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posted by janrinok on Friday December 06 2019, @03:12PM   Printer-friendly
from the can-i-have-ketchup-with-that dept.

"A meat-eater with a bicycle is much more environmentally unfriendly than a vegetarian with a Hummer."
--Dr Mark Post

The world's largest food concern, Unilever, has opened a new research lab at the world's most prestigious agricultural university, the University of Wageningen (the Netherlands). Unilever will locate all elements of its foods R&D there. A spokeswoman on Dutch radio stressed plant-based meat alternatives as an important research subject.

Wageningen University has strong credentials in that respect, with the development of shear cell technology.

Shear cell technology strings plant proteins together in tightly controlled fibers, resulting in a meat substitute where texture (fibrousness, bite, mouthfeel) can easily be controlled, and changed at will. This, combined with 3D food printing, offers the possibility of creating multiple meat (substitute) variations in future.

Unilever's food campus is open to startups, innovators and partners. One of the first to have build its own lab on the same grounds is Symrise, an industrial flavours and scents group.

About half of Dutch people call themselves 'flexitarians'. This means that they don't eat meat with their main meal at least three times a week. The proportion of vegetarians is stable, at just under five percent of the Dutch population.

Wageningen researchers believe, however, that feeding 9 billion people with animal meat will not be sustainable for the planet.


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  • (Score: 2) by takyon on Friday December 06 2019, @04:26PM (12 children)

    by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Friday December 06 2019, @04:26PM (#928909) Journal

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110714101036.htm [sciencedaily.com]

    https://www.cnbc.com/2019/10/19/lab-grown-meat-could-exacerbate-climate-change-scientists-say.html [cnbc.com]

    There's some perspectives on lab-grown meat.

    https://www.cnbc.com/2019/09/02/beyond-meat-uses-climate-change-to-market-fake-meat-substitutes-scientists-are-cautious.html [cnbc.com]

    Impossible’s website includes a 2019 lifecycle assessment report by the sustainability firm Quantis, which spells out the smaller environmental footprint of the Impossible Burger. It found that the Impossible Burger used 96% less land, 87% less water and 89% less greenhouse gas emissions.

    Rachel Konrad, Impossible’s chief communications officer, said that the Impossible Burger also has public health benefits because of its reduced land, water and energy use.

    Notice that the %s quoted by Impossible Burger are very similar to those used to support lab-grown meat. Any of it could be wrong, but it could also point to absurdly high land and water requirements for raising livestock that will make other products look good by comparison.

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  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by choose another one on Friday December 06 2019, @05:05PM (11 children)

    by choose another one (515) on Friday December 06 2019, @05:05PM (#928934)

    Any of it could be wrong, but it could also point to absurdly high land and water requirements for raising livestock that will make other products look good by comparison.

    The usual way in which the requirements are absurd is the assumption that all land is equal and all livestock raising methods are equal.

    Where I am, most farmland is actually graded as unsuitable for arable, it's good for growing grass and sheep, or cattle (maybe, some of it) - but that's it. Stop growing meat on that land and it doesn't magically start to be able to produce plants to replace the meat, you just lose the meat production and gain er... nothing.

    These sort of comparisons are typically done by saying you take prime arable land, put a large shed on it, fill the shed with cows, use other prime arable land to grow concentrated food for the cows and ship it to the shed, add the costs of shipping enough water into the shed and shipping the shit out and... basically no wonder you end up with same costs as lab-grown meat because that is more or less what you are doing.

    If you do the comparison with "put cows on pasture land, collect cows when they've grown big enough" it doesn't come out as well for the plants, so they don't do that...

    • (Score: 3, Touché) by takyon on Friday December 06 2019, @05:27PM (6 children)

      by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Friday December 06 2019, @05:27PM (#928953) Journal

      All the land used for cows could be used for arcologies instead!

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      • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Friday December 06 2019, @07:22PM (5 children)

        by HiThere (866) on Friday December 06 2019, @07:22PM (#929058) Journal

        I like the idea of archologies, but we need to develop several technologies before they are really practical. And one of them is sociology. That, actually, was one of the points raise by "Oath of Fealty". Many other valid points were raised. He assumed tech a bit in advance of ours in several ways, and this still didn't solve the social problems, but each one of those assumed technologies needs to be looked at as "Do we need this before starting?". He doesn't really address the problems of keeping things repaired over normal wear and tear, but that also really needs to be looked at. An archology is expensive to build, so you don't want to even risk "planned obsolescence". And the economics was also raised as a problem, but the solutions were a bit hand-wavy.

        Well, it was a story. I really liked it. But Niven/Pournelle raised a lot of valid questions about what's needed to make it work.

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        • (Score: 2) by deimtee on Saturday December 07 2019, @04:54AM (4 children)

          by deimtee (3272) on Saturday December 07 2019, @04:54AM (#929303) Journal

          Many of the sociological problems with arcologies are solvable as long as they are a minority of total habitation, and they have an ejection mechanism. People who don't or can't fit in will leave. It won't be a freedom-loving frontier, more like a condo with the HOA turned up to 12, but some people would like that.

          If they start getting built I would also expect deliberate differentiation à la The Diamond Age. Some will be almost hippie free-love communes, some more strait-jacketed than imperial China. Others might be neo-Victorian, or artist colonies. Pick the society you like and move there (if they will have you).

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          • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Saturday December 07 2019, @05:06PM (3 children)

            by HiThere (866) on Saturday December 07 2019, @05:06PM (#929436) Journal

            They could be hippie "free-love" communes, if such really ever existed, but they would still need tight controls over actions...artificial structures are too fragile. Sex is, or at least appears to be, irrelevant to that, and perhaps loose controls over sex could allow tight controls over reproduction to be tolerable.

            That you're talking about an "ejection" feasibility in a really hostile environment is equivalent to talking about making them walk the plank, i.e. killing them. And not necessarily slowly. If oxygen or a survivable temperature is hard to come by, then ejecting them is just killing them without admitting it.

            P.S.: The groups I ever met that really seriously believed in "free love" didn't practice it. They just allowed informal polygamy or polyandry, which is a very different idea. I only met one person from Kerista, a group that actually practiced "free love", though they apparently thought of it more as a plural marriage that encompassed everyone. It kept going for decades, but was so minor that I only met one member (so my idea of their beliefs may be a bit skewed). So my expectation is that actual "free love" societies would be unsuccessful. But this might not be true in an artificial habitat without intrusive neighbors.

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            • (Score: 2) by deimtee on Saturday December 07 2019, @08:14PM (2 children)

              by deimtee (3272) on Saturday December 07 2019, @08:14PM (#929499) Journal

              Don't get hung up on the hippie free love bit. It was just an example at the other extreme from a regimented society.
              I used ejection because I meant removal from the group, which is a bit more than a simple eviction for not paying the rent. And we were discussing this in the context of Oath of Fealty, which was about an arcology near LA. This isn't a space ship, where did you get a really hostile oxygen-free environment from?

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              • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Saturday December 07 2019, @09:08PM (1 child)

                by HiThere (866) on Saturday December 07 2019, @09:08PM (#929513) Journal

                Oath of Fealty was the local context, but the larger context was habitats in extremely harsh environmental circumstances. Oath of Fealty was just an example of a fiction which detailed many of the problems inherent in ANY large ecology.

                FWIW, I expect they'll be too expensive to justify except in extreme conditions. For reasons which are implicit in the story. But the social system depicted in the story would not function in such conditions...so my reiteration that part of what we need is much better sociology. Yes, it's got difficult feedback cycles in it, many of them instigated because those making decisions will tend to make decisions that favor themselves in the relatively short term even at the cost of social stability.

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                • (Score: 2) by deimtee on Saturday December 07 2019, @09:31PM

                  by deimtee (3272) on Saturday December 07 2019, @09:31PM (#929523) Journal

                  At one point I lived for a few years in a smallish (but nice) apartment that was on top of a shopping centre. There were about 40 apartments, and even though there was no direct access to the shops it was very convenient (you had to go out on the street and back in a different keyed entry to the apartments). It was very different to living in a house in the suburbs, and I can see the appeal for living in an arcology. It's not for me long term, but there were aspects of it I liked.

                  You're right about the sociology, and the attitudes of the inhabitants being critical. A community with a guarded wall might be a sanctuary or a prison. It depends on the people, the guards, and the direction of the guarding. That was even in the book - the bit about the drunk businessman holding it together until he could get past the city cops who would arrest him, and into the arcology where the cops would help him get home.

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    • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Friday December 06 2019, @07:14PM (1 child)

      by HiThere (866) on Friday December 06 2019, @07:14PM (#929051) Journal

      Actually, the traditional use for that kind of land was wood lot. This assumes, of course, that you get enough rain for trees to grow without irrigation.

      Today, instead of making it a wood lot we could make it an "ecological reserve" and allow limited tree culling. But to satisfy the "ecological reserve" status you'd really need to limit the tree culling, and prohibit clear cutting and "purning". Perhaps allow seasonal hunting of large animals...though again that would need to be strictly limited to prevent overuse.

      If you need irrigation for trees to grow, then this approach won't work, of course.

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      • (Score: 1, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 06 2019, @07:22PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 06 2019, @07:22PM (#929057)

        But to satisfy the "ecological reserve" status you'd really need to limit the tree culling

        So basically we would release the CO2 in random forest fires like they do in California rather than in a useful fashion.

    • (Score: 2) by Gault.Drakkor on Friday December 06 2019, @08:28PM (1 child)

      by Gault.Drakkor (1079) on Friday December 06 2019, @08:28PM (#929113)

      Any of it could be wrong, but it could also point to absurdly high land and water requirements for raising livestock that will make other products look good by comparison.

      The usual way in which the requirements are absurd is the assumption that all land is equal and all livestock raising methods are equal.

      While your statement is true. I believe you are missing the point.
      I suspect the percent of all livestock(or at least cattle) that is raised primarily on forage is low.

      There is a significant percentage of livestock that whose primary diet is crops that are grown explicitly for feeding livestock. That i would expect is gp post's point.
      https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/8/3/034015/pdf [iop.org]
      Says that 36% of the worlds crops are used for feed. I would expect many of these crops are most definitely grown on prime arable land.

      This has a pretty picture showing regions where crops are for food vs feed/fuel.
      https://www.vox.com/2014/8/21/6053187/cropland-map-food-fuel-animal-feed [vox.com]

      More or less comparing to feed lot is viable comparison, so as long as it is clear that is what is being used for comparison.

      • (Score: 2) by choose another one on Saturday December 07 2019, @08:42PM

        by choose another one (515) on Saturday December 07 2019, @08:42PM (#929508)

        This has a pretty picture showing regions where crops are for food vs feed/fuel.

        That pretty picture is exactly my point.

        Over 80% of agricultural land in Scotland (similar in Wales) is actually classed as "less favoured area" which means "poor land" "suitable for extensive livestock farming" (that's the opposite of intensive livestock farming btw.). Scotland is shown as basically "feed and fuel", no food.

        Your pretty picture is quite clearly showing poor land _only_ suitable for growing livestock (and not intensively either) as "feed and fuel". The picture, and article, gives the less astute reader the (incorrect) impression that you can change "feed and fuel" land to "food" land, no distinction is made between the land which you could do that and the land where this is physically impossible (almost all of Scotland). For figuring out what the optimum land use is for food production either world wide or in any particular place, the picture is therefore precisely completely and utterly useless.

        People without the knowledge and understanding of what actually happens on the ground as it were, will, nevertheless, continue to make flawed land-use arguments from your picture (and other similar maps and data).