Food from Petroleum

In recent years there's been lots of talk about finding new sources of food (insects, lab-grown meat, etc.) to feed the world. But back in the 1960s researcher Alfred Champagnat had already invented what he thought would be the food of the future: protein from petroleum.

Newsweek - Feb 27, 1967

Scientific American - Oct 1965

Champagnat's idea seems to have fallen by the wayside. There's a fairly recent article in Mold magazine that discusses his invention. It simply notes that the food industry had other priorities:

The urgency of providing sustainable protein alternatives was pressing and the petroleum process uses a lot less water than the equivalent weight in vegetable-based protein, not to mention the 2,000 gallons required to produce just 1 pound of beef. The project for single-cell proteins ran over many years until it was left aside because of other food industry priorities.

Wikipedia has some more info which suggests that the protein obtained from petroleum wasn't entirely safe to eat:

The "food from oil" idea became quite popular by the 1970s, with Champagnat being awarded the UNESCO Science Prize in 1976, and paraffin-fed yeast facilities being built in a number of countries. The primary use of the product was as poultry and cattle feed.
The Soviets were particularly enthusiastic, opening large "BVK" (belkovo-vitaminny kontsentrat, i.e., "protein-vitamin concentrate") plants next to their oil refineries in Kstovo (1973) and Kirishi (1974). The Soviet Ministry of Microbiological Industry had eight plants of this kind by 1989. However, due to concerns of toxicity of alkanes in SCP [single-cell proteins] and pressured by the environmentalist movements, the government decided to close them down, or convert to some other microbiological processes.
     Posted By: Alex - Sun Feb 25, 2024
     Category: Food | 1960s

From the Wikipedia article: Single-cell proteins develop when microbes ferment waste materials (including wood, straw, cannery, and food-processing wastes, residues from alcohol production, hydrocarbons, or human and animal excreta).

Food from poop!
Posted by ges on 02/25/24 at 05:15 PM
@ges -- I've been gardening for over sixty years and have shoveled enough cow, pig, and chicken manure to assure you, without reservation, that virtually all food comes from poop. (Someone once told me to put horse manure on my strawberries. I tried it, and never, never again! I'm going back to sugar and cream.)
Posted by Phideaux on 02/25/24 at 08:16 PM

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