“Uncooked french fries are usually frozen, but when they’re pasteurized using the Farther Farms method of pressurized CO2, they can sit on the shelf for 90 days before going bad.
In the U.S., households throw out around 30 million tons of food each year—nearly twice as much as the produce wasted on farms. In some other parts of the world, the situation flips: Because of a lack of infrastructure and unreliable electricity, food often can’t be refrigerated, and it rots before it can be sold to consumers.
But new technology could help eliminate the need for cold storage. Farther Farms, a startup based in upstate New York, developed a new type of pasteurization that makes food last longer, so perishable food can sit on a shelf instead of in a fridge. As a proof of concept, the company made packaged french fries—food that would normally be sold frozen—that can sit at room temperature for 90 days before it’s eaten. Even better: The process doesn’t use artificial preservatives.
When something like milk is pasteurized, it’s quickly heated using steam to kill pathogens. The new process uses carbon dioxide instead. The food is packed in proprietary packaging, then processed with high-pressure (“supercritical”) CO2, at a moderately high temperature, which the company’s studies have found inactivates microorganisms and enzymatic activity. At scale, the CO2 can be used in a closed loop and captured at the end of the day to reuse in the system the next day.
“Because of our use of carbon dioxide instead of steam or water, the product damage to nutrition is significantly less, but we achieve safety in the same way as milk is pasteurized, or as beer is pasteurized, or as cheese is pasteurized,” says CEO Mike Annunziata. The process goes farther than normal pasteurization, similar to the ultra-high-temperature processing sometimes used to make milk shelf-stable, but without affecting flavor. (The founders also note that if you tried to use typical pasteurization on a french fry, you’d end up with mashed potatoes.)”