There's a lot of uproar about the recent changes to food preservation. I'm gonna try to outline why I feel the players are upset, and why I think Klei still fiddles with food. Also, I'll propose a rough and raw idea on how to make food actually interesting.
The players' perspective
Food is tricky. We would love to automate it, but there really isn't much we can do to do so. There are essentially two ways to get food: Farms and Ranches. With farms, we can come up with workarounds to make them "toggleable". Ranches, on the other hand, are a relatively hard buy-in, even requiring very specialized duplicants that barely improve and barely get around to doing anything else. Food also is the only aspect where something you invest into can just vanish. It's punishing to not preserve food, so it's also punishing to over-produce food.
So we are at a point where we collect, inevitably, too many cooking ingredients. And because we hate to let them go bad, we build infinite food storages. And because there is a way to infinitely preserve edibles, we just cook up those ingredients and store the processed foods instead. Not because we want to. Because we have to, or we loose all our investment.
ONI is a game of complexity. That is what makes it awesome, and that is what keeps the players fiddling. Food should be, like Oxygen, an interesting resource that we need to manage. Currently, it's just about setting up infinite storage and be done with it forever. That is not interesting. Not to the players, not to Klei. The effort here is to take something that has a singular solution and feels like a chore, and turn it into an interesting challenge that fosters diverse, creative solutions.
So Klei is at a point where they need infinite food storage as the one-stop-solution to go away, and nudge players into making use of more of the game's toolset.
The current state
As of this point, as players it feels like we get the worst of both worlds: The supply chain for food stays at its unflexible same, while the storage of food becomes more complicated. On the other hand, the changes already sparked new ideas. Looking at solutions the the food storage, it's great to see that the barely utilized Thermal Regulator finds use. People have different approaches and priorities, and food storage is becoming a creative aspect of the game. All that being said, food is, at this point, a storage problem for a perishable resource. As such it feels punishing and inherently less interesting than a production problem; It's all stick, no carrot.
A proposal to a more interesting food challenge
There are two main things that I feel like would help to make food much more interesting:
1.) Production chain
Currently, we have raw and processed food. Many times, both are edible, and mostly a matter of quality. What would be much more interesting than that, would be a situation where we have:
a) raw ingredients that are mostly inedible and perishable
c) edible dishes
d) long-term preservation options with trade-offs
Here's a possible example: Meal Lice, as the raw ingredient, only yields half the calories it does right now, and goes bad within 5 cycles. However, we can choose to do several things with that raw Meal Lice:
Press it into Oil
Mash it into Spices
Preserve it in Oil or Brine, making it last 20x longer
Turn it into a higher quality dish by adding Oil & Spices
Different raw ingredients could enable us to make different qualities of Oil and Spices. Later game technologies could allow for better preservation methods (drying, vaccum packaging, glass jars, ...).
Then there's the current, and obvious, question of freezing. I feel like the current state of requiring deep freeze and sterile atmosphere is actually fine, and makes a lot of sense. I also feel that we really need a deep freezer box. Early tech. Low power usage. Like the box we all have in our basement, filled with frozen goodies. They don't need much power, and offer A LOT of storage capacity, and it is weird that we would have inefficient fridges, but no freezers.
At the same time, frozen food should not be edible, but require to be re-heated - requiring duplicant labor, but not a cook. Think microwave, or oven. Also, re-heating can lower the quality. Thus we would have a solution that enables long-term storage, but forces us to make certain trade-offs. Fresh food would still be desirable.
2.) Farming & Ranching
The second aspect of food that feels a little lackluster is farming/ranching. I feel like both would benefit from having more diverse options to process their products. Farming could benefit from the above mentioned possibility to make oils and spices, and raw farming products could also be used as critter food, or maybe even biofuel.
Ranches could yield more diverse ingredients than only meat. Maybe we can "milk" gassy moos, or get oil from slicksters.
Last but not least, the automation aspect of food could really use an upgrade. First and foremost, the fridge - and deep freezer! - need to have automation ports like the liquid reservoir to allow us to start/stop food production at relevant points. And while farming feels pretty okay, Ranching should be somewhat toggle-able as in: Critters that are not "harvested" use much less food and need only be groomed half as much.
Making it more interesting late-game, different foods could give different bonuses. Like a fitness-dish that gives +excavation/building, concentration food that gives +machinery, a dessert that makes duplicants require only half as much sleep, etc. pp., to actually reward a variety of foods.
And that's all I have.
These are just some initial ideas, and I'm sure they aren't perfect or specifically great. However, I feel like they outline that food still has a ton of potential to become a much more interesting mechanic.