Gene Logsdon and Friends

Have Yourself A $300,000 Lab Burger

In Gene Logsdon Blog on August 28, 2013 at 7:05 am

s

From GENE LOGSDON

Some of you are going to pound on me for saying this but I must protest those doomsday prophets who keep saying that meat will soon become too expensive for most people to afford, or that producing meat is environmentally destructive. It is sort of hilarious to say that producing meat in the lab rather than in the barn will someday be more economical and then announcing solemnly that the first lab burger cost $300,000 to produce. Yes of course, the first ball point pen probably cost that much to make too, so my laughing is not fair. But if anyone thinks that lab burgers will get as cheap as hamburgers, they are doing poor arithmetic and as the readers of this blogsite know, I am an expert at poor arithmetic.

First of all, meat is produced naturally free of charge all over the earth. A whole bunch of that meat will be there whether we eat it or not. Those wild horses out on the western plains, or penned up in government corrals to keep them from overpopulating the range, are an excellent example. Well-meaning people want to save these horses and in doing so are making sure the problem only gets worse. As advanced as we humans are supposed to be, we still don’t grasp the full meaning of the food chain. Everything out there is eating and being eaten one way or another, all the time. That includes beautiful horses. If you leave them out there on the range, I can guarantee you that if they don’t starve to death from overpopulation, or even if some of them do, wild predators will move in to take advantage of all this lovely meat. Just study the ranges of Africa to be convinced of this. Or we could be eating those surplus horses ourselves, almost free from nature. Horsemeat is relished by most of the human world.

 Apply this horse sense lesson to livestock. If you decide to stop eating beef because it is too expensive to produce with grain, then eventually that whole Great Plains area will start returning to the land where the buffalo roam and the deer and the antelope play. Nature abhors a vacuum. Here in our part of Ohio, commerce took the livestock off the land and put it in buildings, so the deer are rapidly taking over all those hillsides and vales not economical for corn and soybeans and, along with the increase in other wild animals, will soon put as much CO2 in the air as the sheep and cows used to. You won’t solve the CO2 problem by driving those farting doggies off the range. I would even argue, quite brazenly I’m afraid, that if we put the livestock back on grassland where they belong, there would be less need for so many acres in corn and soybeans and the grassland would not only produce meat more cheaply but with more carbon sequestration. If you are going to disagree with me, then you must also say, logically, that human beings need to be eliminated because their eating and defecation is causing environmental destruction too. And what about those millions upon millions of cats and dogs that now live as wastefully, in terms of artificially supplied energy, as humans?

I wonder if the lab meat champions have figured out just how awesome an amount of synthetic meat they would have to produce to take the place of the natural meat now being consumed. Plus all the byproducts made from those animal parts not eaten. And that would only be the quantity thing. Someone would surely come up with “better quality” lab meat but it would cost more to produce than the cheap stuff. If the first edible lab burger costs $300,000, the first really good lab steak would probably cost a million.

But anyway, the argument is already over. I will bet you a good steak at the restaurant of your choice that lab burgers will never compete with Spam when it comes to either taste or cost.
~~

  1. Spot on Gene. And furthermore, that nasty lab meat will never be as nutritious as meat from a critter because they are designing it without the fat, and that is the single most important macronutrient there is. Sure we need protein, but actually only a few ounces a day. And if we get too much protein our bodies just convert it to carbs anyway (mostly glycogen). We have no need for dietary carbs as our body can make all we need from fats. And if we look at the rising tide of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and dementia, we can easily see how effective this low-fat crap has been. Dump the sugar, the cookies, cakes, pasta, bread, donuts, the high fructose corn syrup and the hydrogenated plasticized vegetable oils and you be just fine.

    So when it comes to low-fat lab meat crap, no thank you. I’ll take a fat-wrapped ribeye from a 4 or 5 year old range-fed cow any day, thankyouverymuch. Just throw it on the grill long enough to sear both sides, add a pinch of salt and pepper and I’m good. And you can even have my share of the veggies. All I want is the meat and fat and I’m a happy camper.
    :-)

  2. Gene,
    I DO hope you are right! And lab burgers do not become the norm, or main staple.
    As you point out the first ball point pen was probably expensive to make. But now they can be had $5.99 for a box of 50. Technology advances, manufacturing practices, will bring the price of the $300,000 lab burger down. How far down, I cannot say. But others, including a Google co-founder, are betting it can and will be done.
    The lab burger is not impacted by fertlizer costs, fuel costs, drought, floods, mold, insects, etc.
    Right combination of marketing and lower price and the general public could be convinced the lab burger is acceptable alternative.
    If that came to pass, what would be the impact on the beef rancher? Or corn farmer?

    Regardless, be afraid.

  3. Once again, Gene, you have put into words precisely what I try to explain to people every chance I get. I have two horses – yep, I’m one of them darn horse-lovers – but I nevertheless am totally against the ban on US horse slaughter and feel it is one of the worst things to ever happen to horses. They are still slaughtered but now they have to endure a long, hot, uncomfortable journey down to Mexico before meeting that fate. Why not slaughter them here and benefit from the meat ourselves? Not to mention far too many people breed without thinking and there is an overpopulation of horses. I might love my horses but I still believe they should be a source of meat if/when they have no other use.

    I am running sheep and goats on my small property with plans to add beef next year. You betcha I love that while grazing my pasture they are growing and providing me with cheap (not free since I will pay a processor to slaughter. I process my own poultry but am not set up for an animal larger than a turkey) meat. After the initial purchase price of the animals, they have cost me next to nothing – a mineral block now and then is about it. The pasture provides enough grazing for them to thrive, they fertilize it as they go, and come winter, the wethers will be processed. We will overwinter the ewes/nannies, and a ram and buck, and in winter, start all over, keeping females and wethering/growing out males for meat.

  4. Here is a bit of brevity that reaches a long way into all conversations about food and farming and eating, etc. It’s by Michael Pollan. It’s been around for awhile. It’s not going away.

    “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

  5. Haha, well, actually, cost is the main reason I don’t eat more Spam. Another reason is that it’s possibly made of pink sludge, they should advertize clearly if they do or don’t. And it’s not that flavorful, you really need to fry it crisp to extract the best flavor.

    The immense range land of the United States is a unique feature that few countries possess, and it is not used as well as it could be managed indeed. Plus I hear there’s a few thousand acres of grassland freshly opened and fertilized with ashes in California…

    I don’t know if bison or beef pasturing in range land can ever replace current CAFOs, although a lot of it is raised on such pasture already until the few weeks of feedlot finishing. You’d still need to have them reproduce at the farm at least, not naturally in the wild, or you’d eat veal only once a year, unless you freeze it all. But who am I kidding, nobody eats veal in the U.S.

    I had some fun earlier this week comparing wheat, chicken and beef. The most efficient meat production system, a CAFO raising 8 generations of 6-week broiler chicken would require about 800 acres of wheat as feed and produce 4 times less food in weight than wheat, 18 times for beef. In calories, wheat beats chicken by a factor of 6, or beef by 24 times: http://talk.newagtalk.com/forums/thread-view.asp?tid=412081&mid=3286927#M3286927

    Lamb may be a better option for range pasturing, it utilizes more of the vegetation than cows, and is not as destructive as goats. And I’ll always remember that a certain contrary farmer started with sheep…

  6. “The lab burger is not impacted by fertlizer costs, fuel costs, drought, floods, mold, insects, etc.”
    While this is true to some extent, the connection is really just obscured. Fertilizer costs and fuel costs can be eliminated only by moving away from dependence on these things and toward dependence on human labor and good system design. As for drought, floods, mold, insects, etc., I do very much doubt that we will ever be (or that we should want to be) free of the impacts of those things.
    Another thing to keep in mind here is that what flies in this economy is not always what actually makes sense in a big picture, logical explanation of what should work. Ethanol is a pretty good example of this. When enough power and money get behind a thing, however impractical, the true costs can be externalized and the accounting made to look desirable.
    I do doubt that synthetic meat tissue will be, at any point, an actually viable option for sustainable meat production, since well managed grass-fed meats are quite an efficient method of production, when done right, partly because I have yet to see a synthetic product that beats out a naturally produced one in many other areas besides corporate profit margins.

  7. Cheap nutritious meat is already being produce for almost nothing in huge quanitites.Wild hogs are in many places are there for the taking and many farmers will pay for someone to shoot them.Deer are just about everywhere in huge numbers and they are more tasty than beef in my opinon.Then there are coyotes,groundhogs,squirrels,Possoms,Raccoons,all of these would be cheap to grow and harvest.And for those not good at catching wild animals or don’t have the heart to kill them then there is always a good supply of Roadkill.Lack of meat isn’t the problem its the human mindset that needs to be overcome.

  8. Your comment about population intrigued me. I never cease to be amazed at how the people who seem so enamored of population reduction never actually volunteer themselves as a first step in the process. It seems like they always want to reduce population somewhere else instead of in their own case.

  9. I checked with the critters on my farm, and they said since there are way too many of us humans, we should make pet chow and animal and even people feed from our surplus population. I did recently rent the movie Soylent Green and I think the dogs must have been paying attention and then incited the goats and chickens. Now I’m afraid to go outside to do my evening chores.

  10. All the wild horses, deer, and hogs would help feed people. But what I think would really help is if people were less wastful with food. Almost 50% of all the food in the US ends up in the garbage. So if people would A) become less picky about food instead of throwing away an apple just because it has a spot on it and B) buy less food so they don’t throw so much away it would really help.

  11. “But when they packages it nice and market it right, I buy baloney.” (Streisand’s Fanny Brice character in Funny Lady.) If they do the marketing right, they’ll sell it… except maybe to a few unreconstructed contrarians like the folks who hang around this blog. I’m glad to be one of them!

  12. How about a nice hot piece of …

    Soylent Green?!?!? :)

  13. Don’t even get me started on “those millions upon millions of cats and dogs that now live as wastefully, in terms of artificially supplied energy, as humans”…

    It’s one crazy conundrum – people are crazy in their convoluted cherry-picked rationalizations…

  14. Anything that can be eaten should be.

  15. Hi Gene, hi folks!

    Practical, living-earning farmers Mark Shepard in the US and Ben Mead in Kernow (English: Cornwall) have some useful ideas.

    BTW, the keyline water set-up which Mark describes briefly is crucially important; also, he doesn’t speak much of livestock in this video, but he keeps them on his place; both farmers do so, WITHOUT MINING DOWN THE SOIL FERTILITY! Building it up over time, in fact. That IS doable, demonstrably!

  16. SORRY! My stupid error! That second vid I posted by mistake, Interesting, but not the Ben Mead one that I meant. That’s here:

    • “Do Nothing Farming” Ben Mead stole that slogan from Masanobu Fukuoka’ss One Straw Revolution! ;)

  17. Locally, feral horses are very over-populated and the range is damaged greatly as a result. I’ve eaten horse meat and it tasted a lot like elk,although very lean.

    I’ve experimented with feeding a couple of Holstein steers hay and some whole corn on a small piece of rotationally grazed pasture in order to improve fertility prior to planting that small piece of ground to garden.The chickens scattered the manure quite evenly free of charge while looking for undigested corn and invertebrate morsels. The next spring I let the grass grow (mainly bluegrass and clover), then mowed it prior to wearing myself to near exhaustion by tilling the sod under. It’s no wonder grass holds soil against erosion so well, based upon that tilling experience.

    That was the spring of 2011 and we’re still using that piece as garden although I’ll probably be replanting it to grass and clover soon. The only additional soil amendment I added was manure pack from the barn during summer 2012 with plenty of straw, leaves and wood chips added as bedding. The manure pack was not completely composted by any means based upon the ammonia smell, but once it was well-irrigated the garden grew well.

    The soil crumb structure where the pasture had been was excellent although now three growing season later some compaction is evident. As those in the know have found, nothing build up fertility like well- managed rotationally grazed pasture. I’m now raising goats, geese, ducks and chickens instead of steers and they have reproduced to the point I have to buy feed and I have no grass in the existing pasture taller than 1/2 inch, therefore into the freezer go the excess critters until I can balance livestock numbers with grazing capacity. It’s just a fact of life (and death); in game management or range management the concept is called carrying capacity.

    When my time comes to go it would be nice to be buried in a large hot composting pile with lots of manure and wood chips then recycled back into the soil to nourish the soil and livestock and future humans, just to keep the soil and resulting forage at carrying capacity.

  18. I wonder why my post hasn’t shown up? If you don’t want to print can you tell me how I can access it, I thought it was a pretty good addition and I’ll somewhere it somewhere else, Thanks.
    Jason Rutledge

  19. But as you so aptly point out in Holy Shit, the most valuable product of animals might be the stuff made while they are still alive. Let’s see a petri dish culture do that!

  20. All those farting lovestock produce no more CO2 than do the insects and microbes that otherwise break down the same amount of plant matter. Whether you burn it, consume it, or compost it. The resulting CO2 is basically the same.

    • Joe Hercules, I never thought about it quite that way, but I think you are right. In one of E.O. Wilson’s books there are some numbers on how much CO2 termites produce, an enormous amount as I recall. Of course, my problem is that there is such a huge huge amount of CO2 in the environment I don’t know how anyone can accurately count it. Gene

  21. you are actually eating artificially produced meat now- industrially farmed, crowded, drugged, infected, and tortured remnants of what a real cow on happy grassland used to be. They sell you this meat with lots of nice imagery that amounts to a corporate crock. Support your local farmer instead. Know what you are buying and what you are actually supporting.

Comments are closed.