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In a future world, well-to-do people have access to piped food that travels straight to their kitchens.

Let us focus on one such food; the eternal sausage.

  1. My first idea was to simply force sausage meat into one end of a pipe. A tap at the other end allows the consumer to slice off the required amount. Given that perhaps 100 residences in any given area have this facility, I'm not sure how well sausage pressure would compare with water pressure: Would there inevitably be hang-ups in the system? Would some people lose out at mealtimes?

  2. My second idea is to pipe all the nutrients in liquid form and then use apparatus at the residence to 'grow' sausages using lab-grown meat (a technology that is currently being developed). A problem with this is that, if the customer were having a party and required a lot of sausage, they would have to grow and store it in advance and that defeats the purpose.

Question

How do I achieve piped sausage to people's homes?


Assumptions

  1. The sausage must in some way be delivered through pipes. Please don't suggest other forms of delivery.
  2. The pipes are lined with a non-stick substance and the joins are very smooth.
  3. The pipes should be a maximum of 1 inch or 2.54 cm in diameter (internal).
  4. The average distance between the production installation and dwellings is about a mile (1.6km).
  5. At least part of the motivation is that the users can brag about it to their less well-off friends. However, for their bragging to be effective, the system must work.
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    $\begingroup$ There are many, many issues with this concept. Spoilage, for starters, unless you are somehow refrigerating the entire system. Is the sausage pre-cooked / ready-to-eat or raw? $\endgroup$
    – Matthew
    Mar 25 at 12:37
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    $\begingroup$ You'd have to eat a lot of sausage all the time to prevent it from going bad in the pipes. And eating a lot of processed meat leads to bowel cancer. Death rates in the town are gonna go up over time, and you know what that means... questions are gonna be asked about where your soylent sausage comes from. $\endgroup$ Mar 25 at 12:58
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    $\begingroup$ Oh my god, it's Soup Tube! $\endgroup$
    – Seth R
    Mar 25 at 22:05
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    $\begingroup$ @StarfishPrime It's eternal though. Just flush the tap until good sausage comes out. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Mar 26 at 8:09
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    $\begingroup$ Frame challenge: the joke is funnier if you don't explain how it works. If one of your characters asks, then the answer is: it's better not to know how the sausage gets made. $\endgroup$
    – kaya3
    Mar 26 at 18:41
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Allow me to offer up a question of my own from the dim & dusty past by way of answer.

Allow me to present to you [flourishes hand theatrically] the Ancient Roman Pneumatic tube Postal Service.

In short, a pneumatic tube message & small parcel delivery service of the type occasionally found (albeit to smaller scale) in old department stores at the turn of the century, the last turn not this one.

Obviously it's going to require switching stations much like the old telephone systems switchboard operators.

enter image description here

Sausages are of course the perfect shape to utilise such a comestibles delivery system.

Other food items would simply be packaged in appropriate sausage shaped parcels.

Using a delivery capsule rather than sending your sausage au naturel is advised

Company disclaimer: the company accepts no liability for incorrectly or inadequately addressed meals & any such will be summarily consumed by receiving party or staff.

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    $\begingroup$ I was just coming in to suggest pneumatic tubes. Can I also recommend reading up on the Alameda-Weehawken Burrito Tunnel? $\endgroup$ Mar 25 at 12:54
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    $\begingroup$ I work in a hospital lab, and every hospital I've worked in STILL has pneumatic tubes delivering paperwork, blood samples, medications, and so on. 21st century, baby! $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Mar 25 at 21:46
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    $\begingroup$ @DWKraus turning their back on progress & sticking with things that work huh, it's just awful how backward some industries still are isn't it, & I hear they still use fax machines too, which is terribly unfair to hardworking ransomware developers letting them keep working without their email as it does :)) $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Mar 25 at 21:55
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    $\begingroup$ @Pelinore backward? Can you email a sample? Such systems are in use in other places as well, known to me case is shoppng mall. Cashier's places equiped with those and they use them occasionaly, few time a day I guess $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Mar 26 at 6:32
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    $\begingroup$ A good example of his this might look youtube.com/watch?v=F-UXoGc4Iys with the marmalade sandwich proving what could happen if there's a blockage. $\endgroup$ Mar 26 at 10:51
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An oil pipeline.

Guess what goes bad if it's left overnight in a pipe at ambient temperature? Food with water in it.

Guess what wouldn't go bad? Oil.

I would propose a three-step system:

  1. At source, the sausage ingredients (stored dry) are ground into a powder and mixed into a (comestible) carrier oil to make a sort of liquid pemmican.
  2. The pipes will carry this oil mixture. The absence of water and air will make it difficult for the mixture to spoil. We will depend on your non-stick walls and smooth joins to prevent buildup and stoppages from the mixed ingredients.
  3. Upon delivery, a machine uses some kind of a pressure filtration system to separate 99% of the carrier oil and presses (and/or cooks, and/or rehydrates, as necessary) the retained ingredients as suitably-shaped wieners. Separated oil can be recycled via a return pipeline. The 1% that remains becomes tasty, sizzling goodness.

There you have it! After all, nothing goes wrong with oil pipelines, right?

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    $\begingroup$ Clever approach! I'd imagine that the 1% of carrier oil would serve well for frying the sausage too. $\endgroup$
    – Ruadhan
    Mar 25 at 15:00
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    $\begingroup$ getting a ling distance pipe complete free of air is difficult to say the least. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Mar 25 at 21:21
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    $\begingroup$ @John if it's a pressurized pipe, you'll get leak checks for free $\endgroup$ Mar 26 at 9:13
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This is a semi-frame-challenge.

I don't believe your premise, as it currently stands, is feasible.

However, one way you could get close would be to forget the "continuous ooze of food" and instead create a pneumatic grocery delivery service. With sufficient automation, users should be able to order any food the system can deliver and have it in their hands in a few minutes. You can safely deliver refrigerated and even frozen food this way.

The advantage of such a system is that it can deliver anything that fits within the canisters. If we stick to bank-sized canisters, that's plenty to get you:

  • Sausages, even larger ones
  • Two-pound rolls of ground meat
  • Rashers of bacon
  • Butchered cuts of chicken or fish
  • Heads of celery and some lettuces (not iceberg), fresh herbs
  • Smaller vegetables (tomatoes, onions, potatoes)
  • Short lengths of beef or pork loin
  • Pint-sized packages of ice cream
  • Small bottles of spices, sauces, oils, salad dressing, etc.
  • 20-oz bottles of soda, juice, milk, etc.
  • Small pastries (croissants, cupcakes, dinner rolls, small loaves)
  • Butter, cheese (shredded and bagged, grated and canned, 8-oz bricks or similar hunks)
  • Most jarred pickled vegetables, most canned goods

Going up to a larger size, you could conceivably manage:

  • Small whole poultry
  • Butchered cuts of turkey, small to medium steaks
  • Larger vegetables (eggplant, some squashes)
  • Heads of cabbage, iceberg lettuce
  • Some whole fish (e.g. salmon)

You probably won't want to go large enough for whole pumpkins, twenty-pound whole turkeys, whole pies (might not travel well anyway), or the like, but you aren't going to be shoving anything like that through a piddling 1" tube anyway.

...And you only need one tube for delivery of all sorts of goods.

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Pigging

Your pipeline needs to be clean, and odds are, you want to keep your food items separate. After all, you might have trouble returning a transmix of onions, curry, chocolate and sausage back to the refinery for reprocessing. So you need to send pigs through the pipeline. No, not genetically engineered 1-inch "imperforate" pigs that can lick 360 degrees, as much as I'm tempted, but something more like a little module like Wikipedia's image, but much, much smaller: Pipeline pig

You rely on these things to separate the gasoline you fill up with from, say, diesel, though they can be omitted and the mixed-up fuel in between gets sent back to refinery, or when gas gets scarce and prices go up, you read about cars being ruined by filling at some local station that tried to get away with using some.

In this case, your pig might have some sort of little wheels or preferably some type of magnetic drive around it near the back end, because, face it, you're talking about trying to push a mile of sausage through a "very smooth" pipe, and I don't have to run the numbers to see there's a problem with doing that from one end. Here each pig pushes the material ahead of it, and if a few have trouble the others can push from behind to take up the slack.

Pigs are also useful for cleaning pipelines, which I imagine is pretty important with sausage. (Alternatively you could build your pipeline from intestinal cells perhaps surrounded by smooth muscle with a tissue printer, provide it with an immune system, and immunize against all possible food pathogens ... nay, I am liking that idea even less than this one)

So the idea is you make "sausage" (perhaps more like "pink slime") out of all your food products. Perhaps the wealthy patrons have outlived their teeth, even the implants, or perhaps it is a sign of poor breeding to visibly chew food. Each order is separated into batches of "sausage" pushed out by pigs. The pigs have tracking devices (not GPS - tied to the walls of the pipeline for much better precision) so the spouts know exactly when to open. When there is vacancy in the system, trains of cleaning pigs are added to the flow, so that they can more thoroughly disinfect the pipes and remove all traces of cleaner and double check before more food passes.

The Viands (the company's name is Viand, and the term is applied to each item delivered) are dispensed directly into glass tubes, which make a pretty pattern in the kitchen refrigerators. Later each one is moved, heated, and dispensed robotically during the cooking process. The use of "sausage" ensures that all aspects of cooking are very predictable and easy to automate. This makes for a coordinated artful display of technology. It also avoids the logical conundrum that a neighborhood wealthy enough to support this process should be too wealthy to have a place for hired cooks or people who cook their own food.

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    $\begingroup$ I am strangely attracted to, yet disturbed by, the idea of a pipeline that acts like an intestine. If you or someone else would like to make a plausible answer based on peristalsis, I'd be very interested to see it. $\endgroup$ Mar 25 at 14:38
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    $\begingroup$ No enough 1 inch 360degree licking pigs in this answer, lol $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Mar 26 at 6:38
  • $\begingroup$ anyone else ever read The Night's Dawn trilogy by Peter F Hamilton? He's my fav sci fi author. In a nutshell: There are living superorganisms bioengineered for humans to inhabit inside. They have nutrient stations that seem to make a sort of smoothie snack made from the nutrients that flow through the habitat's veins... sounds more appealing than sausage questionably delivered in pipes :) $\endgroup$
    – Koon W
    Apr 1 at 1:32
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The end-goal is to get a continuous sausage out of the machine.

First a caveat that people have already mentioned: if the food remains in the tubes because people aren't continuously using sausage it shouldn't go bad. So I would assume that everything is 100% sterilized and cleanly passed through the sterile tubing system. For example the food is irradiated beforehand amongst other methods (most substances won't be significantly radioactive for more than seconds after exposure, background radiation is more lethal).

On to the actual answer. You want the endresult to be sausage in the houses. Unfortunately if you build up the eternal sausage at the distribution center you have the tiny problem of the sausage needing to make turns or having to split in multiple directions should multiple people try to get sausage at the same time.

The alternative: Assemble the sausage at the location. You already basically stated you have the ability to do so since you have a machine capable of it at the distribution center. That means you now "only" need to transport the sausage components to the site.

Here we can use some trickery: The sausage might need to be continuous, but the delivery of the components does not need to be continuous. Let's say that hypothetically speaking a volume of 10cm^3 of sausage exits the apparatus per second when you use it. That means that if every 10 seconds a package arrives holding 100cm^3 of sausage components the machine will be able to continuously build it's sausage.

Suddenly it's all manageable. It doesn't matter now if you use the already proposed pneumatics or dissolve it into water before piping it or use delivery roombas, it will get there and perform your eternal sausage function.

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    $\begingroup$ Just because something is exposed to radiation, it doesn't mean it becomes radioactive. In fact, most of the time exposure doesn't mean it becomes radioactive. Otherwise getting an X-ray or other radioactive medicine would be life threatening. hps.org/publicinformation/ate/q12968.html $\endgroup$ Mar 26 at 17:14
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A lot of folks have raised concerns about food going bad in metal pipes, but do we any real-life example of a system where food is stored in metal tubes and doesn't go bad?

Yes! Canned Food

You can imagine the pipeline being a 1 huge can. You would need to add the following mechanisms to make this work -

  • From the factory, sausage is is put in a preservative fluid and enters the airlock.
  • The sausage and the fluid get sterilized in the airlock.
  • Once sterilized, the airlock opens and the 'preserved' sausage enters the pipeline.

A similar airlock mechanism in the customer household will ensure only the desired quantity of sausage exits the pipeline and the rest remains sterile.

The reason I added preservative fluid is 2 folds -

  • It preserves the food longer.
  • It makes transportation easier, as fluids 'flow' better. Just like how rivers are used for the inland transportation networks.
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    $\begingroup$ It is worth remembering that the meatlock at the consumer end will be exposed to air, and as such would need to be scrubbed out from time to time. $\endgroup$ Mar 26 at 11:11
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    $\begingroup$ Not necessarily: once the sausage tap is closed, the machine would heat the last meter of pipe and the sausage tap to high temperatures, sterilizing it. Of course that would be a spectacular process with lots of steam, so owners could brag about it. Explosions have been reported, but that's probably just a rumor. $\endgroup$
    – bobflux
    Mar 26 at 19:56
  • $\begingroup$ or just use UV to sterilize instead of steam. $\endgroup$
    – Sachin
    Mar 30 at 8:23
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I'd actually suggest bigger pipes and screws. There's certain kinda of pumps that do better for this - If you need a constant flow of mush between 2 points, a positive displacement pump works, and you can use a screw system to tap off materials.

It might also be useful to consider if your food mush can be self lubricating -which would ease movement, either through fat or other food additives.

The tech for bulk movement exists - the tricky part would be shelf life, palitability and distribution.

While the classic sausage has casings, I suspect that might not do well being pumped through and tapped off. You would either case the sausages on the spot, design sausages that are set by heat or pressure (with the piped mush being shaped and set at the customer end as needed) or have casings in cartridges as needed,

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