We ate very little beef when I was a child. Beans, potatoes, vegetables, bread, fried bologna, cheap hamburger, and hot dogs were our usual fare. But on Sundays Dad usually killed a chicken, and Mom and I cleaned and cooked it. Some years we also fattened a hog, but nothing was as easy to keep as a flock of chickens, so they were a much more consistent source of food.
Cleaning chickens, and a variety of wild birds, was one of my earliest kitchen chores. I remember standing on a chair to pluck the feathers of a fat hen. It wasn’t the most pleasant task, but it certainly gave me a clear understanding of the food chain.
Chickens were once a staple food source of most households. Easy to keep and cheap to feed, they supplied meat and eggs, plus feathers for your pillow. King Henry IV is said to have wished that there “would not be a peasant so poor in all my realm who would not have a chicken in his pot every Sunday." The same sentiment is attributed to Herbert Hoover, although there are conflicting claims about whether he ever said it. Regardless of who originated or used the phrase, the idea is the same: an end to hunger would symbolize the end of poverty.
So now we have a man who plans to end hunger with a liquid meal in a bottle. The concept is not new and I’m not really sure why the product is getting so much media coverage. As far as I can tell from reading nutrition labels there are many liquid meal replacements on the market that would be cheaper and easier to obtain. And many of you reading this are no doubt selling and/or consuming one of the many “miracle” liquids guaranteed to restore health and vitality. The list of food supplements and meal replacements and weight management drinks seems to be growing exponentially.
The concept of total food replacement brings up a lot of interesting thoughts. I certainly understand the basic premise that people in third world countries would benefit from a food source that was easy to store and distribute. However, we already have many food options that meet those criteria and USAID is working on more. There are cultural, political, environmental, and of course, financial obstacles to replacing the food in other countries with a meal in a bottle. Even a chicken in a pot would not be acceptable in some countries. No food can supply adequate nutrition if it isn’t consumed.
I also had a brief vision of a future where our children no longer eat real food. While escaping the addiction of sodas and junk food might be a good thing, I think a world without food would be unimaginably boring. And our children are already consuming primarily “artificial” food. Most are so far removed from the food chain that they can’t tell you where hamburger comes from. Imagine what the world would be like if the food chain was simply lab-factory-store-consumer.
Mr. Rhinehart has some very radical ideas about the future of his product and about life in general. Hopefully there won’t be too many people who listen to him. And there are many, many people with far more training and experience who are working on much better ways to end world hunger. A chicken in every pot may not be the answer, but neither is a drink in a bottle.