Mad Meat Making Scientist Proves Climate Doomsayers Wrong
Published on: January 30, 2011
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  • Arjan Singh

    Brilliant and nuanced as always, Prof. Mead. It seems that many “green” groups are too attached to their pet projects to notice less sexy research. It’s as if they’re stuck attacking specific vested business interests as much as those businesses are stuck protecting them.

  • As a ruminant of the male persuasion quite conversant with the pastures of Duchess County I say you can keep your ersatz brisket and faux fillet. Meeeeeuw!

  • Bod

    I followed the link to the UN Report (all hail its truthiness) – just to make sure you hadn’t misqouted them – and you hadn’t.

    While I watch the whole green agenda pretty closely (mainly for s*its and giggles), I’m nonplussed at the assertion that ammonia is responsible for acid rain.

    Ammonia’s a gas that is highly soluble in water, forming ammonium hydroxide in solution – which is an alkali. Now, alkalis are harmful to plants too, but they’re not acids. In fact, as many commenters may point out very quickly, acids react with alkalis to form salts an water. In the case of ammonia and carbonic acis (or for that matter, nitric/nitrous acids, or sulfuric acid), the resulting salts from the reaction are invariably less harmful to plants than the acids.

  • RYan

    But the fake meat doesn’t give them MORE control and opportunities to implement socialist dreams and punish rich people. . so the ‘Watermelons’* aren’t going to be interested.

    *Green on the outside, red on the inside.

  • Banjo

    I am reminded that when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, communists migrated to the environmental movement. In keeping with standing practice, they subverted and eventually assumed control over it. They’ll overthrow capitalism yet. History is on their side. Marx said so.

  • Funny!

    Doug Santo
    Pasadena, CA

  • Greg Hlatky

    Actually it’s not about saving the planet or thinking of the welfare of animals, it’s about punishing and controlling you.

  • Mister Snitch

    Great post, thank you. Personally, I see great inefficiencies in the way we produce meat AND fish. And a point that didn’t enter your argument (because this post focuses on the ‘global warming’ factor) is the accelerating tainting of our food. All our drugs and chemicals are, of course, finding their way into the food we eat. Growing food as sheets of meat, as it were, is a way by which we might better control what gets into the stuff we eat.

    I think ‘artificial manufacturing’ of food (or whatever name we give to it) is inevitable because it will be cheaper and more efficient once the hurdles are overcome and efficiencies of scale come into play. There will be a good deal of ‘meat should come from cows’ handwringing and ‘Frankenfood’ scares, but such things are both inevitable and transitory.

  • Bill Johnson

    Yes, But Lorenz, as a ruminant, will you be able to keep your real ones? Attached to your body?

  • Steve

    You know that line from the UN
    “64 per cent of ammonia, which contributes significantly to acid rain” just didn’t sound right since ammonia is a base (opposite of acid). Sure enough this website

    http://windows2universe.org/physical_science/chemistry/ammonia.html

    from the National Earth Science Teachers Association says the exact opposite, ammonia helps eliminate acid rain. Who you gonna believe? (Hint…which organization already has a reputation for BS…I guess that brings us back to the original article!)

  • Correction Officer

    Walter, please correct “inflexibly imposed” to “inflexibly opposed”.

    • Walter Russell Mead

      @Correction officer: thanks. The intern coffee room will be closed for three weeks to reinforce the importance of proper word choice. The senior editorial staff is getting a performance bonus for dealing with the problem so promptly.

  • richard40

    No green would ever go for it, because it is using biotechnology and isn’t “natural”. Greens have also vetoed genetically engineering crops, even though they improve productivity, and lower land and pesticide use. Greens only allow us to use technology when it is a technology that their supporters own and control, and can be subsidized. They will call it frankenbeef and will condemn it, despite the fact that if it works it could dramatically lower land use, grain use, carbon emissions, and help the poor with lower meat prices.

  • subrot0

    Call me confused and not very smart like all the Green folks but it seems to make sense. We already eat faux crabmeat, wear faux fur, wear faux cashmere so what’s the big deal with faux beef?

    But Dr. Mead has not taken into account a group far older and mightier than the greens. It is the religous crowd — that will have fits and conniptions. Is faux beef acceptable to eat for Hindus, what about faux pork for Muslims. You think the greens are powerful, just wait till you fight organized religion.

  • toadold

    The concept that growing cattle or other livestock is inefficient is predicated on the concept that all farm/ranch land is capable of growing food grains in an safe and economic fashion. As the folks who tried dryland farming in the Dust Bowl years could tell you, not true. There is land in the US that has cattle grazing on it but it is something like one head of cattle per square mile of land. The forage that can grow there that cattle can eat is not suitable for human consumption. Take the livestock off of it and you’ll just have dry land.

  • “Whether we will get delicious juicy shamburgers and sinfully salty, crisp facon (fake bacon) anytime soon is beyond me.”

    Love the neologisms. However, much will depend on scalability and economics. Also, what would the greenies say should the cow, no longer economically significant after the advent of lab-produced meats, become endangered?

    I can hardly wait.

  • Rick

    A) Fake bacon would be a crime against humanity. I propose a UN resolution to stop such research in its tracks.

    B) Soylent Green is PEOPLE!!

  • Ed

    I think many will oppose meat grown in a factory. The greenies will hate something that improves the lives of people, because their aim is not happier people, but fewer people. The politicians will oppose it because, as Instapundit says, “too few opportunities for graft”. As for me, I’d like to know where to buy shares in Mironov FutureMeats Inc.

  • theBuckWheat

    If you review your American history and notice the estimates of the number of bison that ranged the Great Plains, and convert that into pounds of animal and then compare that to the size of the US cattle heard, again in pounds you will find they roughly compare.

    In other words, if someone were to complain about CO2 emissions or environmental consequences from cattle, as if it were a bad thing, they are being ignorant that for as long as bison have ranged in large herds, the Earth has dealt with this without undue consequences.

  • Joseph Somsel

    One line is indicative of much comtemporary political discussion about energy:

    “But that the future will be full of surprises that change the basic rules of the energy game is almost certain.”

    I’m in the energy field and have been digging about in physics for some years looking for signs of just such a “rule change.” Alas, there is NOTHING on the horizon that I can see that would change the available energy options or the “rules of the game” that societies face.

    However, environmentalists and politicans have been making the claim that, yes, the rules are a changing!

    No. Energy is physics and the combustion of fossil fuels, damming of flowing steams, and the spliting of the atom are what we’ve got. There are NO new sources within reach, at least within our lifetimes, excepting perhaps nuclear fusion – that would be an engineering breakthrough but no signs of it yet.

    Even the Right throws up fantasies now and again of new fusion processes or small modular fission reactors.

    Remember that a new scientific discovery takes about 50 years to make commercial products, as a historical rule of thumb. And we don’t even have an idea of what a new physics discovery would look like now.

    Sorry but wishing doesn’t make any of it true.

    We need to buckle down and make the hard choices amongst those at hand if we want to stay a vital civilization. That means more fossil fuels and more nuclear power plants..

    That’s reality – face it.

  • RK

    Buckwheat: Interesting thought! Calculate the flatulance of supposed 17-19th C. wild herds of grass eaters compared to that of current domesticated bovines….

    And then blame Sarah Palin for the result.

  • Zanzibar Buck-Buck McFate

    For preview of how the Greens and Left (but I repeat myself) will react to in vitro meat (“lab kabab”, anyone?), watch the reaction to e-cigarettes. Basically, the entire rationale for banning indoor smoking (second hand smoke, odor, allergy) has been eliminated. From a work perspective, it’s probably better to have not have smoking employees use e-cigarettes than take 15 minute outdoor breaks every 2 hours. However, despite these changes enabled by technology, a return to the indoor smoking policies of even 10 years ago seems unlikely.

    Health, environment, diversity, opposition to nuclear energy, veganism, these are all really just stalking horses for the true agenda: control.

  • Vile Hessian

    Aside from the misuse of farther (when you meant further) this is a great piece.

  • Buck O’Fama

    I’m reminded of a joke I read many years ago (as a pre-teen) in Mad Magazine – it was about a guy who read so much about the bad effects of smoking that he decided to give up reading.

    Replace “smoking” with “climate change” and you have a prescription for improving your life at little or no cost.

  • vanderleun

    I applaud Mead’s continuing and ruthless effort to decolonize his mind and help us decolonize ours in the process.

  • Paul Brinkley

    I was raised on a beef cattle farm in Texas, and similarly raised on a diet that did not shy from meat. I’ll be honest: part of me is pained to imagine eating a lab-grown portion of slow-cooked brisket. Same for chicken cutlets, thick-sliced bacon, and grilled fish fillets.

    Another part of me eats that brisket with plain white supermarket bread, though. It’ll be interesting to see if, in the future, I’m faced with that lab-grown brisket, take a bite… and actually like it.

    So it goes with new technology. We say hello, but only after saying goodbye. That’s why we’ll always have country music…

  • marsta58

    “If you review your American history and notice the estimates of the number of bison that ranged the Great Plains, and convert that into pounds of animal and then compare that to the size of the US cattle heard, again in pounds you will find they roughly compare.”

    Excellent point. Throw in other species — pronghorn antelope, elk, elephants, water buffalo, ground sloths, stegosauruses, etc, and more than likely, the amount of methane produced by herbivores has been constant for tens of millions years.

  • asdf

    If you don’t have time to read the New York Times, here’s the crib notes on how the watermelons (Green on the outside, Reds on the inside) will react to fauxflesh:

    As long as it isn’t commercialized, the Left will promise it as a cure-all for everything: nutrition, food for the starving masses, no preservatives or chemicals, etc.

    As soon as a company starts to make a buck on it, they’ll immediately switch and start protesting this dangerous bio-tech frankenfood. If it gets popular, look for them to claim that The Man is giving inferior food to disadvantaged groups and minorities while living high on the hog. Literally. They’ll demand that it be banned, and lambast conservatives for giving the rich biotechs corporate welfare for so long.

    Once the industry has ponied up enough lobbying dollars to become entrenched, look for the PETA-loving left to demand that consumption of any naturally grown livestock be banned because it’s cruel and inhuman.

    After a decade or two of that, eating conventional meat will make you the moral equivalent of a Nazi (Krugman will castigate conservatives for our “eliminationist menus”, Yglesias will call eating real meat a metaphor for violent conservative extremism, and Sullivan will claim that real meat is made from liberal babies). Natural meat will be banned everywhere except certain parts of Hollywood and DC, which DHHS grants an exemption for “cultural sensitivity reasons”.

    Once that’s run its course, the Luddite Left marches in. Look for a Michael Pollan type to condemn conservatives for their reactionary ban on traditional agriculture, and demand that natural meat be restored to honor traditional primitive cultures.

    The only constants are that no matter what new laws are being pushed, yesterday’s failed policy was the conservative policy (no matter who originally created it), tomorrow’s policy will cure anything and everything, and the one thing that is absolutely unthinkable is that people should get to make the decision for themselves. Anything that is not subsidized should be penalized. Anything that is not banned should be mandatory. Washington Knows Best.

  • Jimmy J.

    subroto said, “You think the greens are powerful, just wait till you fight organized religion.”

    But environmentalism is organized religion. Their G_d is Gaia.

    Yes, in the past there have been huge herds of bison, elk, deer, antelope, and other ruminants ranging not only in North America, but in South America, Africa, and Asia. Yet, the climate did not “overheat,” whatever that actually means.

    The Greens are not interested in saving the world. They are interested in controlling other people’s lives much as intolerant Muslims want to convert or kill infidels.

  • Futurist

    It’s people!!! Soylent Green is people!!!

  • Akaky

    If CO2 emissions from cattle are such a major problem, why doesn’t someone start putting Di-Gel into their feed in the first place?

  • Tblakely

    Greens aren’t really concerned about humanity as a whole anyway. So improving the food supply for more people is an icky subject for them. They’d love to see a 90% die off, provided it’s done in an enviromentaly friendly way off course.

  • OneDay

    I think that it is wrong to assume that the politicians will not support it, and consequently the ‘watermelons’. It will require a huge new arm of the FDA to insure that the newly generated meat is ‘safe’. They currently really only get to regulate the end product; this will open up the entire process, from raw materials, to finished product, to shelf time in super markets, to the benevolent over-seeing eye of the government. How could they not like expanding their power and control over us even further? Besides, then they will be able to reserve real meat for the elites.

  • DensityDuck

    There’s plenty of research going into vatgrown “meat”. It’s just being done by Taco Bell.

  • Steven M.

    Actually Greg, it’s about robbing and controlling us.

    That old money/power thing again.

    It will only happen, if we let them.

    Don’t be a sheep.

  • DonM

    Green is about control of people, not saving the planet.

    What is the use of being ‘vegan’ without the smug sense of superiority and self sacrifice that goes along with doing without the superior taste and smell of roasted animal fat?

  • I feel I must defend Reagan because you are reciting an urban myth.

    Back in the late 70s the newly formed EPA went on an air pollutant tear labeling as pollutants a vast number of organic compounds found in the air. Basically, the EPA decided that any chemical compound that contributed to smog must be manmade. The EPA began to attempt to regulate emissions based on that list.

    What Reagan pointed out, correctly, was that around 80% by volume of the chemicals listed where volatile organics given off by trees, grasses and other biological sources.

    Given the Leftwing control of the media at the time, this got turned into, “Reagan believes that 80% of pollution comes from trees,” when in fact Reagan was saying, “The EPA believes that 80% of pollution comes from trees.”

  • scott bennett

    I think the idea is GREATTTTTT! Pardon my Tony the Tiger enthusiasm. If we get the ‘greenies’ on board I have a wonderful name for the product. Soylent Green. I hope that hasn’t been used already. Besides beef that name conjures up all sorts of ideas for the new ‘other white meat’. Oooopps is that racist? Well color me (no pun intended) on board with it all. I have one question: I don’t know what all pieces parts go into the Chicken McNuggets now, that quandry will make my brain implode with this next step in the food chain, I’m sure…woe is me.

  • Don Rodrigo

    I think we should grow lawyers, politicians, and bureaucrats in vats.

    When they displease us, we shall eat them.

  • ArtD0dger

    A very nice post. I have often thought that synthetic meat development is a rather obviously desirable advance, both for environmental as well as a host of other reasons. It is downright peculiar that you seldom hear of it being pursued or written about.

    Looking even further, wouldn’t synthetic production of *all* food matter represent an even greater advance? In particular, freeing food production from the limitations of photosynthesis — which requires huge tracts of land to harvest a diffuse trickle of solar energy using an inefficient biochemical process — would represent a major breakthrough not just for humankind, but for terrestrial life generally. Substituting an abundant, concentrated energy source for food production (perhaps fusion?) would produce massive benefits for biological thriving, the environment, space colonization, and the very long-term prospects for the survival of terrestrial life.

    Whenever I hear greenies fetishizing their horrible backwards-looking solutions like organic and “locavore” farming, I have to repeatedly remind myself that the fault for most lies with their lack of imagination, and not some misanthropic agenda.

  • John O.

    Actually, in one of those “Man bites dog” stories from 2008, PETA offered a million dollar X-prize for developing artificial meat:
    http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1734630,00.html

  • pnkearns

    Most “green” groups these days are nothing but political lobbying organizations, focused on DC, with a few lawyers thrown in, again focused on suing to force government to do this or that.

    The Sierra Club and Greenpeace spend much more money of their budget on political lobbying than any hands on environmental project you can touch, see and feel.

  • pat

    Thank you. This country is in the hands of dolts. Obama is the most uneducated President we have ever had. In spite of his education, his misunderstanding of mathematics, science, economics, etc if painfully clear. As for his English, it is about George Bush adequate, but without the understanding of words.
    Because of his gullibility, this country is in the hands of morons that see energy production as a way to control.

  • Rocks

    If he’s right, and if lab produced meat turns out to be practical and tasty, some big changes are coming — and I’m not just talking about heated debates over how the rules of kashrut and halal apply to artificial pork that has never touched or been touched by a pig or pig byproducts.

    Not to quibble with the overall theme of this but you are seriously compromising your potential support of this by suggesting it is artificial. The meat is grown from the cells of the animal so there will never be any debates about whether it comes from a pig or not. Similar to taking stem cells and growing an organ. The process is artificial but the result would indeed be real meat. Whether it’s palatable or not would be a whole other story.

  • When I was a kid in Wisconsin, we learned about our state’s history and environment from prehistoric times to the present. Part of what that taught about Wisconsin regarded the buffalo herd. The original range of the species had its distribution from above the Arctic Circle to the Sonora Desert and east to Florida. Depending on disease and the weather that did blight the species from time to time, the size of the total North American herd could vary from 35,000,000 to 110,000,000. The study state was thought 75,000,000 to 85,000,000.

    So if an environmentalist ever asks, just let him or her know that Buffalo Bill was the greatest environmentalist of all time. By his end by hunters like him slaying these large ungulates, they saved the earth from nearly a century of pollution by a heinous species.

  • Johny Simpson

    Mr. Mead, this is hands down the BEST article and BEST deconstruction I have ever read on Global Warming idiocy. Why aren’t you on President Obama’s Green Council with Jeffrey Immelt lol! It’s not like you don’t agree with them 😉

  • Danthemason

    Taco Bell research gets my vote as the funniest.

    We need more of that because the folly of our leaders brings tears over their wasted efforts.

  • d1st

    His project is irrelevant to global warming (and yes, your litany of skeptical arguments is a good one–global warmists have made their claim impregnable by facts, with their arbitrary, ad hoc decisions on what meteorological, climatological, and geographical events and data are “proof” of global warming). Cows aren’t changing the climate.

    But it is ludicrous to say that this invention would improve health by making it easier for more people to have a “high protein” diet. We can already grow livestock-free protein not only in labs but in fields. It’s in plants–virtually every non-leafy plant humans cultivate. There is an abundance–for the needs of humans–of protein in broccoli, in a potato, in a bean. There is no difficulty in getting protein sufficient for human needs from plant foods already.

    If this invented meat were to result in getting high protein diets to people, it would not be a health gain, but more likely a health loss. Humans do not need the level of protein in meat, and in fact it is basically carcinogenic and atherosclerosis-generating. Cultured meat is not going to be a boon in any way, environmentally or dietarily.

  • Stevo

    Great article. Want the truth on “Global warming, or Climate change, or how to control the masses”, what ever they call it this week, just follow the money!

  • DBAk

    Just keep this in mind: Soylent Green is people.

  • Tony

    ” You think the greens are powerful, just wait till you fight organized religion.”

    The greens are an organized religion.

  • Texasron

    Man caused “Global Warming” is just the current attempt by liberal politicians to raise taxes on an unsuspecting public. Their constituents are stupid enough to believe them and they wrongly guess that the rest of us are also. As a result, everything was causing “Global Warming” and now it’s “Climate Change”.

  • @ Bill Johnson – Yes, there is the inevitability of the slaughterhouse, but to be grown in a vat? As a free ranging ruminant of the male persuasion I have all the grass I want and the prospect of heifers!

  • SC

    What no one seems to realize is the finite amount of everything on this planet is set in stone unless we ship things in from outer space. We can change the composition of many things, but it all boils down to there is only so much stuff (lol) on good ole Mother Earth. It will be recycled artifically or naturally. And most of all we need carbon dioxide for plants to live to produce oxygen so that we may live..

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    I welcome you into the Light of Truth
    “Global Warming is Bull [byproduct –ed], or Pig [ditto –ed], or maybe Chicken [once again — ed]”

  • Dracovert

    As a young man, I was curious about the physical world and read much about science and history. Early on I read about the Medieval Warm Period and the Ice Ages, and then moved on to other topics.

    So when I first became aware of Global Warming, as it was then known, among the first items of evidence presented was the “hockey stick” graph that showed a long period of stable relatively cool weather and a recent rise that was supposed to be the result of anthropomorphic-induced pollutants. The Medieval Warm Period was nowhere to be seen on the hockey stick graph, even though from the historical record it should have been right there. My first and only initial reaction was, “They are lying”. That was a curious thing to lie about, and I moved on to other topics.

    But the topic kept coming up, now known as “Climate Change”, and the dshonesty continued. The United Nations, a misnomer if there ever was one, joined the dishonest discussion, and a huge fraud is being perpetrated to transfer the wealth created by citizen labor to idle bureaucrats.

  • Paul M. Neville

    The irony is that what is the epicenter of AGW in England (where the e-mails came from) made its original reputation on establishing the medieval warm period.

  • Paul Hogan

    Agreat article.

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