Cut the meat

Tue 29 Jan 2008 - Filed under: Not a Journal., | Leave a Comment | Posted by: Gavin

In the NY Times Mark Bittman (who writes the Minimalist column in the Dining sections, is the author of “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” and is not a vegetarian) stumbles over his place in time and refers to “growing meat” instead of raising animals.

That cook book is great—picked it up in Oberlin at (maybe?) Mindfair Books—and it has already seen some use. (Not bad around here where cookbooks can lie around uncracked for centuries.)

However Mr. Bittman must be thinking of the near future when “meat” is grown in vats or tubes or whatever and its production doesn’t involve a slaughterhouse. At the moment when someone eats meat, it’s likely they’re eating one of 10 billion animals (this year) that will cross the definitional line from animal meat on the killing floor.

Hopefully this is thought-provoking stuff:

Americans eat about the same amount of meat as we have for some time, about eight ounces a day, roughly twice the global average. At about 5 percent of the world’s population, we “process” (that is, grow and kill) nearly 10 billion animals a year, more than 15 percent of the world’s total….

…. an estimated 30 percent of the earth’s ice-free land is directly or indirectly involved in livestock production, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, which also estimates that livestock production generates nearly a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases — more than transportation.

…. Animal welfare may not yet be a major concern, but as the horrors of raising meat in confinement become known, more animal lovers may start to react. And would the world not be a better place were some of the grain we use to grow meat directed instead to feed our fellow human beings?

Real prices of beef, pork and poultry have held steady, perhaps even decreased, for 40 years or more (in part because of grain subsidies)….

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  1. caleb on January 30th, 2008 3:52 am

    I just wanted to add that there is a fantastic speculative fiction piece on “growing” meat in Meatpaper #1.

    In another magazine I read, it was reported that the FDA says there are no health concerns related to eating cloned animals and their progeny. Clearly, this topic (and as the Meatpaper people put it, the Fleischgeist) is ready for processing by the speculative fiction authors the world over.

    When is the meat issue?

  2. Michael on February 2nd, 2008 4:35 pm

    an estimated 30 percent of the earth’s ice-free land is directly or indirectly involved in livestock production, according to the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, which also estimates that livestock production generates nearly a fifth of the world’s greenhouse gases — more than transportation.

    It’s funny how many conflicting variations of this statistic I have seen. No argument that the livestock themselves let off a lot of methane, and the use of land for grazing and growing feed corn is absurdly inefficient for CO2 consumption, especially when that acre of land used to have rainforest on it. But it does seem, from all the reasonably credible places I’ve read it, that the numbers must be able to be crunched in a slightly different way to produce the opposite result–that the combined manufacturing and use of cars, trucks, buses, planes, boats, and the support infrastructure of roads, oil wells, refineries, pipelines etc, does in fact surpass the greenhouse gas production of the meat and dairy industry. Probably has to do with the subsection of C02-production that can be attributed to either or both.

    Not sure what my point is. I drive a car and I eat meat, so I am hypocrisized coming and going.

  3. Ted on February 12th, 2008 7:18 pm

    Personally, I’ve always had a similar reaction to the use of the phrase “growing one’s audience.” What kind of nutrient slurry do you use, to get your audiences so big?

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