How did I miss this thread? lol.
Some fictional info on Star Trek replicators. They don’t solely use energy. They use ‘bulk matter’ (basically anything inorganic and organic), and then basically mini-transport into lifeless matter.
It’s not like the holodeck where it’s simply energy converted into Photons. It’s matter to matter conversion. (And of course it doesn’t taste or act the same as the real thing.) That means if the ship runs out of excess matter, there’s no replicators. (Remember they had to be rationed on Voyager, since the bulk matter and power supply are not infinite.)
We could always just go for more of a (dare I say it?) ST: Enterprise feel, which is a mix of the old Galley (with hydroponics?), and a primitive TOS drink synthesiser? They were still making boots out of s**t and such.
The thing about our ships, as you’ve all mentioned is how short duration we are from bases, correct?
Unlike Trek with it’s exploration missions that can last years, we’re usually close to the supply lines, or don’t stray too far from the known. I doubt the USFP is progressing our need for artificial goods, if we’re still limited to areas we have a presence/planets in, and traveling short distances. The transport service is still a major player, eh?
We’d probably be more akin to Star Wars, now that I think about it. They do use food processor units of a kind, along with rations/real food. (They use sugars and carbohydrates to process into foodstuff, for instance on even light freighters.) Again, it’s still some type of limited supply base matter turned into something edible. It’s not unlimited.