Biotechnology

The End of Farming

Real factories will replace factory farms

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Cow in Petri Dish
Men's Fitness

Modern biotechnology could put dairy farms out of business. And not just dairy, but lots of other farms as well, including those that produce meat, leather, and even staple starches. In fact, the amount of land devoted to agriculture could shrink by 80 percent in the next few decades.

In the mid-1960s, when I was growing up on a dairy farm in the Virginia Appalachians, there were 3.2 million farms in the United States. About 600,000 of them produced some milk for sale. Nationally, there were just under 15 million milk cows, and dairy producing farms averaged about 20 milk cows per operation. (My family ran about 40 head of cows.) Fewer than 2 percent of dairy farms operated with more than 100 cows. Each cow produced a bit more than 8,000 pounds of milk per year, and the country consumed about 124 billion* pounds of milk annually.

By 2012, the number of farms with dairy cows had dropped to just over 50,000, and nearly 50 percent of cows lived on farms with more than 1,000 animals. The total number of milk cows dropped to 9.2 million, each producing about 22,000 pounds of milk per year. American consumption of milk had risen to about 200 billion* pounds annually. Dairy accounts for about 12 percent of all calories consumed by Americans annually.

Now the startup Muufri (pronounced moo-free) aims to use biotech to make perfect cow's milk. The lab-grown milk is a compound of six proteins and eight fatty acids. Cow genes are added to yeast grown in vats, from which those compounds are harvested. The company will add the proper proportions of minerals like calcium and potassium to the mixture. Muufri can leave out lactose, which 75 percent of the world's adults have trouble digesting.

The company's founders claim their milk won't need pasteurization, since it is produced in super clean lab conditions. By varying the ratios of the compounds, they can recreate goat's milk, sheep's milk, or even buffalo milk. And just like regular milk, Muufri can be turned into any other dairy product such as cheeses and ice cream.

MuuFri
MuuFri

Let's make the heroic assumption that Muufri or competitors completely replace the current dairy industry. That would put 50,000 dairy farmers out of business and significantly reduce the amount of agricultural land devoted to that industry.

According to the Department of Agriculture, there are nearly 2.3 billion acres of land in the United States. Four hundred and eight million acres of that is cropland, while pasture and rangeland totals 614 million acres. A 2014 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports that 8 percent of pasture and range land was devoted to dairy cows, 13 percent to growing hay, and 24 percent to growing concentrated feeds like corn and soybeans. The USDA reports that in 2014, the soybeans and corn were each grown on about 84 million acres of land. Additionally, farmers grew hay and silage crops on 63 million acres for livestock feed. So if all dairy cows were eliminated that would mean that 40 million acres of cropland, 50 million acres of pastureland, and 8 million acres of hay land could revert to nature. That's nearly 100 million acres, about the size of California.

What if meat production could similarly be moved to the laboratory and grown in vats? In 2013, a burger grown in the University of Maastrich's cultured meat lab was taste-tested in London, but it did not receive rave reviews. The burger was composed of muscle cells taken from a cow and grown in a vat. By one estimate, the current price of cultured beef would be somewhere around $30 per pound. Ground beef is hovering around $4 per pound now. The startup Modern Meadow is working to produce cultured meat and leather. If cultured meat can be made cheaper than the on-the-hoof version, the effect on farming would be far-reaching, to say the least. 

Today Americans eat about 25.5 billion pounds of beef annually, amounting to about 7 percent of the calories in an average diet. There are about 90 million beef cattle in the United States. A whopping 92 percent of pastureland, 87 percent of land used to grow hay and silage, and 21 percent of feed grains are used to grow beef cattle. If cultured beef entirely replaced the conventional kind that would mean that 35 million acres of cropland, 565 million acres of pastureland, and 55 million acres of land used to grow hay could revert to nature. That 655 million acres amounts to just over 1 million square miles of land, equal in size to all of the U.S. states east of the Mississippi River, plus California.

Modern Meadow
Modern Meadow

In a 2011 study, researchers from Oxford and the University of Amsterdam calculated that replacing farmed meat with cultured meat could cut energy use by 7 to 45 percent, greenhouse gas emissions by 78 to 96 percent, land use by 99 percent, and water use by 82 to 96 percent. While noting uncertainties, the researchers concluded that "the overall environmental impacts of cultured meat production are substantially lower than those of conventionally produced meat."

About 30 to 40 percent of a typical American diet consists of starches, usually derived from grains such as wheat and corn. Y.-H. Percival Zhang, a researcher at Virginia Tech, has developed an enzymatic technique that can turn indigestible cellulose into the digestible starch amylose. Growing a ton of grain typically involves producing two to three tons of cellulose in the form of leaves and stalks. Zhang's technique can transform any source of cellulose, including wood chips and weeds, into edible starch, feedstocks for bioplastics, and glucose for bioethanol production.

Zhang notes that a biorefinery using his enzymes could turn up to 50 percent of what would normally be agricultural waste into edible starch. Assume a cellulose-to-edible-grain ratio of two to one and a transformation rate of 50 percent. That would essentially mean that enough dietary starches could be grown on half the 140 million acres of cropland planted now in wheat and corn. Seventy million acres amount to 109,000 square miles, an area about the size of Colorado. 

In the future, "factory farms" will be increasingly replaced by real factories. Still, there would be plenty of scope for niche markets offering "real" milk, steaks, and grains grown on handicraft farms.

The land sparing that these three technologies could make possible adds up to 208 million acres of cropland and essentially all of the 614 million acres of pastureland in the United States. Restoring even half that much acreage to nature would provide plenty of space for buffalo to roam again and pronghorn antelopes to play.

Correction: Originally wrote "million". Thanks Felix.

NEXT: Pricing the Public Out of Public Records: $100 for a School-Board Meeting Record?

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  1. This really sounds very unappetizing. Particularly faux beef.

    1. Heinlein did it.

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      2. I was wondering how they do artificial insemination on petri dish cattle.

    2. Couldn’t be any worse than the flavorless, tough skinned, mostly watery placenta hot house tomatoes that account for the majority of tomatoes being sold these days. Okay, so it could be worse, which is really, really bad.

    3. It’s cultured beef, not faux beef.

      1. Six of one, half a dozen of the other….

      2. It’s cultured beef, not faux beef.

        I predict this is a future article on the porn industry.

        Oh. the lies we’ll tell ourselves.

    4. Agreed. I am gonna go out on a limb here and guess that Ronald Bailey is not a foodie. Also, does he not realize that the reason the family dairy farm is a thing of the past is because of government regulation?

    5. I make up to $90 an hour working from my home. My story is that I quit working at Walmart to work online and with a little effort I easily bring in around $40h to $86h? Someone was good to me by sharing this link with me, so now i am hoping i could help someone else out there by sharing this link… Try it, you won’t regret it!……
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  2. Muufri can leave out lactose, which 75 of the world’s adults have trouble digesting.

    Screw those 75 people! They need to toughen up their digestive systems like the rest of us.

    1. I saw this as well. I had a chuckle.

    2. Heh, heh…beat me to it. A true tyranny of the minority.

      1. All: Fixed now. Enjoy the weekend.

  3. I think I just threw up a little in my mouth… or was that from reading SugarFree’s blog?

    1. I find that unlikely–his work would never elicit so tepid a reaction.

      1. Throwing up in someone else’s mouth then?

        1. Imagine two butts, pooping back and forth into each other, forever.

          ))((

          1. Ha ha ha ahh HA!

          2. Haha, I am gonna have to steal that:

            “If you want a vision of the future, Winston, imagine two butts, pooping into each other, back and forth, forever.”

        2. The official explanation was he choked on vomit. It was actually someone else’s vomit.

          1. Well, they can’t prove whose vomit it was

      2. I’m battle hardened. I also only read every other word.

  4. In a 2011 study, researchers from Oxford and the University of Amsterdam calculated that replacing farmed meat with cultured meat could cut energy use by 7 to 45 percent, greenhouse gas emissions by 78 to 96 percent, land use by 99 percent, and water use by 82 to 96 percent. While noting uncertainties, the researchers concluded that “the overall environmental impacts of cultured meat production are substantially lower than those of conventionally produced meat.”

    Just imagine; with that many fewer grazing animals trimming forests will be a thing of the past, and we can stop trampling old growth into deserts.

    1. But if we don’t trample old growth forests (AKA- raging forest fire risk forests) into deserts where will us be-monocled libertarians ride our dune buggies?

      1. We’ll put saw blades and flame throwers on our buggies and just burn and hack our way through.

        1. I was politely *huff and wipes Cuban Mahoganey monocle* ignoring Restoras’ apparent lack of orphans.

          1. What? How can you run an efficient sweat shop without a good supply of orphans? Their nimble little fingers are mandatory for the best quality orphanware products.

            1. One can always lease from jesse’s Adorphan, Inc.

    2. That is already happening. I think the US forests are almost back to pre-colonial levels. Farm land has been decreasing at a rapid pace. Would already be at Peak Farmland if it wasn’t for the insanity that is turning corn into vehicle fuel.

  5. Ron, sounds great. But I will keep eating the same foods I have always eaten.

    1. So what’ll it be tonight then, Vanya? Orphan stew, orphan burgers, or orphan pot pie?

      1. So what’ll it be tonight then

        Moose, with crowberries for dessert.

        1. Nice

          1. Although I was hoping for something about how you were going to be enjoying a whole roast orphan while forcing his sister to clean your monocle with her tears…

      2. Real orphans or faux orphans?

  6. So then the government can pay former farmers to grow nothing on all those acres. Excellent.

    1. We first need to fill all of those empty acres with wind farms and solar panels. Then we can pay the farmers for doing nothing.

      1. +1 CRP

  7. and pronghorn antelopes to play

    I agree with Ron. Pronghorn antelope burgers are the future!

    1. Urk! Reminds me of discussing processing my antelope with girl at processing facility counter.

      “How do you want that done?”, she asks.

      “I wasn’t really happy with the last one”, I said, “how do the locals have them done?”

      “Most leave them where they shoot them” , she dryly replied.

      I opted for the whole thing ground into breakfast sausage with tons of pork. Only tolerable way to eat those goats.

    2. Pronhorns are not antelopes.

  8. The science is already settled as far as GMO’s go (there ain’t enough science been done to prove that it’s safe so we must ban it), you think for one second the progs aren’t already drafting legislation and cris de coeur to ban frankenfurters? The only way this shit’s gonna fly is if we convince ’em that it’s not lab-grown, it’s artisanal.

    1. Well, I guess we have to keep on slaughtering animals and burning the rain forests, to satisfy the progs.

      1. You say this like you think they actually care about animals or rain forests, and that they are not simply topics of the hour to increase funding and government reach for their factions.

      2. The rain forests are being destroyed for soy farms.

    2. Obama stacks USDA with Monsanto execs. The left is pro-GMO

  9. True lab grown meat and fish will never be allowed not because they won’t eventually taste good, be safe and cheaper than the real stuff. They won’t be allowed because allowing them would deprive vegetarians of the ability to feel smug.

    1. I predict that the Green Movement hysteria over cultured meats will make the reaction to Golden Rice look rational.

      Greens profess to love Gaia, but they really just hate humans.

      1. Greens profess to love Gaia, but they really just hate humans

        Ding ding ding. We have a winner!

      2. I totally agree. The day is going to come, sooner hopefully than later, when the world won’t need old dirty polluting agriculture and also won’t have worry about starvation. And the Greens are going to go insane at the thought and do everything they possibly can to keep it from happening.

        It is just a death cult.

        1. There will also be a fight from the farm lobby.

          Living in BC, I have watched the fight against salmon farming for 20 years. The fishermen, who destroyed the wild fishery in the first place, have been joined at the hip with the Greens on this issue.

    2. The luddites will lose again, guaranteed. That won’t stop them from throwing whiny fits and running after tractors with their pitch forks, but they’ll still lose.

    3. Vegetarians aren’t vegans, and there are plenty of vegans who’d eat meat if it were cultured. I’d guess 80% of those two groups would eat cultured meat, and it’s probably higher than that.

      My only question is how long it’ll take this pescatarian to get his hands on some cultured long pork. If you can clone it from hated politicians, or perhaps just the very strong and admirable ones, so much the better.

      1. … cultured long pork. If you can clone it from hated politicians,…

        Yeah, that would taste like shit.

        1. Don’t forget, you get a side of revenge to go with it..

        2. The meat from CAFO raised beef fed GMO grains and injected with antibiotics to keep it alive long enough for slaughter has the exact same odor as the manure pits located at the facilities that raise them. Grass fed beef without the Dr Mengele treatment smells like a pasture.

    4. What is the point of such disparaging, ad hominem attacks? The idea that we as human beings “have dominion” over animals and can do with them as them please, with no regard for their welfare or suffering, is rooted in biblical thinking that regards them as soul-less beasts.

      It’s one thing to enjoy meat without regard for all the suffering and inhumanity that goes into its production, simply because you can. It’s quite another to attack those who have chosen on moral grounds to not participate in this industry. It takes a huge sacrifice to give up meat. Vegetarians should be commended for living according to their convictions, and speaking out against the mistreatment of animals.

      And in case you’re wondering, I am a meat eater. But I try to eat meat that is raised under humane conditions when at all possible. And I do feel guilty for eating meat, but not enough to stop altogether. If there were a cruelty-free way to get meat as good as “the real thing” I would gladly make that choice.

      Society will someday look back in disgust at meat produced by slaughtering live animals.

      1. The point is to make fun of vegetarians while making the larger point that the Greens are Luddites who hate humanity.

      2. Lighten up, Francis.

  10. I’m surprised so many people here are reflexively against eating these things. I’d certainly try them and if I couldn’t tell the difference, I’d prefer them.

    1. I’m not against it. I knowingly consume pink slime and carbon monoxide pinked meat on a regular basis.

      I’m against “this technology will help combat AGW and is therefor good and cannot fail” “scientific” groupthink.

    2. At first, I guarantee they will taste awful, but they will improve.

      Even if they become indistinguishalbe from the real thing, there will still be a snob market for ‘naturally grown’ meat.

      The easier marketing ploy would be to start it as a niche market for something that does not taste like any existing meat and allow it to develop from there.

      1. That is a good point. Once you can grow your own meat, you are no longer limited to natural meats. You can make it taste any way you want. How about some Salmallo? It tastes like a buffalo and a salmon had a baby.

        1. You can make it taste any way you want.

          What about bacon flavored?!?!

          1. You just push the biggest and brighest color button on your 3D meal printer, the one named ‘Bacon’ and everything comes out wrapped in bacon.

    3. Me too, I guess nothing beats the taste of chicken that has been shat on by other chickens.

      1. What exactly does that taste like? 🙂

        1. Go to your local grocery store or fast food restaurant.

    4. They’ll eventually create a steak that you cannot tell from a real one and the taste will be the same, guaranteed. Watch and see. It will actually be the exact same thing, so what would be the problem?

      1. They’ll eventually create a steak that you cannot tell from a real one and the taste will be the same, guaranteed.

        Doubt it.

      2. You’ll be able to tell the difference between real beef and vat grown beef.

        The texture will be off due to the lack of connective tissue and animal fats.
        I suspect the fats will be replaced with some kind of strangely processed soybean oil.

        It might be harder to tell the difference for ground beef, but steaks if they even bother to try will be very obvious.

        1. Why would there be no connective tissue? We’re not far off of being able to 3D print extracellular matrices to grow tissue on for transplants. No reason we can’t do the same thing for frankensteaks.

      3. Micro nutrients will be the issue with fabricated foods.

        1. If they can get it into a simple multi vitamin, why not a poultry axlotl tank?

  11. I have a feeling that there will always be a market for “the real thing”. I mean, many people claim that they can tell the difference taste-wise between grass-fed and grain-fed beef. You don’t think they’re going to “taste” the difference between grass-fed and tank-grown?

    People can get really, really idiotic about food. It’s just human nature to do so. So they WILL get idiotic about this too.

    1. Yeah, definitely. But if the price is right and the taste is close enough that people get used to it (maybe even come to prefer it) i could see it become more popular.

      Assuming it’s not regulated to death.

    2. I agree, the real thing will never completely go away. It will just get more expensive and refined. Or you’ll always be able to go to some 3rd world country and get your fix from the street vendors.

      But I guarantee they’ll eventually make lab grown meat that you will not be able to tell from the real thing, even if you pretend to be able to.

      I do think you can, in some cases, taste the difference between meat depending on what the animals diet was. For instance, in Indiana, venison is really tasty because they’ve mostly ate corn and they’re pretty fattened up. But out in Montanna I ate some and I swear it tasted like fucking pine needles, it was awful and tough.

      1. I do think you can, in some cases, taste the difference between meat depending on what the animals diet was. For instance, in Indiana, venison is really tasty because they’ve mostly ate corn and they’re pretty fattened up.

        If not for meat, certainly for milk. Not that industrial milk tastes bad, but you can certainly tell the difference between it and raw milk and telling the difference between two relatively distinct cows by drinking their milk isn’t that great a gastronomical feat either.

        Napoleon Dynamite was no lie, cows fed on onions will produce milk(fat) that tastes of it.

      2. There is definitely a diet component in some cases. The pigs for jamon iberico eat mostly acorns, and jamon iberico is fucking AMAZING, unquestionably better than jamon serrano. But I think people psycosomatically taste “differences” where there really isn’t one a lot.

        As for venison, I’ve found that it’s the preparation that can make a huge difference. The stuff you had that tasted like shit was probably overcooked and not marinated, etc. I’ve never had bad tasting venison when the cook knew what they were doing.

        1. In this case it wasn’t the cooking Epi, the deers in Montanna tasted like fucking pine, and it was extremely lean, hardly any fat. It wasn’t just me who noticed, a friend that was with me, said ‘this tastes like pine cones or something and I was like…. pine needles! Those fuckers were eating pine, they had to have been. The corn fed deer is very good though, big difference.

        2. I will admit that muleys shot in MT or ND definitely have a sage taste because they live out in the sage flats. I like that taste though.

          I think the biggest factor in venison’s taste though is how it is processed. Venison fat isn’t like beef fat. People who cut their deer up like beef are nuts. Venison fat is much more like tallow than fat.

          We always bone our deer out by hand and remove all the fat and sinew. The results are fantastic.

        3. There is a diet component in almost all cases. Even groups who support grass-fed have funded studies comparing corn/grain-fed beef with grass and show differentiation.

        4. Last year’s buck had been gorging on apples for several weeks before he was harvested. The meat has a hint of apple to it.

    3. For sure. There will always be a snob factor. Wine is the perfect example of this. It doesn’t matter that the big vintners have turned wine making into a science and can produce great wine in quantities that were unimaginable in the past. People still want that really expensive and exclusive bottle. This will be the same way.

      1. In my opinion, from the bottom up to a certain point, there is a huge quality difference in beer, wine, and liquor. But once a certain price level is reached, there really is no difference, it’s all in the mind after that. You can think you got something better buying that $500 bottle of wine, but really, all you did was prove that you can waste a lot of money and pretend you are really getting something better, it’s all a mental game.

        1. Three words Pappy Van Winkle. That shit tastes like cough syrup. It doesn’t even begin to compare with other higher end bourbons and whiskeys. Hipsters decided it was cool and they don’t make very much of it, so it costs $65 a shot now, when in saner times no one bothered with it.

          1. Yeah, $65 a shot, there is no liquor that good. This is what I’m talking about. And even in some cases like you are saying, the overpriced shit is closer to the bottom barrel stock than it is the really quality stocks.

            1. I have drank it all. And I find your statement to be pretty spot on. There is a big difference between a good spirit like Woodford or Jack Daniels and the real shit stuff. But the difference between a $25 bottle of Jack and a $300 bottle of some small batch whatever, is very little at best and might be worse depending on your tastes.

              1. I thought so too, until I taste tested at a distillery in Scotland. You started out with a sip of rotgut blended scotch and went through various aged scotch. The last sip was a 29 yr old scotch that was the smoothest liquor I have ever tasted.

                $185/bottle and a number of people bought a bottle.

            2. “Yeah, $65 a shot, there is no liquor that good.”

              If Kate Upton peed liquor, I’d spend $65 to try a shot.

              1. Hell yeah, I would bounce a basketball through a minefield just to smell where she peed.

              2. Only if I could drink it at the source Palin.

                1. I figured that went without saying.

    4. Yep. Just like the people who prefer vynil to digital recordings and claim that the sound reproduction is ‘better’.

      1. “vinyl”

        Transpostion error.

        1. It is the hipsters’ world. We just suffer in it.

      2. That’s only because back in the vinyl days of their hippy youth, they hadn’t yet dulled all of their senses with massive amounts of drugs. So, it really doesn’t sound better, it’s just that they remember when it sounded better.

        When digital TV first came out, a really good analog picture really was better. But after 1080p and up, that’s all history.

      3. There is an argument because sound is analog, not digital, that an analog recording could sound better than a digital one.

        1. Which would be wrong. At best you could claim discretization error in the ADC/DAC which would be at most 1/2 LSB, so ~1/130000 error. Even so the reconstructed signal is analog when you hear it.

          Now if you want to get into a religious fight bring up tubes vs. transistors. There is slightly more technical basis in that claim, but only for a specific class of signals and some psychoacoustics, i.e. tubes soft limit and so tend to generate even harmonics which are perceived to be less harsh than when transistors hard limit and generate odd harmonics.

          1. The guitarist in me prefers tubes because while they do a shitty job at amplification, they sound great while they’re doing it.

    5. The grocery store up the road gets their chicken wings from two different suppliers. I can tell the difference just by looking at them. One is lean and delicious, while the other has thick, fatty skin and tough meat. I would venture to guess that the birds are on different diets, but I don’t know for sure.

      1. The free range chicken from Wholefoods here is definitely better tasting, to me, than the gristly over fat stuff from the Giant.

  12. There will always be a snob factor.

    Not sure I would call it a snob factor, although you will have that. Others will want “natural*” foods. But if the nutritional content is identical then it would be great.

    *I hunt for all my food, but not everyone can or will want to do that. I think it is the best food, but others will disagree and that is fine. But I hardly think of it as “snobbish” behavior.

    1. Some people have a better developed sense of taste and smell than others. I remember I was watching Dirty Jobs and the crew went to a scents factory. There was a room filled with little bottles of scents, each one activated a specific receptor in the nose. The guy in the white coat opened up a vial of butyric acid (which gives vomit its distinctive smell) and Mike couldn’t smell a thing (that explains why he can do these jobs, the smell literally doesn’t bother him). Then the guy waved it at the crew and by the looks on their faces they could definitely smell it.

      So to someone with a well developed sense of smell and taste, food might taste completely different than it would to someone like Mike. At least Mike doesn’t go around calling those people snobs. But then again, he’s a class act.

      1. I met him once. Real nice guy that mike.

      2. Some people have a better developed sense of taste and smell than others.

        There’s been a heap of research into the TRPV-1 and TAS2Rs genes. They give capsaicin it’s spiciness but they also modify the taste of ethanol (or are modified by ethanol w/e). Some variants cause greater sensitivity to ethanol’s bitterness while others are potentiated by ethanol to produce sweet/tangy flavors.

        IIRC, there was a loose epidemiological study showing wine critics were overwhelmingly insensitive to the taste of ethanol and superlatively sensitive to the taste of the most abundant contaminants and were quite literally tasting wine that few/none of the rest of us could taste.

      3. Totally agree. I have a horrible sense of smell and taste. I’ve never been a picky eater because most stuff tastes about the same to me.

        I had a hard time with my daughter because she is half blood hound and smells would really knock her for a loop as a kid. Since I couldn’t smell anything, I thought she was just being a drama princess.

  13. As an animal lover, I’m kind of horrified by what I can only assume is a drastically worse environment for milk cows based on these stats in the article: In the mid-1960s “[F]ewer than 2 percent of dairy farms operated with more than 100 cows. Each cow produced a bit more than 8,000 pounds of milk per year” . . . in 2012 . . . nearly 50 percent of cows lived on farms with more than 1,000 animals. . . each producing about 22,000 pounds of milk per year.

    Poor buggers must be packed in like sardines.

    (BTW, I eat meats of all kinds so I guess I don’t feel that bad)

    1. I love animals too. Some of them. I hate fucking horses and those bovine fucking bug eyed cows, I’m not too fond of them either.

      When I was a kid, I would go to the nearby river to fish and I had to cut through this farmers field. I’d try to avoid the cows, but if they saw me, they’d chase me and once I had to jump an electric fence to get away from them and I didn’t quite make it and got my shoe caught on the fence, fell flat on my face and got shocked to add to the humiliation. Now I just eat them every chance I get. I’m talking about bulls of course, not cows. I love milk, so nothing against the ladies. They never chased me, they’d just stand there and chew grass and look at me dumbly.

      1. Horses are noble animals who can apparently sense your innate evil.

        1. Fuck that shit. Hyperion is spot on in his disdain for horses.

          * from someone who was bitten and shaken like a rat when he was a kid.

          1. I have no doubt you did something to deserve it. Jimbo.

            1. Got near him?

              But yeah, I was a hellion as a kid so maybe I had thrown a rock at that horse at some time before that that I had forgotten about (but obviously the horse hadn’t).

              On the other hand I had a room mate in the Marines who was a real live cowboy from MT and he had a really bad ass scar on his chest that he claims was from a horse biting him in the pectoral muscle and shaking him so hard that it tore loose.

              It was a real cool scar and it was a good story, so I believed him.

              1. One of those bastards threw me off into the side of a barn when I was 10 years old. For no obvious reason. I snuck up on that bastard a few days later and bashed him up side the head with a rock. I have hated those motherfuckers ever since.

                One also bit me, and I narrowly avoided being bitten by another who tried to sneak up on me, but failed.

              2. “a horse biting him in the pectoral muscle and shaking him so hard that it tore loose.”

                holy shit thats awful

            2. Oh yeah, I forgot to condemn you for victim shaming.

              Please forgive me, remembering all the rules that go into modern interaction has just become too much for me to keep track of.

      2. Don’t they use old cows to make Campbell’s soup?

        1. Yes, the one’s they find rotting outside the glue factory.

      3. I hate fucking horses…

        So you tried it and realized it just wasn’t your thing?

        1. He was going through a bit of gender confusion and also in a bit of a Russian monarch phase.

        2. I’m sure the horse was not impressed.

        3. You survived?

      4. “I love animals too. Some of them. I hate fucking horses and those bovine fucking bug eyed cows, I’m not too fond of them either.”

        So. . . which animals do you like to fuck?

        1. I prefer human females. What about you, comrade?

    2. Dairy cows aren’t typically “packed in like sardines.” They’re either out in large pastures or are in large barns with enormous hay and feed racks running the length of the barns. Dairy cattle require large amounts of high-quality nutrition to produce 22,000 pounds of milk per year. They basically just lounge around all day eating, and get milked twice a day (which they enjoy).

      Some farms are experimenting with self-milking stations and it’s really interesting. They’re robotic stations the cows can enter whenever they feel like they want to be milked, and they work! The cows love them and take to them naturally.

      Cows don’t really want to roam much as long as they’ve got a tasty food source nearby. In the winter, my (beef) cattle have more than 90 acres available for them, but rarely go far from the hay rings and bunk feeders. All the dairy cattle I’ve observed have been very content with their conditions.

    3. Poor buggers must be packed in like sardines.

      Dairy cows’ milk production is notoriously sensitive. They aren’t like chicken or fish where you can feed them near-literal garbage and treat them like shit and still get production.

      Along with the resizing of the dairy has come a resizing of the barn too. Todays dairy barns are the size of automobile assembly plants. They obviously don’t consume the same acreage an entire farm used to, but cows were only using some of that land once a month and only to shit on at that. Not to mention, being kept in a barn as such, they generally get bathed more often, injured and/or eaten less often, and treated more… efficiently when they do get sick or injured.

      They do have tighter quarters than if they were free roaming of course, but they generally aren’t packed in like sardines. The only time they are is when they’re being milked and, usually, they get free balmed nipple rubs before and after.

    4. Not necessarily. Farm near here milks 2200 head twice a day. Cattle are housed under cover in huge barns, each wearing a bracelet specific to that animal. When being milked, the bracelet is automatically scanned and the exact about of feed/medicine/vitamins are dropped into it’s bowl. Milking is all done on carousels with only one or two employees. Cattle are treated 27/7 by three shifts of veterinarians. Farm raises exactly NO foodstuff or roughage for the cattle, contracts it all out. Manure is collected and provides methane gas which supplements their electricity usage.

      The cattle are treated royally. Until the butterfat content and/or pounds per milking average falls below the red line. Cow gets one day to improve or exits via the meat truck.

      1. If they aren’t growing anything is it a farm? And it isn’t a surprise they need a whole staff of vets. Never heard that Joel Salarin needs a staff of vets for his livestock.

        1. They’re growing milk, fertilizer and meat.

          How many doctors do you think are appropriate to treat 2200 people? We have far more than 3 full-time doctors in the nearest city of about 4700 people.

          I’m not sure how you can spin the fact that a dairy farm has full-time on-duty vets as a negative.

          Wikipedia says Joel Salatin owns a 550 acre farm. That is, believe it or not, a very small farm. He’s not raising any 2200 head of cattle on that farm. He raises meat, not dairy. Completely different kind of operation.

          The Wikipedia page for his farm makes some grand claims, but they look suspiciously overblown to anyone who actually grazes beef cattle:

          Salatin bases his farm’s ecosystem on the principle of observing animals’ activities in nature and emulating those conditions as closely as possible. Salatin grazes his cattle outdoors within small pastures enclosed by electrified fencing that is easily and daily moved at 4pm in an established rotational grazing system. Animal manure fertilizes the pastures and enables Polyface Farm to graze about four times as many cattle as on a conventional farm, thus also saving feed costs. The small size of the pastures forces the cattle to ‘mob stock’-to eat all the grass.

          Yes,because animals in nature typically get herded from one small plot of grass to another. Give me a break. More following.

          1. First, it’s not the manure fertilizer that allows him to graze “four times as many cattle as on a traditional farm,” it’s the intensive rotational grazing. If he’s fertilizing with his own manure, or untreated manure, he’s spreading parasites around, More on that below.

            As one might expect, intensive rotational grazing has drawbacks.

            It increases the disease, worm and parasite load among the cattle, because they spend all their time in very small pastures and come into more contact with each other and their own manure while grazing. The cattle are encouraged to eat lower-quality and contaminated grass in their small area before being moved to the next atrea.

            1. It puts more stress on the pastures, requiring more fertilization, it’s more manpower-intensive because it requires frequent herding of the cattle and movement of portable electric fences, and, lastly, his “four times” claim is based not on “conventional farms” because all conventional for-profit beef farms use some form of rotational grazing, but on small, hobby and family farms where the farmer simply doesn’t have the manpower for the intensive rotational grazing management.

              The amount of head per acre also depends greatly on things beyond the farmer’s control: the natural quality of the pasture and the water supply. Rancher’s on the big open graze ranches out west couldn’t graze at that density if they wanted to, because the soil simply isn’t good enough to support enough grass at that density and there’s not enough ready access to water. That doesn’t mean their cattle aren’t every bit as good as Saletan’s.

              Intensive rotational grazing is for people trying to wring every last dollar out of their cattle and their pastures. Cattle on “traditional” grazing have lower stress levels than cattle in intensive rotational grazing systems.

              So don’t tell me about how wonderful Joel Saletan is — you’re buying into his PR. I’m sure he raises good cattle and sells good beef, but he’s not God’s gift to cattle. He’s trying to make a buck selling boutique beef and it sells better if his buyers think their cattle was raised on a little slice of paradise.

            2. Rotational grazing actually breaks up the disease (parasite) cycle because it prevents the livestock from continually being exposed to the same areas where waste is continually being added. But the land grant university ag supportors don’t get it.

              You rotate out of the paddck before the quality is destroyed, but I think you knew that already.

              1. BTW, I don’t think your comment on the big land-grant university ag supporters not getting it is incorrect. I have taken seminars on intensive rotational grazing from the OSU Ag Extension offices and they do get it and support it. I understand it, too, it’s just not a panacea. It’s got benefits and drawbacks. It’s fine if Salatin wants to use all that as part of his marketing — that’s pretty much just what the organic label is, too, a marketing gimmick — but I get annoyed when people act like it’s the only acceptable way to ranch.

                1. Thought we were talking about “farming” not ranching. And are the rotations that the tax-subsidized OSU discuss the same as Salatin?

                  My experience is that grain fed beef smells like a grain fed CAFO manure pit. Grass fed beef smells like pasture. The one place we sometimes buy from raises grass-fed Highland. There is less fat when I cook it. A little research revealed it does have less fat. And more protein. And some other things. Not equivalent for me.

              2. It breaks up the parasite life cycle if you can keep the cattle off the same section long enough. Some types of eggs can live for many months. I don’t know how many sections he uses and how many head of cattle he has.

                I bet he culls a lot, though. Something like 10% of your herd typically sheds 90%of the eggs. You cull the ones that continually shed a lot of eggs and/or don’t thrive at a moderate parasite level.

                As for pasture qualtiy, yes I know you take them off before the quality gets too low — you don’t want them grazing on grass that’s too short anyway, as they pick up more parasites that way, too. But the goal, overall, is to graze more cattle on fewer acres. Simple math says that in the long run, that’s going to suck more nutrients out of your pastures.

                1. I think his goal is to produce organic meat using natiral systems. If he wanted to maximize cattle per acre he’d buy DuPont corn from a monocropper and feed it to cattle stuck in pens. And have vets on staff for every shift. And build a wastewater plant to handle the manure.

            3. And if it increases the disease loads how does he get by not using pharm products on his livestock?

          2. Animals in nature go to where the food is located. We don’t have turkey here because we don’t have any winter food. I recall him making the analogy with migrating herds.

            Didn’t realize people are cows. And I wonder how many doctors are needed in areas where the folks aren’t eating factory food. How many vets does Salatin have full-time? None. Because he isn’t feeding corn to his cattle.

      2. Tech is farm production is really an overlooked area.

        A little mention about that medicine. Cows on antibiotics and others get withdrawn from milk collection. They still need to be milked to relieve the pressure but it gets dumped. There’s a big incentive to the farmer to make sure it doesn’t get mixed up. Milk gets tested several times, including when the tanker shows up to pump the holding tanks. If it tests positive, the entire load gets dumped and the farmer gets nothing for xxxx gallons of milk.

        Milk production, by gallon volume, has increased by moving to larger volume breeds like Holstein, better cycle management and better cattle care. But Holsteins also have a lower butterfat percentage, which is what prices are based on, than other breeds with lower volume production.

  14. Let’s make the heroic assumption that Muufri or competitors completely replace the current dairy industry. That would put 50,000 dairy farmers out of business and significantly reduce the amount of agricultural land devoted to that industry.

    You’re a greater hero than I am, Ron. Rock-ribbed red-state GOPers will turn that into the bitchiest special interest imaginable when that day comes. As it will, probably sooner rather than later.

    The farm subsidies will endure for generations longer than the actual farms will.

  15. Before we predict the end of using land for agriculture, maybe we should ask a few questions that wouldn’t occur to people who majored in journalism or other scientific illiterates.

    Whenever cells are cultured in a laboratory, they must be continuously supplied with glucose or other chemical energy sources.

    Where will the producers of lab grown milk or meat get all this glucose? Have they figured out some means of producing it that works better than photosynthesis? This whole article is one giant face palm inducer.

    1. Its Bailey. He will believe anything a guy in a lab coat tells him.

    2. Excellent point. Plus cellular waste disposal. I’d like to see numbers on that.

    3. Where will the producers of lab grown milk or meat get all this glucose? Have they figured out some means of producing it that works better than photosynthesis? This whole article is one giant face palm inducer.

      Well. Not only would a clump of cells be better at producing milk. But reducing grains (more) directly to their pure sugars and storing them that way would be more efficient too.

      Part of the reason there is/was HFCS in *everything* is because it is/was a way to convert volatile grains into more stable and widely usable food compounds.

      But I’m with you on that, their research stinks horrendously of Gaiaism or at least an “Earth *must* come first bias”-type bias.

      1. I’m in-agreement with nearly all your points, but caution that you have just provided a scientific basis for ethanol which is anathema to both Reason and the commenters here…

      2. Not only would a clump of cells be better at producing milk.

        Yet to be demonstrated.

      3. I’m not sure you got my point that before the grains can be “reduced directly to their pure sugars,” the grains have to be grown, and that requires land, sunlight, water, fertilizer, and farming.

    4. Why they’ll get it from the same source the cows do: silage! They’ll just breakdown the cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin into glucose and then digest it in their second stomac… Oh wait.

      Excellent point.

  16. A whopping 92 percent of pastureland, 87 percent of land used to grow hay and silage, and 21 percent of feed grains are used to grow beef cattle.

    What would be the better, alternate use for that pasture land? Quite a lot of pasture land is unsuitable for crop farming. Likewise, a lot of hay is grown in sub-par fields, part of rotation for pastureland, or a rotational crop in better fields — popular legumes such as alfalfa and trefoil help fix nitrogen in the soil.

    replacing farmed meat with cultured meat could cut energy use by 7 to 45 percent, greenhouse gas emissions by 78 to 96 percent, land use by 99 percent, and water use by 82 to 96 percent.

    Why would I assume that cutting energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, land use or water use are desirable goals?

    1. Why would I assume that cutting energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, land use or water use are desirable goals?

      You can feed more people, and that is a good thing.

      1. We have more than enough food to feed all the people on earth: all current famine is politically caused. And we have plenty of capacity with current technology to feed a lot more.

        Global population levels are on track to plateau. At some point, excess agricultural capacity will simply be surplus. There’s no benefit to growing more food than you can possibly use or store, and we’re pretty much there already.

        Much of the land will, as Bailey suggest, return to forests, plains, or whatever its natural state would be, and it’s not obvious to me why that’s desirable.

        1. Of course there will still be the vast fields of whatever crop is grown to feed the meat factories.

        2. That is good to know. But all else being equal, hopefully that energy, land, and water can be put to more productive use. Returning to a natural state is not good in and of itself, but the freeing of resources to be used more profitably somewhere else is good. Maybe hemp farming? Who knows, but the more efficient you can make something, normally the better it is.

      2. Not if you are a Green.

        I have met numerous Greens who believe humans are evil and should be purged from the earth.

        Strangely, they seem unwilling to lead by example.

    2. A better use for pasture has been dreamed up by enviroproggies: turn the Midwest into a big theme park called Buffalo Commons. Via wikipedia:

      Buffalo Commons is a conceptual proposal to create a vast nature preserve by returning 139,000 square miles (360,000 km2) of the drier portion of the Great Plains to native prairie, and by reintroducing the American bison (“buffalo”), that once grazed the shortgrass prairie. The proposal would affect ten states: (Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Texas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas)

      1. I don’t know who called it the Midwest, but those are the Plains States to a ‘T’, possibly even the Southwest.

        I guess when it’s all flyover country…

      2. I wonder if these people know how seriously hard it is to return prairie to its “native” state. I mean, you can’t just pull cattle off it and let it revert. Reestablishing a native ecosystem is a major, hugely labor intensive, years long process.

        Basically no one but crazy crunchy-granola naturalist fanatics even try to recreate prairie ecosystems at anything more than a “chucking flower seeds into the back field to make it pretty” scale because it’s so much work. I can’t imagine trying to do it over thousands of miles.

        That said, I’m completely psyched to try techno-vat-meat.

      3. Thankfully Wikipedia has it correct that they are bison and not buffalo.

    3. Energy, land, and water all cost money. Cutting their use has the potential to lower the cost, which is better for the consumer.

  17. “The End of Farming
    Real factories will replace factory farms”

    Yes, if the government and their technocratic stooges have their way, agriculture will be centralized and concentrated in the hands of a very few. Not surprising. That’s what progress is all about. What I find noteworthy is how ‘Libertarians’ here are on board with it. Tax-payer funded research and all.

    1. Innovation bad! Economy of scale bad! Eat dirt Good!

      1. As long as government innovates, who could possibly object? What’s wrong with a little interference in the market place? Especially if it’s for a good cause.

    2. Troll score: C-

      Saved from D by the bit about taxpayer funded research.

  18. So the only reason for anyone to have a sheep farm in the future is just for the pr0n?

    I feel bad for the sheep fuckers of the future. Today they can mask their perviness by pretending that they are simple farm folk. In the brave new world, they won’t be able to and will have to just come out and admit that there is nothing they like better than grabbing two fistfuls of wool, sliding their back legs down the front of their boots and going to town.

    1. Yes, but in the future, every sheep fucker will get one free wedding cake by law.

      1. Not until they organize and start lobbying.

        World Order of Ovine Lovers (WOOL)?

        We’re Here! We Shear! Get used to it!!!!

    2. I imagine that a sheep sex robot would be easier to produce than a human one.

  19. Soylent Green is PEOPLE!!!!!!

  20. I wouldn’t mind trying the new food out. My biggest worry about this is that it will really make it harder for future generations of hunters.

    If most people begin getting their food from factory growth vats, hunters will lose allies in their fight to keep their sport alive. Now most people get hunting because it is just a different way to get protein. It will be like having a world that is 90% vegan.

    I try to think of how I could explain to other people the thrill I get hunting. Yes, I like the meat, but going out in the woods and killing small cute animals is really what I like most.

    1. Yes, I like the meat, but going out in the woods and killing small cute animals is really what I like most.

      I am 100% with you there. However, maybe you haven’t noticed that we’ve gotten better at pummeling, machine gunning, immolating, and vaporizing each other in the past century or so?

      My son is a better archer than I ever was at his age for the simple fact that bows are better and more abundant. He hasn’t killed nearly as many (real) animals as I have but, for differing reasons, neither of us really have a question about it.

      1. One of my sons has the Killer Ape Gene. The other enjoys hunting, but I think he could take it or leave it.

        I agree with the gear. Even mundane stuff like Goretex makes it so much easier to be out in the field when the weather turns.

        I guess I’m sort of depressed because hardly anyone in my kids’ classes seems to hunt. When I was a kid most of the boys hunted. Now hardly any. When we run into game wardens they fall over backwards to make sure my kids have a good experience (it also helps that we are always conscientious about game laws) because they are so worried about the next generation of hunters.

        1. I think a lot of that has to do with lack of access to hunting locations.

          If it weren’t for family with suitable land, I’d probably never gone hunting.
          I’m moving out of state this year so I’ll either have to beg a farmer, or find some public land to hunt on. Neither option really appeals to me.

    2. “Dude, it’s just Xbox Really Live!”

    3. I think there would be allies in the practice of animal husbandry reduced as they are.

      Also, one must remember that most game species have limited remaining natural predators, and hunting is a conservation activity.

  21. It is kind of interesting how this would change the USA or any other First World nation but is vastly more so how it could change somewhere like, say, Central Africa. Screw the aesthetics of more room for bison, it would be a very different world that would essentially eliminate the ‘Third World’, where food production could be focused on a few high investment sites. It will be wonderful when these technologies mature!

  22. “Tea, Earl Grey”.

    We’ll make human flesh with this technology…”I’ll take a new heart to be installed next week, and…let’s see, a pound of ground pectoral, please”

    1. Isn’t that “Tea, Early Grey, HOT”?

      1. Could very will be, but I’m more of an Orion Slave Girl kinda guy.

        1. + 1 Yeoman Rand…

          1. Agreed.
            The Uhura types say she’s too old, but still always thought yeoman Rand was the hottest crew member.
            To bad she never showed up in “Mirror, Mirror”.

            BTW, there is a fan movie based on Mirror, Mirror on youtube, called “The Fairest of them All”, if you can get past the actors and acting.

            The opening monologue is excellent. ***polishes monocle and sips cognac***

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  26. I don’t doubt they can do it but I can only think of the tasteless fruit that is held in storage until sale, the tomatoes that look perfect but have terrible taste and texture and a host of other artificial food products. When I go to my garden and get a tomato I know what one can and should taste like. When I go to my local farm stand to get melons, corn etc same thing.

  27. If scientists and the general public are satisfied eating human-grade zoo food, that’s fine by me. I’m sure it’s safe in the FDA sense of the word, and if it helps eliminate CAFOs and preserve wild, open spaces, even better, but whether it is faux food or not, it is undoubtedly an incomplete food because nutritional science is incomplete. A sterile lab concoction fortified with adequate ratios of macronutrients is not the same as an animal grazed on grasses grown in mineral- and microbe-rich soil.

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