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Food is measured in units of nutrition. Most raw foods, as well as certain cooked foods like pemmican, give 0.05 nutrition per unit. Prepared meals, such as simple meals or lavish meals, generally give 0.9 or 1.0 nutrition.
Baseline adult humans require 1.6 nutrition per day to avoid being hungry. They can "store" 1.0 nutrition at any one time. As they start to eat while they are "hungry" (0.25 saturation), certain types of meals are subject to overeating. A rough baseline of 2 meals per day, or 32 units of pemmican/raw food, is required to feed a person.
By default, colonists will eat the tastiest valid food; from Lavish to Raw. Certain traits or ideology precepts may change their priorities. You can control what foods colonists are able to eat in the Assign tab. You can also select a colonist's or prisoner's food policy in the Health tab.
Food found in its natural stage is raw. Most raw foods will give the −7 Ate Raw Food moodlet to an ordinary colonist. All raw food comes with an innate chance of food poisoning. Milk, berries, and insect jelly can be eaten without mood penalty, but can still give food poisoning.
You can cook food into meals at an electric stove, fueled stove or campfire, or process it at a nutrient paste dispenser. In addition to tasting better, cooked food allows you to get more nutrition off the same amount of raw food. For example, a simple meal costs 0.5 nutrition to make, but gives 0.9 nutrition when eaten - this equates to 180% more food. Food poisoning of a prepared meal is based off of Cooking skill and cleanliness of the room. Nutrient paste can never cause food poisoning.
Raw food can be obtained from a variety of sources:
- Wild bushes can be harvested to give agave and berries.
- Growing zones can be used to plant rice, potatoes, corn, strawberries and haygrass (for domesticated animals).
- Hydroponics basins can also be used to plant rice, potatoes or strawberries, and grows them at a considerably increased rate.
- Meat is obtained from fresh non-mechanoid corpses, whether hunted or if they died via other means. Corpses may be eaten raw or butchered at a butcher table.
- Occasional drops from cargo pods.
Food will be destroyed if left unattended by two entirely separate factors: exposure and temperature.
- Storing food in temperatures above 0 °C (32 °F) will spoil over time. Temperatures below 10 °C (50 °F) will slow down spoiling by a factor of
1/tempin Celsius. See Temperature for details.
For example: a raider is killed and drops a fine meal outdoors, while temperature is below freezing. The meal will not spoil, but it will still deteriorate, and lose HP. Conversely, a meal stored indoors at room temperature will spoil rather than deteriorating.
Once spoiled, food will vanish and can never be recovered. However, food can be eaten at any stage before spoiling with no negative effect. Food poisoning comes from other sources, such as a messy kitchen, an unskilled cook, or eating raw food.
- They are cooked into and eaten as simple meals.
- A grower's Plants skill is competent; 6 Plants is enough.
- Crops are harvested reasonably quickly. 25 tiles gives a little extra food in case of emergency, but assumes that Growing is priority #1 in the Work tab.
- Your colony has a year-round growing season.
20 tiles of rice/corn in rich soil (not potatoes) is also enough to feed a colonist, in the same conditions, with some food in reserve. A higher difficulty reduces plant yield; if playing in difficulties lower than Losing is Fun, then you technically need less crop to survive. If your biome doesn't have a winter, then just plant your tiles of rice, and you don't really have to worry about managing food unless toxic fallout happens.
Food crop comparison
Of the three "main" food crops:
- Rice grows quickly, but gives the least per harvest. Rice is stable; since each individual rice harvest is small, a blight will not impact a rice harvest as much as it does with other crops. However, because it needs to be harvested more often, you will need more work for the same amount of food. Due to its grow speed, it is a great food to plant first, or as a "last harvest" when winter is fast approaching.
- Corn is the opposite of rice. It grows slowly, but gives the most per harvest. It needs to be harvested much less frequently, meaning corn takes much less work than rice. However, your corn harvest will be impacted more by disasters like blight and fire. Corn cannot be grown in hydroponics.
- Potatoes are in the middle in terms of speed, harvest size, and work. Potatoes are notable for their low Fertility Sensitivity, meaning the quality of soil impacts them much less. They are great if you are forced to plant in stony soil or gravel, but bad to grow in rich soil or hydroponics.
Rice, corn, and potatoes give roughly the same amount of food per day per plant, assuming regular soil is used. Rice is ever so slightly higher than the other 2 crops.
Of the other available crops:
- Strawberry plants give less food per day than any of the three food crops. It grows faster than potatoes, but slower than rice. Its niche is that strawberries can be eaten raw without a mood penalty, but this is rarely useful given that cooking food into meals will net you more effective food.
- Hay is inedible to humans, but gives the most food per day of all plants. Slightly less work efficient per than corn. Hay can also be used for straw matting.
- Nutrifungus is almost identical to potatoes; it grows slightly slower in regular soil, but has even less Fertility Sensitivity (slightly better in rough soil). Nutrifungus' benefit is that it has to be grown in complete darkness. This means that you can grow crops indoors, even during the winter, without having to use a power hungry sun lamp. As another benefit, nutrifungus is completely immune to blight. However, most ideoligions give −3 for Ate Cooked Fungus. Tunnelers enjoy eating fungus and despise any other plant. Tunnelers can construct fungal gravel to create fertile soil under their mountains.
- Toxipotatoes have no fertility sensitivity at all, and are the only food source that can be planted in polluted terrain. They provide strictly inferior food per work and per day to the standard potato, but do reach full growth between one and three days quicker depending on the terrain. They have double the chance to cause food poisoning when eaten raw.
rate (per day)
|Days to Rot|
|Carnivore lavish meal||1||Lavish||10||4|
|Vegetarian lavish meal||1||Lavish||10||4|
|Carnivore fine meal||0.9||Fine||10||4|
|Vegetarian fine meal||0.9||Fine||10||4|
|Packaged survival meal||0.9||Simple||0.25|
|Nutrient paste meal||0.9||Awful||10||0.75|
|Ostrich egg (fert.)||0.6||raw||2||15|
|Emu egg (fert.)||0.5||raw||2||15|
|Goose egg (fert.)||0.5||raw||2||15|
|Turkey egg (fert.)||0.5||raw||2||15|
|Cassowary egg (fert.)||0.5||raw||2||15|
|Goose egg (unfert.)||0.5||raw||2||15|
|Chicken egg (unfert.)||0.25||raw||2||15|
|Chicken egg (fert.)||0.25||raw||2||15|
|Duck egg (unfert.)||0.25||raw||10||15|
|Tortoise egg (fert.)||0.25||raw||2||15|
|Duck egg (fert.)||0.25||raw||2||15|
|Iguana egg (fert.)||0.25||raw||2||15|
|Cobra egg (fert.)||0.25||raw||2||15|