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posted by janrinok on Wednesday July 23 2014, @04:25PM   Printer-friendly
from the order-another-burger dept.

Research into the environmental impact of animal-based foods has concluded that beef has the greatest impact by a large margin (Full text [pdf]).

When the numbers were in, including those for the environmental costs of different kinds of feed (pasture, roughage such as hay, and concentrates such as corn), the team developed equations that yielded values for the environmental cost per calorie and then per unit of protein, for each food.

The calculations showed that the biggest culprit, by far, is beef. That was no surprise, say Milo and Shepon. The surprise was in the size of the gap: In total, eating beef is more costly to the environment by an order of magnitude about ten times on average than other animal-derived foods, including pork and poultry. Cattle require on average 28 times more land and 11 times more irrigation water, are responsible for releasing 5 times more greenhouse gases, and consume 6 times as much nitrogen, as eggs or poultry. Poultry, pork, eggs and dairy all came out fairly similar. That was also surprising, because dairy production is often thought to be relatively environmentally benign. But the research shows that the price of irrigating and fertilizing the crops fed to milk cows as well as the relative inefficiency of cows in comparison to other livestock jacks up the cost significantly.

 
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  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by takyon on Wednesday July 23 2014, @06:38PM

    by takyon (881) <takyonNO@SPAMsoylentnews.org> on Wednesday July 23 2014, @06:38PM (#72892) Journal

    Other than buying more chicken, pork, turkey, etc., one potential alternative is "cultured meat". Aka the lab-grown burger.

    World's first lab-grown burger to be cooked and eaten [bbc.com]

    The biggest problem? No fat cells in version 1.0, so it didn't have that juicy burger taste.

    Heck No Or Let's Go? Your Thoughts On Lab-Grown Meat [npr.org]

    As for how the meat industry feels about this technology? Here's what Janet Riley, spokeswoman for the American Meat Institute, told us in an email:

    "Until researchers can show that it can be remotely cost effective, scalable and even tasty, it's not realistic," Riley wrote.

    She expressed doubt that consumers would go for the petri dish patty.

    "Trends show a new interest in how meat is produced and a growing desire among many consumers for local and natural products," she wrote. "A laboratory grown meat product derived from stem cells is unlikely to satisfy the trends currently at play."

    But Riley also didn't rule out the meat industry's interest in the technology: "we are in the business of providing choices, and if this process becomes a viable option, we welcome it as just another option in our abundant meat case."

    Environmentalists, too, are skeptical that in vitro beef will alleviate the strain on resources given that much of the growing demand for meat in developing countries is for pork. Janet Larsen, director of research for the Earth Policy Institute, says that as for Americans, we are already learning that meat doesn't need to be on the table for breakfast, lunch and dinner: "It's far simpler to accelerate the reduction we're already seeing in meat consumption [than wait for lab-grown beef]."

    Wikipedia: In vitro meat [wikipedia.org]

    Research has shown that environmental impacts of cultured meat are significantly lower than normally slaughtered beef. For every acre that is used for vertical farming and/or in vitro meat manufacturing, anywhere between 10 acres (4.0 ha) to 20 acres (8.1 ha) of land may be converted from conventional agriculture usage back into its natural state. Vertical farms (in addition to in vitro meat facilities) could exploit methane digesters to generate a small portion of its own electrical needs. Methane digesters could be built on site to transform the organic waste generated at the facility into biogas which is generally composed of 65% methane along with other gasses.

    A study by researchers at Oxford and the University of Amsterdam found that in vitro meat was "potentially ... much more efficient and environmentally-friendly", generating only 4% greenhouse gas emissions, reducing the energy needs of meat generation by up to 45%, and requiring only 2% of the land that the global meat/livestock industry does. The patent holder Willem van Eelen, the journalist Brendan I. Koerner, and Hanna Tuomisto, a PhD student from Oxford University all believe it has less environmental impact. This is in contrast to cattle farming, "responsible for 18% of greenhouse gases" and causing more damage to the environment than the combined effects of the world's transportation system. Vertical farming may completely eliminate the need to create extra farmland in rural areas along with in vitro meat. Their combined role may create a sustainable solution for a cleaner environment.

    One skeptic is Margaret Mellon of the Union of Concerned Scientists, who speculates that the energy and fossil fuel requirements of large scale in vitro meat production may be more environmentally destructive than producing food off the land. However, it has been indicated that both vertical farming in urban areas and the activity of in vitro meat facilities will cause very little harm to the species of wildlife that live around the facilities. Many natural resources will be spared from depletion due to the conservation efforts made by both vertical farming and in vitro meat; making them ideal technologies for an overpopulated world. Conventional farming, on the other hand, kills ten wildlife animals per hectacre each year. Converting ten acres of farmland from its man-made condition back into either pristine wilderness or grasslands would save approximately 40 animals while converting two acres of that same farmland back into the state it was in prior to settlement by human beings would save approximately 80 animals.

    ...

    Animal welfare groups are generally in favor of the production of in vitro meat because it does not have a nervous system and therefore cannot feel pain. Reactions of vegetarians to in vitro meat vary, some feel the in vitro meat presented to the public in August 2013 was not vegetarian as foetal calf serum was used in the growth medium.

    Maastricht University: Cultured Beef [culturedbeef.net]
    Burger tasting London Aug 2013 [youtube.com]

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 23 2014, @06:56PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 23 2014, @06:56PM (#72906)

    Right now, manufactured meat is as real as a flying car.

    It has not been shown to be up to quality, and the approaches used to get it there tend to be expensive and hard to scale.

    It is quite distinguishable from live grown meat, which is why they're working in terms of nuggets and hamburger.

    The capital investment and running costs currently are far higher than any regular ranch.

    All of these problems need to be meaningfully solved before it turns commercially viable. Are there approaches to solutions? Yes. Are there commercially viable solutions? No. Not yet.

    As for vertical farming, that can only work as much as your sunlight will penetrate. It's no accident that gardeners worry about the sunlight needs and shade tolerance of plants. There's only so much insolation you get. What's worse, if you pack your vertical farms close together they shade each other when the sun is low in the sky, instead of just shading their own lower layers.

    Real, practical vertical farms are best approximated with some of the permaculture approaches, and even then your ground cover is impoverished compared to what you would get in an open field. The benefit is that with multiple crops over a single acre you get better net yields even though each individual yield is lower.

    All these people are spinning their wheels desperately searching for free lunches.