Hi I just wanted to let you know that I find your blog very interesting and a wealth of information. The post on Vitro Meat left me a little alarmed because it made me think of the movie Soylent Green. So I looked into it. I'm not very tumblr savvy and I guess I can't give you a link to the website. But if you look up Steak of the art fatal flaws of Vitro meat on google you should be able to find the article I'm referring to. I look forward to hearing your opinion on it.
Thanks for your kind words. You’re referring to my two earlier posts on printed meat, here and here.
I’ve covered this-ish a few times before. The most popular posts were the brainless chickens art project, and the (very real) food printing research being conducted at Cornell University in upstate NY. And you can see all my posts on printed food, here.
OK, so, yes thanks much for the article - “Steak of the Art: The Fatal Flaws of In Vitro Meat.” The author, Christina Agapakis, is an artist with a PhD in biology. She has no business experience and most of her life was spent in school. Here’s her CV.
Her background matters because her article “Steak of the Art" speculates about the production problems of bringing printed meat to the market. She explains that the engineering processes are expensive, that the volume of genetic material needed is huge, and, inexplicably / incongruously swerves to discuss feeding cattle algae.
Her point is that lab-grown meat production could never be made efficient enough to compete with cattle meat. To support this, she points to the cost of the first batch of In Vitro meat, which was about $330,000 USD. Then she speculates that this is a lot of money. I would love to ask her her thoughts on how much she thinks running a 1,000 head ranch costs - not only in terms of owning and managing the property and animals proper, but the costs to the environment, governments, and human health as well.
She’s a smart scientist, but she has no business sense. Marketing a new product such as this would cost millions.
And guess what? Modern Meadow was given a $300,000 grant to start-up a business to sell printed meat - a much more efficient process than In Vitro. Far, far less than Dr. Agapakis uninformed guess.
I don’t have a problem with lab-grown meat. I’m just not falling for the hype. I’m sure glad people are talking about it. And I would love love love to read the ethical arguments for and against eating this stuff.
As for market viability? I have experience with managing budgets, running businesses, and analyzing environmental policy: there’s no way that a bio-meat would or could displace beef. The backlash from the ag-lobby would astonish even the most hardened politician. Not to mention the hokey ‘nostalgia’ people have for cows, cattle ranching, cowboys, and farmers. Impossible to displace these powerful, established, and frankly fine forces.
It’ll just be a niche product - probably for the ultra-ethical and adventurous types. So, don’t fall for the hype!
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USDA Buys $170 Million Of Meat To Help Drought-Stricken Farmers
Federal law allows the Agriculture Department to buy meat and poultry products to help farmers and ranchers affected by natural disasters.
The announcement came as Obama criticized Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan for blocking a farm bill that could help farmers cope with the drought. Obama touted his efforts to help farmers as he began a three-day tour of the battleground state he won in 2008.
“That will help ranchers who are going through tough times right now,” Obama said.
Obama said the government would boost its purchases of meat now, while prices are low, and freeze much of it for later use.
The USDA plans to buy up to $100 million of additional pork products, $50 million of chicken, $10 million of lamb and $10 million of catfish. The Defense Department, a large purchaser of beef, pork and lamb, was expected to look for ways to encourage its vendors to speed up purchases of meat.
“The purchases will help mitigate further downward prices, stabilize market conditions and provide high quality, nutritious food to recipients of USDA nutrition programs,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.
The USDA has spent about $37 million on pork products so far this year. If it spends an additional $100 million, that would be more than twice what the agency spent on pork in 2011.
Obama has pledged a wide-ranging response to the drought. His administration is giving farmers and ranchers access to low-interest emergency loans, opening more federal land for grazing and distributing $30 million to get water to livestock.
Good reporting on government handouts to private businesses via CBS.
The Myth of Sustainable Meat
A vegetarian lays out the economic realities and environmental impacts of “sustainable” agriculture.
For all the strengths of these alternatives, however, they’re ultimately a poor substitute for industrial production. Although these smaller systems appear to be environmentally sustainable, considerable evidence suggests otherwise.
Grass-grazing cows emit considerably more methane than grain-fed cows. Pastured organic chickens have a 20 percent greater impact on global warming. It requires 2 to 20 acres to raise a cow on grass. If we raised all the cows in the United States on grass (all 100 million of them), cattle would require (using the figure of 10 acres per cow) almost half the country’s land (and this figure excludes space needed for pastured chicken and pigs). A tract of land just larger than France has been carved out of the Brazilian rain forest and turned over to grazing cattle. Nothing about this is sustainable.
The issue is scale - we can’t have 100 million small farms for each household, and industrial agriculture is the only reasonable, viable, and therefore sustainable answer to human food needs. (Pretty please, before you send me angry msgs, I kindly ask you to read FAO’s “Ethical Issues in Food" and UM’s "Ethical Issues in Farming"(PDF). At least skim them, and think in terms of "scale." Arguments for ethical treatment of ag animals are great. But the case for ethical treatment is not strong enough to eliminate the need for industrial scale farming).