The Economist Delves into the Future of Food in Story Series

We caught up with Jon Fasman, U.S. digital editor for the magazine, about his reporting, what he learned about the food industry, consumers and more.

 

Jason Brill, Quality Assurance & Food Safety magazine

October 12, 2021

 

The future of food is going to have a big impact on the safety of food. But without the benefit of a time machine (we lean DeLorean over T.A.R.D.I.S.), predicting what that future will look like, and thus preparing for it, is easier said than done.

 

Jon Fasman, U.S. digital editor for The Economist, tries to unravel how food will look in the publication’s most recent Technology Quarterly: “Future Food,” which was released earlier this month.

 

Through six stories, covering how technology can deliver cleaner food, why cows might not be essential for meat and milk, vertical farming, cell-cultured meat, eating insects and how microbes can help make delicious food, Fasman’s exhaustive reporting tries to answer a central question: “Can the whole first-world food system be changed?”

 

We caught up with him to talk about why he wanted to cover this topic, what went into his reporting and what he learned about consumers.

 

Quality Assurance & Food Safety magazine: You don’t typically cover food. Why did you want to research, write and report on this topic?

 

Jon Fasman: I’m really passionate about food. I like cooking. I read as much as I can about food, but I don't cover it as a journalist. I have been sort of intermittently — off and on for several years — a vegan, and I feel bad that I can’t ever stick to it. I do eat much less meat than I used to. But I have two young sons and they don't like beans or tofu, and I don't like eggs, and I'm allergic to cheese. So, the amount of vegan food we can actually make as a family is pretty small. One of the things we found that we liked are the Impossible and Beyond Burger — these burgers that are so incredibly meat-like. I was just curious, as a cook, about how they were made. I had also been reading about growing meat in a lab — sort of cell-cultured meats. Those two things together just seemed, to me, to have a tremendous amount of potential to be good quality. It was those two technologies that I got super excited about.

 

QA: Through six stories, you set a lot of different scenes and it feels like there’s a ton of reporting and research. How long did you work on this?

 

JF: I probably started researching and thinking about it around March [2021], and that’s just making some calls and starting to read and get up to speed. I went to a vertical farm that I mentioned in the piece in Brooklyn, probably around late April, early May. And then I spent a couple of weeks in California, Mexico, New York and Maine in June.

 

QA: Many of the new technologies and techniques you wrote about, such as cell-cultured meat, plant-based meat alternatives and vertical farms come with some caveats, right? ...

 

QA: What were some of the most interesting things you learned about during your reporting? ...

 

QA: How much did you learn about food safety?  ...

 

QA: Why do you think these stories might be interesting for our readers?  ...

 

QA: How did your reporting and research change the way you view consumers? ...

 

QA: In the story about more people eating insects, you shared your personal hesitation about it. After your research and reporting, are you more open to it? ...

 

QA: It also seemed like eating insects had less downside than some of the other alternatives. Is that accurate? ...

 

more, including links 

https://www.qualityassurancemag.com/article/the-economist-delves-into-the-future-of-food-in-story-series/