tissues in medicine has a pretty deep history. When Valeti got interested in this, he had been actually injecting stem cells, which are these replicating cells, into patients' hearts with the hope that they would sort of replace and regrow damaged tissue. And you know, it struck him that if human tissues could be grown for medical purposes, why couldn't they - you know, animal tissues be grown for food?

Also, I will say that Valeti had assured me that his children had regularly eaten some of the fruits of his labor and research and that they were perfectly fine (laughter) and I should have no qualms about this. And of course, I knew that he and his team and many others at, for example, Tyson Foods and elsewhere had tasted this meat before investing in it. So I was pretty calm about it.

GROSS: So right now culture meat or laboratory meat is in its experimental stages, and it's very expensive right now, too. What do you think the odds are that it will be actually available and affordable anytime in the foreseeable future?

LITTLE: I think the odds are very high. I think it's interesting and important to kind of note that the basic technology for growing muscle tissue has been around for a couple of decades, and this is not, you know, brand-new stuff. But the - you know, the work that's being done - now there are probably half a dozen or more startups that are getting very aggressively funded, that are working on this and that plan to have products available in - you know, by 2020, in the next 2, 3 years. Valeti has been pretty careful about not putting, you know, a release date on his products.

But it's really a matter of scale and cost, and the cost has come down from hundreds of thousands of dollars even for an ounce of this meat to, you know, a couple of hundred dollars for an ounce of this meat. So it's moving very quickly, the progress on this.

GROSS: Meanwhile, the Army is designing something that seems just impossible to me, which is, like, 3D food printers so that, you know, soldiers on the battlefield can have food that's lightweight and that can also be designed with the nutrients that they need. Give us a sense of what this is.

LITTLE: (Laughter) So the Army has been developing and experimenting with - in this realm of, you know, nonperishable food and sort of nonfood foods for many, many decades. And they've been working with dehydrated freeze-dried foods and, you know, foods in packages, meal - MREs, meals ready to eat and this kind of Soylent-style food that can go out into the field and not have to be refrigerated and can, you know, nourish a soldier with, you know, a few bites or a few gulps.

And the latest thing that they're working on at the Natick research labs, which is where they do all the experimentation on Army foods, is 3D-printed foods, which, as the scientists see it, will actually really improve the flavor and the nutrients they can get to the soldiers in the field because, A, they can be printed on demand, on the spot, and be sort of fresh in that sense, and, B, they can be combined with exactly the kind of nutrient cocktail a specific soldier will need.

The idea is that the soldier will have a center that's sampling, you know, or detecting in the soldier's blood if it has a deficit of potassium or needs vitamin C and then can transmit that information to this 3D printer, which will then incorporate exactly the nutrients that that soldier needs into a sort of food pellet or a food bar and print it out and (laughter) get it into the field by drone or some other means.

GROSS: Oh, by drone or some other - so in what sense is it a 3D printer?

LITTLE: So it deposits little kind of dots or squirts of food onto a plate inside a chamber. The current 3D printer, the one that I observed in the laboratories, looked very much like a microwave - it was called a Foodini - and it had cartridges of sort of paste, chickpea paste and avocado paste, that are blended with, you know, special sort of nutrient additives. And they also use peanut butter variants and some other things that are essentially food pastes.

And they deposit it in either little dots or lines, like you're kind of squirting icing onto a platter - it looks like that. And then it can be kind of flash-cooked with some heat or flash-frozen into a sort of block of nutrients that can then be delivered to the soldiers.

GROSS: How are things getting communicated from the soldier, who has specific nutritional needs, to the place where the food is actually squirted onto the tray and done whatever with?

LITTLE: (Laughter) That's right. So it's sort of like a glorified Fitbit, you know, with some sensor that's testing the - now they already have sensors that test the sweat of the soldier, and they can get all kinds of biometric information from the chemistry of the sweat. But essentially, some sort of Fitbit device would be able to interpret, from the sweat or fluids or blood of the soldier, what exactly the nutrient needs are of that soldier at that moment and then transmit that yes wirelessly to, you know, base camp or wherever this printer is, and then the printer gets the information and begins to concoct these pastes.

GROSS: Did you taste any of this 3D-printer food?

LITTLE: I did. I tasted 3D-printed chocolate peanut butter cups, which were delicious. I tasted - we had a 3D-printed flatbread that we attempted to make that was a sort of chickpea sort of base and then with this Army star printed on top with an avocado paste. So it's supposed to look like sort of avocado toast. But the 3D printers would have malfunctioned. It disobeyed military orders and got a clog and had all kinds of problems.

But it was very interesting because the scientists were very sort of patient with us as you might be with a toddler and, you know, said, it's just learning. It's learning how to do this. You know, it's learning how to purge a clog. It's learning how to do this.

And, you know, they're using AI - artificial intelligence and robotics and very complex technologies to teach these printers how to produce these - this food that they want ultimately to produce. They feel that it's very feasible. This will be in the field by 2025.

GROSS: Let me reintroduce you. If you're just joining us, my guest is journalist Amanda Little. Her new book is called "The Fate Of Food: What We'll Eat In A Bigger, Hotter, Smarter World." We'll be right back. This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF NOAM WIESENBERG'S "DAVKA")

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. And if you're just joining us, my guest is journalist Amanda Little. She's the author of the new book "The Fate Of Food: What We'll Eat In A Bigger, Hotter, Smarter World." And the book examines high-tech solutions to growing more food cheaper and food that can survive in spite of all the challenges being posed by climate change.

Now, you say that the most a real place that you visited on your tour of, like, new high-tech approaches to food was a place that makes a new high-tech form of freeze-dried food that is being stocked up on by many survivalists right now. So describe this factory. Should I call it a factory?

LITTLE: Yes. It was the chicken pot pie room at Wise Food's facility in Salt Lake City, Utah. And they were producing little Mylar pouches of freeze-dried chicken pot pie that, you know, essentially can be shelf-stable for at least a quarter century, probably much longer than that. But this is what they call prepper food, right? It's - the survival food industry and this industry has been growing very, very quickly in recent years. Just in the last few years, it's more than doubled.

So one of the concerns is that we're seeing sort of diminishing government safety nets while we see intensifying environmental pressures. And a lot of people are becoming more and more concerned that in our lifetimes we will see, you know, disruptions in our food supply. This was foreign to me because I'm not someone who - I have never stockpiled food in my own home.

But I had relatives and friends, including my brother, who was a climate scientist, who was beginning to stockpile survival foods in the basement of his home. And I thought, what in the world is going on, and how urgent is this problem?

GROSS: So give us an introduction to how this food is made.

LITTLE: OK. So the core technology is not actually new. The Wise company - and as do other, you know, survival food companies that do this freeze-dried food - they practice a sort of 21st century version of something that actually the Incas started in about 1200 A.D. They placed potatoes and this kind of beef jerky on elevated slabs of stone. And they freeze over-night and then quick-dry the sun. They started doing this in World War II. The modern freeze-drying methods were created actually to preserve blood serum for wounded soldiers.

I mean, the current processes date back to about the 1970s. And essentially it's this - it's called blast freezing. So there's these temperatures as low as negative 112 degrees, they prevent the formation of ice crystals that can affect the food's sort of texture and nutrition. And then they're put in this heated chamber that causes the ice to sublime. So it goes directly from a solid state into a gas without passing through the liquid phase. And this means that the foods retain their texture mostly.

GROSS: So how worried should I be that your brother, who is a climate scientist, is starting to stockpile food because he's so concerned about the future of climate change?

LITTLE: (Laughter) That was the driving question for this entire book. How screwed are we exactly?

(LAUGHTER)

LITTLE: I was kind of surprised because it wasn't just my brother who's a climate scientist. It was also other people in my life - I was beginning to notice - doing this. My step brother, who's a business guy who lives in D.C. and has a very urban life, was doing this in his own basement. My cousin-in-law who lives in Indiana, a former cop, was doing it at his home.

And the company actually is targeting a new consumer they call guardian moms who are worried about a stable food supply for their kids going forward. These are people who've lived through Hurricane Harvey and Katrina and Sandy, you know, lived through these once-in-a-thousand-year storms that are now happening sort of once every 50 years.

They've lived through major blizzards, forest fires, flooding and so on. And they're seeing interruptions in very local ways in their communities where they can't get to the grocery store for, you know, a few days or more. And they're beginning to see that this might be the sort of new normal.

GROSS: So what kinds of foods is the survivalist company making into a freeze-dried food that can last for a long time and help you through a disaster, catastrophe, whatever?

LITTLE: So they're comfort foods. There's, you know, beefy chili and turkey tetrazzini and the sort of stewy kind of - comfort foods that you, you know, might associate with your grandmother or - you know, it's the kind of food, as they say, that can be high-calorie and comforting in sort of an emergency situation.

GROSS: And I guess you probably have to add water, so having it be stew-like is probably sensible.

LITTLE: That's right. I mean, when I tucked (ph) into my chicken pot pie, it didn't look anything like the Stouffer's version. It was sort of a tawny gruel, although it did taste very familiar to me. It tasted sort of like my grandmother's chicken casserole, and so it wasn't as off-putting as I'd like, although the notion that this would be my sole source of sustenance was pretty scary to me.

And so when we think about a future in which we may lose access to these foods that are, you know, so comforting and familiar to us and we may have to resort to Mylar packages and 3D printers and Soylent and this kind of thing - it's really upsetting. This is a topic that people have a lot of emotion about and should. And it triggers this instinct for survival and innovation.

GROSS: Have you changed or reconsidered any of your eating habits as a result of writing this book?

LITTLE: The single-biggest change for me has been the way I think about food waste. I, like many of us, get really excited when I go to the grocery store and like to buy a lot of leafy, fresh things, and I am embarrassed when I'm not able to use up all the ingredients I get for certain recipes and sort of quietly throw them away. But, you know, the broader problem of food waste is pretty staggering.

I mean, we waste more than a third of all the food grown globally. It is either thrown out in homes (ph) or it rots in transit or is thrown out because it doesn't meet aesthetic standards. And, you know, we have very unrealistic expectations about food and how it should look and how much we should be able to eat. And we have an amazingly wasteful society, and that is a big part of the problem. So I've thought - I've become much more sensitive to, you know, the amount of food we waste in our home.

I certainly have become much more sensitive to my own meat consumption. I have tried and tried to be, you know, vegetarian and vegan in the past. I love meat, and I've had a really hard time letting it go. But I have become sort of much more willing to accept and sort of experiment with plant-based meat alternatives and certainly can imagine bringing these cell-based meats or cultured meats into my kitchen when they're ready and affordable.

And certainly, continuing to eat meat and craft meats and support, you know, meats that are sustainably farmed is great. But I am on a limited budget, like so many of us. And so I can't, you know, only buy the really expensive sort of craft, artisanal meats. And so I've thought a lot differently about that.

GROSS: Well, Amanda Little, thank you so much for talking with us.

LITTLE: Thank you so much, Terry.

GROSS: Amanda Little is the author of the new book "The Fate Of Food." After we take a short break, classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz will review the recording that's now his favorite recording of the year. This is FRESH AIR.

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