The lab slab

Despite all the current propaganda for veganism in the lamestream media, the average American ate a record-breaking “222.2 pounds of red meat and poultry in 2018”. That’s according to haulage trade journal FreightWaves, in a brief but well-grounded op-ed on the future of lab-grown meat and its implications.

“If industries could produce readily consumable [lab-]meat, it would gradually lead to them setting up centers close to cities that consume it in large quantities – leading to a drastic reduction in the miles hauled. Also since lab-grown meat would have next-to-nothing wastage, the load being hauled would also be considerably lesser in the future. This could mean that over the next decade, the freight industry could have a face-off against two adversaries – the rise of autonomous vehicles, and the scope of lab-grown meat.”

Our stores already have tasty Quorn products made from mushroom mycelium and flavouring, and I guess some old hippies still eat its ikky predecessor Tofu. ‘Formed pseudo-fish’ is already in the stores, in terms of what appear (in the bag) to be exotic and succulent giant prawl-tails, at amazingly low prices. But which turn out, on close inspection, to be a formed mix of pulped fish-meat offcuts from Dubiouslandia with some tiger-stripes of cumin colouring sprayed across them.

But lab-grown meat is still some way off, and according to the genuine market reports is perhaps coming to regular stores circa 2022. Look for a carefully-crafted negative publicity campaign from the meat and butcher industry, around 2021. Although ‘clean meat’ leftist vegan hysteria may beat them to it, in terms of turning the public off the idea by making it a ‘political choice’ and thus triggering a backlash.

As a consequence I suspect that lab-meat will initially be pitched more like Quorn, as a premium value-added and heavily-packaged product which has its own chiller alongside the Quorn, the gluten-free items and similar ‘food-fad of the week’ chillers. I don’t see lab-meat suddenly being ‘just as good as meat’, and replacing wholesale the shrink-wrapped slabs and cuts of meat that fill today’s meat chillers and butcher counters. Unless… it’s 50% cheaper, in which case all bets are off. But I’d suspect that it will be just too tempting for stores to keep price-parity with current meat, and thus take a huge profit.

Restaurants may be a different case, and there may well be success with a chain of lab-grown burger-bars which let vegetarians and fake-burger munchers mingle without angst. Perhaps pitched around an ‘inter-generational family parties’ segment of the market, where you want oldsters mixing with millennials.

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Something for the weekend #19

A round-up of the week’s causes for optimism, discussions of optimism/pessimism gap, and debunkings of pessimism, as noticed in the media. We’re entering the ‘silly season’ for news, so this week there’s not as much around to find as otherwise.

* “Urban ‘forests’ can store almost as much carbon as tropical rainforests”. Mathias Disney, a Remote Sensing specialist in London, used UK Environment Agency LIDAR data to quantify “85,000 trees across Camden”, London. He found absorption… “rising to 380 t/ha in spots such as Hampstead Heath and Highgate Cemetery – that’s equivalent to values seen in temperate and tropical rainforests”.

* The Power Line podcast #72: Matt Ridley (The Rational Optimist). The 30-minute Ridley section is from 5:00 mins to 36:00 mins. (Direct .MP3 link via Podtrac). “Our conversation ranges from explaining why the left is so wedded to apocalypticism, what’s the latest on climate change research that you’re not hearing about from the mainstream media, and the latest things happening in domestic oil and gas production.”

* How technology is changing Ukrainian agriculture for better. From bread-basket, to socialist basket-case, and back to bread-basket again.

* Buzz Aldrin: How we can make Mars missions a reality.

* “Millennials have newfound optimism about the economy since Trump took office”, commenting on a Gallup sentiment survey about job prospects.

* Microsoft data centre placed on seabed, off Orkney coast. It’s self-powering via tidal turbines, and naturally cooled by the same tidal flows. The data centre should be able to operate… “untouched for up to five years”.

* Researchers locate world’s first known manta ray nursery.

Picture: Giant oceanic manta ray (Manta birostris) by Elias Levy.

Something for the weekend #16

Something for the weekend #16

A round-up of the week’s causes for optimism, as noticed in the media:

* Here’s the Bill: Bill Gates Is Giving Every 2018 Graduate a Free Copy of His Favorite Book. It’s Hans Rosling’s Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World—and Why Things Are Better Than You Think.

* Sensor-ship: How Barcelona shushed noise-makers with sensors.

* Capital city: Once-drab Warsaw changed by capitalism into booming modern city.

* Grains of hope: Rice grown by Chinese scientists using seawater in Dubai’s desert. A “high yield reported – 7,500kg per hectare … They now plan to set up a 100-hectare experimental farm later this year, put it into regular use next year and then start expanding after 2020.”

* On the Summit: US unveils world’s most powerful supercomputer. “The U.S. Department of Energy Oak Ridge National Laboratory unveiled ‘Summit’, 60 percent faster than the previous super computing leader”.

* New podcast: Not Impossible. “It explores stories about people solving the hardest, most mind-boggling problems in some of the most creative and unimaginable ways.”

Something for the weekend #15

A round-up of the week’s causes for optimism, discussions of the optimism/pessimism gap, and debunking of pessimism, as noticed in the media:

* It’s all going bananas: Trade journal Feedstuffs, “Agriculture truly is ‘glorious summer'”. Despite the dire alarmist of the 1970s and early 80s, “agriculture has managed to fight off those predictions of peril.” The article points out that we shouldn’t just cheer the greatly increased volume of food production, but also our ever-increasing ability to store and deliver items. Such as “fresh bananas in Pittsburgh amidst a winter snowstorm” and then to keep them fresh longer on the store shelves and in the consumer’s home.

* The Commonwealth in action: The Queen backs Africa digital rumour-management scheme… “Otunga’s initiative won the Commonwealth Digital Challenge, launched by the Thomson Foundation, to support cutting-edge media initiatives devised by people under 35, across the Commonwealth nations.”

* Alarmism logged: “Turns Out Those Stats About Our Destroying the World’s Forests — Totally Fake” says The Western Journal; and the Foundation for Economic Education on “The Myth of Deforestation”… “Yearly, net deforestation is fast approaching zero and according to current trends, within the next couple of decades, net afforestation will be the norm.”

* Hits and Mises: “The Mises Institute’s Case for Optimism”, new this week from Mises… “There are few socialist economists remaining. There are millions of voters who call themselves socialists, but they cannot describe the system they claim to support.”

* More shades of Pinker: A few late items of commentary on the new Pinker book. “A Full-Throated Defense of Western Enlightenment Values” proclaims a short review from The Heartland Institute; “Is Life Getting Better?” asks the central American Pan-Am Post in a deft little article that gets the message out without waffle; The Gospel Coalition review notes “The Enlightenment Improved the World — But Not without Christianity”; and the Asian edition of businesses newspaper Inc. notes that “Everyone gets Enlightenment Now wrong”

“Calling Pinker an optimist, as nearly everyone does, misses his call to act. He doesn’t say we’ve succeeded and therefore should just be happy or content with Enlightenment values. He says work got us here and we should keep working. … His calls to strive and act for democracy and other issues are also based not on merely recognizing values but acting on them.”

* The pool life: Dolphin ‘happiness’ is measured for the first time.

Something for the weekend #9

A weekly round-up of optimism, noticed in the media:

* Back to Adam: “Just to remind everyone, ‘the good old days’ are right now”, says the free-market Adam Smith Institute.

* Double-time: “Demand for UK exports set to double by 2030”. The “HSBC [bank] found that Britain’s export boom looks set to continue. The bank predicted that exports will rise by 22 per cent by 2020, and double overall by 2030.”

* It’s NYT happening: “Progress Gets Overlooked” by the media. Who knew? A short New York Times interview ($) by David Bornstein with Steven Pinker, on Pinker’s optimistic new book.

* Charging ahead: “Warnings of a lithium glut may be premature”. No, your rechargeable lithium batteries aren’t going to suddenly become scarce… “doomsayers assume all the lithium in brine or hard rock deposits will get processed, but that’s not the case … There’s no shortage of lithium in the world”. The industry actually appears to be worrying about a glut of over-supply.

* Fish tales: An isotope fingerprinting method for fish, which “can differentiate organic, conventional, and wild salmon from different origins”. This should mean that dodgy fishermen and warehouses can’t pass off illegally-caught wild fish to stores and eateries, as being premium ‘sustainably farmed fish’.

* Eat your hot wheaties: A new heat-resistant wheat… “can withstand 35-40°C temperatures” in central Africa and mature in record time.

Something for the weekend, #5

Optimism and reasons for optimism, recently spotted in the media:

* Bug off: “Planting GMOs kills so many bugs that it helps non-GMO crops”

     → “… new work shows that Bt corn also controls pests in other types of crops planted nearby, specifically vegetables. In doing so, it cuts down on the use of pesticides on these crops, as well.”

* Bug in: “The bug in our diet”.

     → Canada’s National Post takes an in-depth look at all the latest research on human-edible insects, and how to package and market them.

* Face bork: Nielsen stats show users spending 24 percent less time on Facebook

     → In November – December 2017. Looks like positive news, but the question is: is this a normal pre-Christmas dip, due to people tending to be busy at that time of year? Did much the same dip happen in late 2016?

* Golden showers: “Welcome to the Golden Age”.

     → The City Journal reviews the new book Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, by Steven Pinker. With a strong focus on just how much the habitual future-phobics of the political left will hate the book.

* Bunnies begone: “Gardeners must be optimists” muses a small-town gardener.

     → Though, as he says, it does help if you… “Erect a fence of appropriate materials that’s high enough and strong enough to keep the unwanted interlopers out.” So true.

New book: Spineless: The Science of Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone

From a book review “Listening to jellyfish”, in the latest edition of The Atlantic, debunking the alarmist eco-narrative that “jellyfish are taking over the dying oceans”…

Do jellyfish deserve their reputation as an oceanic menace? Should we view blooms with anticipatory dread? In her memoir, Spineless: The Science of Jellyfish and the Art of Growing a Backbone, Juli Berwald embarks on a mission that leads her to challenge the way blooms are popularly characterized.

We see many more jellyfish, Berwald points out, not simply because their numbers are greater but because our population is. The proliferation of coastal and subsurface infrastructure for resource extraction, maritime trade, and power generation has provided ample hardscape for jellyfish-polyp nurseries to graft onto. Human industry is in more frequent and sustained contact with many types of sea life.

There is no global jellyfish ecophagy [‘eating of entire ecosystems’ by vast jellyfish blooms]. The real bloom, Berwald argues, is in jellyfish science, where the interplay of jellyfish and their ecosystems is only now beginning to be pieced together.

Are their numbers increasing, or are contemporary scientists now capable of observing profusions that once went under the radar? Jellyfish blooms may occur at intervals that pre-date their surveillance — spreading, say, in 20-year cycles. What looks to us like an aberrance could, viewed in a longer time frame, prove natural.