A friend of mine on Twitter sent me a link to an article titled “First ‘test-tube’ hamburger to be produced this year” and wanted to know my thoughts, so…
The idea of being able to take bovine stem cells, growing muscle tissue in a lab and then taking that tissue and turning it into “hamburger” is an intriguing idea. It makes me think of a science fiction movie or even Star Trek.
Those who know me and have followed my blog also know that I am a supporter of utilizing technology to improve the ability of agriculture to provide safe and wholesome food in the most efficient manner possible while also being environmentally friendly. This endeavor could potentially provide an option for people to choose, when it comes to choices of “meat.”
After being intrigued by the initial presentation of the idea, I then reached the point in the article where the author begins describing the “benefits” of having being able to create “hamburger” in a test-tube. Yes, I am putting the word hamburger in quotations…I just have a tough time calling something hamburger that comes from lab.
Some of the benefits listed included:
“Conventional meat and dairy production requires more land, water, plants and disposal of waste products than almost all other human foods.”
It is important to realize that most of the land utilized to raise cattle is of very poor quality and not land that is favorable for growing “human foods.” Particularly in the west, cattle run on mountain and dessert range, where elevation and length of growing season limits production to grasses. Additionally, where cattle have been managed properly, beneficial grasses actually increase, for both the cattle and wildlife, fuel loads are reduced and organic material in the soil is increased.
“Animal farming is by far the biggest ongoing global catastrophe,” Patrick Brown of the Stanford University School of Medicine told reporters. More to the point, it’s incredibly ready to topple … it’s inefficient technology that hasn’t changed fundamentally for millennia,” he said. “There’s been a blind spot in the science and technology community (of livestock production) as an easy target.”
I am not sure where Dr. (?) Brown has been, but for some reason he seems to have forgotten a few technological advances that have been advanced and even introduced through agriculture, for the benefit of humans. Artificial insemination and the freezing of semen, use of ultrasonography for checking pregnancy, muscle and fat, genetic allele identification for specific traits and embryo transfer, just to name a few. It is not a surprise that these contributions are often overlooked.
“The global demand for meat is expected to rise by 60 percent by 2050, said American scientist Nicholas Genovese, who organized the symposium. But the majority of earth’s pasture lands are already in use,” he said, so conventional livestock producers can only meet the booming demand by further expansion into nature. The result would be lost biodiversity, more greenhouse and other gases, and an increase in disease.”
Mr. Genovese failed to mention that we are meeting demand with the smallest cow herd in the United States since the 1950’s. Livestock producers are continually improving the efficiency of cattle, improving conception, weaning more live calves, improving rates of gain and raising more pounds of lean beef per animal than ever before. It is also likely that he may not have read the University of California at Davis study on greenhouse gasses resulting from bovines; actual contribution is less than 3%.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the entire U.S. agricultural sector accounts for only 6.4 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), and livestock production, according to the U.S. Inventory of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks accounts for only 2 percent. Meanwhile, fossil fuel combustion contributes over 79 percent of all GHG emissions.
Environmental Protection Agency
Back to the initial idea of “test-tube hamburger,” I will not say they should not proceed with their testing, it is actually quite ingenious. I will say that the supporting arguments “in favor” of moving forward are a bit disingenuous and I will stick to the real thing thank you.
What are your thoughts?