We'll meat again (without the animals)

in STEMGeekslast year

I am writing this as someone who gave up eating meat about thirty years ago for various reasons such as health, the environment and animal welfare. It can be a contentious subject as many people will argue fiercely about their keenness to keep eating meat. Despite this more and more people are turning to diets with less or no meat, but meat demand in general may be on the increase as it is seen as part of an affluent lifestyle across the world. This is a problem as meat production is very intensive requiring lots of land, water and often chemicals. The majority of birds and large animals in the world are domesticated for food production. This is squeezing out the wildlife.

Image from Wikimedia.

If everyone had a plant-based diet then far less land would be needed for agriculture as much is currently used to produce animal feed. In my opinion it is going to be hard to convert enough people, so we need alternatives that they will eat. There are various meat alternatives such as Quorn, but some will demand their meat. One option is to 'grow' the meat from cells. This has been worked on for a long time, but in only just becoming economically viable. The first lab-grown burger was produced just seven years ago and cost many thousands of dollars. In the last few week companies have been working to make something available that is actually affordable.

In Israel a restaurant called Chicken is producing a $35 burger that is grown in vats using cells from a live chicken. They claim it produces 96% less greenhouse gases and uses 99% less land than conventional farming. Of course if you want free range chickens then that could be using a lot more land than intensive factory farming. The cost needs to come down a lot more, but these are still early days.

Meanwhile, a US company has approval in Singapore to sell chicken nuggets made from lab-grown meat. It seems they could not get approval yet in the USA. This process has a growing medium using foetal blood from cows, but they are working on a plant alternative.

Personally I might consider eating such meat if it was not using animal product beyond the original cells. Some will say we do not need meat in our diets, but eating is about more than just needs.

I have seen some say 'yuk!' at the thought of lab-grown meat, but is it more yuk than an animal that may have been taken away from its mother shortly after birth, put in a cage to be be intensively fed whilst being pumped with antibiotics only to be killed a few weeks later having possibly never seen the sky or walked on grass and then processed into something that does not even look like ti came from an animal? We are brought up with picture books of happy animals, but that is not how the industry of meat production works and that industry would rather we did not see what goes on.

Anyone for pink slime?

Of course you can buy organic meat from free-range animals, but that sort of farming cannot satisfy demand at the low prices people expect now. If all processed meats could be replaced by lab-grown it could make a big difference whilst not compromising the taste of the product. It could be healthier too if some of the less healthy aspects can be tweaked.

The world needs big changes soon to avoid causing more destruction of irreplaceable habitats and species whilst lessening our environmental impact. This could be part of that. The status quo is not a long-term option.

We rely on science to improve our lives in various ways. It has already changed what we eat in various ways. This seems like progress to me.

I cannot see us going down the path envisioned by Douglas Adams of animals that want to be eaten.

Posted with STEMGeeks


I read ‘Eating animals’ a couple of months ago and have not eaten meat since. I was already flexitarian but I now identify as vegetarian. The book focuses on the (in)humane treatment of animals in the factory farming industry (also touches on environmental impacts) so that was my main reason for giving up meat. Now I’m really interested in the environmental impacts as well and have listened to a lot of talks with impossible foods CEO Pat Brown (recommend anyone to check him out!). I just started reading ‘we are the weather’ by Jonathan Safran Foer (eating animals author). This is a fascinating topic!!

We need to break the old habits and consider our actions. It is easy to get depressed about this stuff and feel you cannot do anything, but having these discussions could be the start of something.


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I love the way this trend is going!
I have only been fully plant-based for 1 year and I love it.
It have helped me manage my adhd so much that people who doesn't know, dont have any clue I have adhd or are suppose to have adhd its amazing!

That's great that it's being so positive for you. We are all different and cannot expect that everyone will take the same path, but getting them thinking that there are alternatives is a good first step.


Thanks! Ye I know.

My roomie isn't plant-based and I don't hassle him.
I poke fun from time to time, but thats all :p

Some people think not eating meat is some sort of cult thing, but we each make our own choices. My son eats meat now and then, but that's up to him. We just need to be having these conversations about food.

It kinda is a cult for some, which is too extreme for me to be involved with, but I do think it serves its purpose to have extreme people sometimes.

Ye its good to havd the conversations about it, I agree :D

Some people are very preachy about it and that can put others off. We all have our own reasons. I seem to be pretty healthy on no meat and my kids grew up fine without it. Just need a good balance of other foods.

It can 100% put some people off yes. But if someone is too sweet they maybe ain't taking serious enough. So thats why I think we need both of those things.

I started because of health reason which a youtuber called Simnett help with, since he almost only talk about the health benefits.
Where on the other hand someone like Joey Carbstrong play a major role for me aswell.

So ye, both is good for me hehe

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The world needs big changes soon to avoid causing more destruction of irreplaceable habitats and species whilst lessening our environmental impact.

And the most of it can be done by changing thoughts - which is not seeing great progress. Still today, very few percentage care for other habitats and species.

I'm really enjoying watching developments off the coast of Panama, with oceanbuilders.com
If your house has a reef underneef; you can just pull every meal straight out of the ocean.

The oceans have lots of potential, but we need to keep them clean. The plastics pollution is the latest mess we have created. We just keep trashing everything and that concerns me.

I've been involved in both major and minor farming operations for most of my life.

I'd say the biggest waste of resources goes to producing certified organic seeds like wheat, barley, etc.

That land which you assume is wasted and destroyed if used for cattle is actually being used the same way it had been used for thousands of years. Animals grazing in the pasture is 100% natural. Millions of buffalo used to roam the prairies here. Now much of that land is used to grow edible plants. And when it comes to certified organic, the soil dies quickly if the field doesn't sit idle every couple of years for one growing season while a plant that's destined to be worked into the soil grows. That makes that land 'useless' to not only humans, but wildlife and livestock. The amount of fuel that gets burned producing certified organic seeds is insane when compared to the other seeds.

Free range chickens just walk around and eat bugs along with whatever is offered. No different than wild birds doing their thing. Those massive poultry barns where most chicken comes from use far less land than something like, cities. Their feed is often low grade stuff people won't eat.

I often wonder what happens to the livestock if the lab and vegetarian types get their way. Does it go extinct? No such thing as a wild cow. We'd have to bring wolves back in high numbers to take care of all the feral pigs, because those things reproduce like crazy and would destroy most of the crops in no time. So they'd have to be culled, then the meat would go to waste.

I could talk for days about these things.

The land is sustainable if grazed naturally, but could that supply current demand? All those domestic animals would never be born naturally. I've heard that argument before and it make no sense. I am not saying we eliminate them all. They have been bred to be far different to what they came for and many could probably not survive without human intervention. All that animal food has to be produced somewhere on land that could be feeding us.

There were wild pigs and the ancestors of our cattle around before us with predators to keep the balance. We are making everything artificial with no natural balance. Hence ecosystems are collapsing as we exploit them.

What are these 'vegetarian types' anyway? What is wrong with not wanting to kill as many animals? I am not a farming expert, but I can see that the meat industry as it stands is not sustainable. Do we have to keep cutting down the Amazon for beef production? Human population is a related issue as our demands outstrip the resources. We just seem to be in a race to use up everything in the name of profit and that seems crazy. Wouldn't it be a good thing to reduce the number of animals living short, miserable lives? I'm not saying there cannot be free range farming that the landscape can support, but how do we feed the rest of the world?

It's not all an either/or situation. I'm not some zealot, I'm a pragmatist. I probably don't save much money by not eating meat as it is so cheap and some veggie options are not. Given the number of overweight people around I think we should be thinking more about what we eat for our own benefit as well as the animals.


Usually the grass fed cattle graze on pastures and eat hay. We cut the natural grasses that grow alongside roads, around the edges of fields, and areas too wet to work and be used for seeds, veg, fruits. There's silage which is like fermented grasses. That can mixed with wheat and barley straw. Sometimes they'll throw cattle into low grade feed corn fields and they eat straight off the plant. It's far too expensive to feed cattle straight corn their whole life. That's often saved for the final weeks of their life after the actual farmer sells them to market where some get fattened up with corn.

What is wrong with not wanting to kill as many animals?

Nothing. Nobody pays attention to the millions of birds and mammals that sucked up into harvesters or plowed over in the fields.

Do we have to keep cutting down the Amazon for beef production?

That's where they grow soybeans, too, and lots of them.

but how do we feed the rest of the world?

Stop throwing one third of all food produced into the trash. The rest of the world should learn how to feed itself. City folks want everything handed to them. Should learn to pull their weight and not dictate to those doing the work how to do their jobs. Of course farmers deserve to earn a living from farming. Food costs often rise when these things have to be trucked around and stored. Farmers don't earn much, often getting the shaft and living in poverty.

The world isn't even overcrowded. It's just poorly managed. Give every human alive a quarter acre and they'd all fit nicely into Canada.

animals living short, miserable lives?

They're treated better than most pets.

This discussion could go on forever. I agree with some of what you say. The monoculture of endless fields of wheat is not ideal. Huge amounts of chemicals are used on it, but then livestock get antibiotics and possibly hormones that will end up in the soil and water. I just found a statistic that over a third of crops are fed to animals.

Waste in agriculture is a big issue. We will have to rely on food crops to feed the growing population as they are not going to get all their nutrition from meat. If they did then we would have even bigger problems.

Maybe there is plenty of space in Canada, but the average human is consuming more than their share of the planet can provide. Not just food, but water, energy and raw materials.

Farmers should get a decent deal, but 'the market' exploits them. Food production is essential and ought to be managed better, not purely for profit that goes to the few (not the farmers).

The original point was more around that millions of chickens are killed every day so people can have their nuggets. Are those birds living for a few weeks in crowded barns really treated better than my pet chickens that have lots of space and access to outside?

Thanks for your input.

This discussion could and most likely will go on forever. Not between us but in society in general. There's a huge disconnect between producers and consumers. Often the producer gets the dirty looks, from folks who have absolutely no experience or understanding in what the producer does. Livestock are not treated poorly. They're not suffering.

Those chicken barns are the result of consumer demand. I don't eat those. But in order for millions of birds to be able to survive, those conditions must be suitable. Food, water, shelter. Those birds have no idea what the great outdoors is so it's not like they're depressed about not being able to go outside. They're raised for a purpose. It all goes to cities. Those are city factories. If the bird has small wings and drumsticks, it came from one of those barns. I don't touch the stuff. I won't touch farmed fish either. Those are for people who never learned how to fish.

The grains used to feed livestock would be necessary, as it's unethical to starve a bird. Those grains go into the chicken and that chicken goes into the city. For cattle, I know some people supplement their feed with grains but in many years nobody has ever come to ask what they're eating so I assume those numbers are rough estimates. But do keep in mind feed grains and human consumption grains are not the same. Feed corn, feed peas. People don't eat those plants.

The major consumers of these animals live in cities. Everyone mows their lawn and throws that perfectly fine cattle feed in the garbage. Hogs and chickens love table scraps, but that goes in the landfill. Grocery stores throw out perfectly fine fruit and veg because of blemishes on the skin. Breads get thrown out three days before the best before date.

Saying feeding animals is a waste of land and saying that from within a city that wastes both land and food; none of that makes sense to me. Plenty of food could be recycled into producing more food.

You mentioned antibiotics and hormones. Hormones are given to dairy cattle for the most part so they produce more milk. Medications are given only when the animals are sick. If farmers spent money injecting their livestock with things they don't need, that farmer would be wasting money. It's not as common as the anti-meat media says it is. I even get a chuckle when fast food places advertise their beef burgers as antibiotic free, hormone free, grass fed. Those catch phrases would only appeal to a city dweller who knows nothing. To the farmer, antibiotic free, hormone free, grass fed beef is every cow they've ever known.

Not much point in blaming cities when they are a fact of life. We are not going to go back to all living in the country, but people still need/want to be fed. So we need food production that meets the needs in ethical and sustainable ways. I agree on cutting waste. I'd love to see everyone grow some of their own food if they have a garden rather than worrying about a perfect lawn, but not everyone will. Many have little space and maybe they are worse off than some of the animals. There's no such thing as an ideal world, but we can strive to be better.

BTW Our chickens get some scraps, but they prefer the feed we buy. Our food waste goes into large scale digesters to generate compost.

I'm not blaming cities as a way to look down on city folks. I'm simply pointing my finger at cities because mass produced livestock only exist to feed cities. They have no other purpose.

Oddly enough, placing thousands of birds in one facility is the most sustainable method of producing meat on a large scale. The lab producing meat will require the same things. Food, shelter, water, electricity. The same long list.

When it comes to grains, fruit, veg. Maybe once people settle in to eating test tube meat, they'll be content eating genetically modified plants. Higher yields per acre is how things become sustainable. Unfortunately many who don't farm are under the impression GMO means Monsanto and therefore chemical spray. The chemicals aren't necessary. Certified organic could include genetically modified plants that produce higher yields. That would make more sense. Weeds are easy to take care of without chemicals. Diseases and pests are a bit harder. These food plants are in all reality are invasive species. On this scale they create habitat for diseases and bugs that were never a problem if the land remained in its natural state.

Do your chickens produce eggs? Grind those shells into their feed. It's a good source of free calcium.

I do feed the chickens some crushed shell. Only one of the 3 laying for now. Others have been moulting. There's an avian flu issue now, so we need to add extra netting to their run. It's not like we save money by having them, but they are partly pets. Actually, pets consume a lot of meat. They wouldn't care how it was produced.

We have to improve the world we have, not the ideal one we want. That will require use of technology, as it has previously.

I would need it to be much more cost effective for me to try lab grown meat. I feel like I have already cut back quite a bit on what I eat. I do that mostly for health reasons. Aside from the twenty pounds of chicken that I just bought the other day. My wife and I both wish we enjoyed fish more, while I would be okay with it my wife has a severe aversion to it that I don't think she will ever overcome.

I would expect the price to come down soon. Other meat is cheaper than it should be really. Fish has its own issues. We have to find ways to feed people that are sustainable.

Thanks for continuing to make Hive awesome.