Yet the best tool for the job may not be obvious. “Food products themselves are pretty complicated,” said Dr. Linck. Different types of consumables have different considerations for extraction. An apple? No problem. “But we had a product a while ago—these were baked hams. We went ahead with the extraction, but we had all sorts of problems with all the fats present. Is there helpful literature out there? Certainly. But so much of this is trial and error.”
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It would be nice to have a (not so pricey) black box into one end of which you could drop a tomato, getting a list of components out of the other end, but that’s years away, if it ever occurs. As instruments become more sophisticated and at the same time more automated, the demands of the operator seem deceptively simple. But, as wise math teachers say, the answer means nothing if you don’t know how you got it. You must show your work.
Canavan is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn, N.Y. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.