How can some materials have an effect on a completed item but others don't?

It seems that sometimes items chosen in a recipe affect the finished product, but often don’t.
Like for fruit leathers the calorie amount may change based on what fruit I used, however when I make a meat sandwich the amount of calories seems fixed (such as using cracklins as meat causing the amount of calories to decrease from 500 to 200)
If I were to use a plutonium cell to make a laser pointer for my gun, would it still work like a battery powered one, or would it have 14 million year battery life?

Are you sure the fruit leather changes based on the ingredients you use? Unless the crafting system changed since the last time I played, it isn’t possible. The crafting is fairly rudimentary, and unlike, let’s say Project Zomboid, the end result is always the same. To have different fruit leathers based on the fruit, you would need a different recipe, resulting in a different item for each one. That’s one of the reasons I felt like the vitamins system didn’t work so well when it was implemented. You often times end up losing a lot of vitamins when cooking food, because it can’t account for different ingredients.

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I don’t know about fruit leather but on 0.D stable desiccated fruit and vegetables have different values depending on the fruit or vegetable you used. Maybe it changed later?

It was changed around the release of .D (a few days before it went stable iirc) so that food values are now dependent on their input ingredients for nutrition. I think some of the recipes give a bonus to caloric value, but if any of them are just deleting calories I’m pretty sure it’s a bug.

Yeah, after Abraham’s comment I tested it, and that’s true. I was looking for the PR, and finally found it as PR #27252 from January this year.

So I tested specifically the meat sandwich, and it seems to be working correctly. To craft a meat sandwich from cracklings (typo in the game, without the g, BTW), you need 2 bread (2x84=168) and 1 crackling (270), resulting in 2 portions of meat sandwich, each with 219 calories (168+270=219x2=438).

I’m clearly not up to date with the new system, but maybe there are other interactions at play that made OP’s sandwich not get the same results as I did? Maybe stale or rotten food has few calories, which translate to a lesser sandwich?

yeah. some of the fruit leathers I made were 40 cal whereas others would 100 cal or higher.
I’m currently using the stable version.