Derek Thomson and his Crazy Genius crew over at the Atlantic’s podcast division have hit on a winning formula, at least for me. They take a big issue question we hear about and think about frequently, like the question of what to do about meat consumption–as in what to do about the extremely obvious problem of meat consumption levels–and they apply some creative pod knowhow. One of the best motivators for going meatless, or at least eating less meat, that I have come upon in ages.
Americans eat more meat now than ever. That’s a problem for the planet’s future. Animal farming takes up 30 percent of the earth’s landmass (the equivalent of Asia), and livestock causes one-sixth of global greenhouse gas emissions. We need more than moral arguments against meat. We need a technological revolution in better, cleaner food.
If you do not have half an our for the podcast, take five minutes to read the summary here:
There are two big truths about eating meat from animals.
First, animal flesh imposes a high moral and ecological price for a tender medallion of food. Factory farming incurs the torturous treatment of millions of chickens, cows, and pigs each year. This constitutes a rolling moral catastrophe. What’s more, one-sixth of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions are directly attributable to raising livestock, and the figure is rising as more countries enter the global middle class. For most Americans, cutting meat out of their diets would reduce global warming more than giving up driving.
But here’s the second truth: Americans don’t really care about all that. Or, perhaps more subtly, many of them do care. But weighed against the panoply of meat-related rewards—the succulence of a perfect ribeye, the abundance of affordable meat options at the grocery store, the convenient protein-density of the food, and the opportunity to try the glazed duck at that place all your friends have been going on about for weeks—the moral and environmental costs of meat register as real, yet ignorable; snowflake static on the radar. In 1970, the average U.S. adult consumed about 200 pounds of meat per year. After four decades of factory-farming photos, vegetarian movements, and economic papers precisely calculating the life-cycle costs of a pound of beef, American meat consumption has gone up, by 20 pounds. Today, 95 percent of Americans—yes, including me—eat meat.
For years, the arguments against eating animal meat have mostly focused on reducing choice in our diets. But a modern cultural revolution designed around the elimination of pleasurable options and the restriction of individual human choice is a hard sell in most countries, particularly the U.S. Perhaps the road to a post-meat diet leads through a new agricultural revolution, where technology expands the modern menu with new foods that don’t require the mass-scale suffering of animals.
In the latest episode of Crazy/Genius, produced by Kasia Mychajlowycz and Patricia Yacob, we investigate the possibilities for moving into this post-meat world.
First, we visited the R&D lab of a cricket-rearing company called Tiny Farms, near San Francisco. Two billion people in the world eat insects as a part of their normal diet, approximately the number that owned a smartphone last year. It’s probably ludicrous to assume that Americans are prepared to switch en masse from brisket and burgers to bugs. One solution? Feed them to the cat. Pet food accounts for more than 25 percent of meat consumption in the U.S. That’s why Tiny Farms is working to replace meat with cricket in pet food. “The biology of insects is very efficient,” said Tiny Farms co-founder Andrew Brentano. “They’re essentially cold-blooded, so they’re not constantly burning calories to keep themselves warm. They very efficiently convert what they eat into their body mass.” Porterhouse aficionados can still slash their animal-meat footprint by cutting meat from their pets’ diet.
But what about replacing meat for humans? Today, there are a number of promising plant-based food companies, like Impossible Foods, that have made promising strides toward excellent meat-like alternatives. But to satisfy people’s lust for actual meat, scientists may have to achieve the paradoxical: produce animal meat that didn’t technically come from an animal…
Read the whole description here.