The Future of Food

written by

Aila Holley

posted on

July 5, 2023


I understand the overwhelm! 

It’s where we were when we first had Farmhand 1 and he had so many allergies.  Prior to that, I really paid very little attention to labels or ingredients in our food, unless I was trying to figure out how many Weight Watchers Points it was :P. 

The process of figuring out an allergy routine for Farmhand 1 is really what lead us down the path to more whole foods lifestyle and ultimately starting to farm.

It’s about to get even more complicated...

The USDA announced this week that they’ve approved two companies to start producing lab made ‘chicken’ and they plan to add ‘beef’ soon as well. 

The first places we’ll start to see this meat is in restaurants, where most likely the source of the meat won’t actually be labeled. 

This is the process of lab grown 'meat'  Photo from The European Food Information Council (EUFIC)

While I understand new strides in technology are always exciting, I believe we need to be asking a lot of questions about this.

The Environment:  Much like meat alternatives, like Beyond Beef and the Impossible Burger, we are being told this lab based meat is better for the environment.  Early studies are showing that it requires up to 25x the energy inputs as the conventional meat that’s being raised now.  And when you take into account that pasture raised meat actually has a net positive impact on the soil, water, carbon cycle, the gap widens even more.  

Animal Welfare:  OK…yes…having ‘meat’ without an animal giving its life is something that is hard to argue with, but in order to gather the cells to grow the ‘meat’ in a lab, there will still be a need for some livestock.   What will we do with all the other animals?  Now I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t believe that chickens should live inside with 100’s or thousands or other chickens never seeing sunlight.  I don’t think pigs should live a life without dirt.  I do believe we can have a symbiotic relationship with our livestock, give them a great life, to express their natural instincts and then they give us their life to nourish our bodies.  On that note…

Nutrition:  The nutrient quality.  Currently the nutrients in our meat comes from the diet and the way the animals are raised.  The feed they eat, the grasses, soil and sunshine also increase the nutrient value of the foods.  Pasture-raised chicken meat tends to be higher in iron, higher in Omega 3, have a lower Omega 6:3 ratio, and be higher in antioxidants (Vitamin E, for example). Pasture-raised eggs have higher Omega 3s, a lower Omega 6:3 ratio, increased vitamin D, and more antioxidants (Based on studies done by the American Pasture Poultry Produces Association).    While I don’t doubt they can grow protein and fat cells in a lab that may resemble the cells of the animals that they start with, what will be the micro nutrient values of this ‘meat?’

Health:  What are the long term health risks?  I don't have much to report here, because of course there are no long term studies on this.  But I do think it's something we need to question.

Who Controls It: Lastly what happens when food starts to carry a patent and control of it is in the hands of just a few companies?  As it stands now, the vast majority of our meat is run through 4 main meat companies-Tyson, Cargill, JBS and National Beef Packing.  The rest of the food from cereal to dessert is controlled by 10 parent companies that own 95% of the brands you buy in the store including Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Co, Kelloggs. 

Every step we can take to maintain some local control of our food system is critical.  We eat 3 times a day (unless you’re one of my farmhands, then you eat more like 7 times a day).  The average city or town only has 3 days of food reserves at any given time.  By knowing your farmer personally, you have taken a big step in making sure your food supply chain is secure.  Thank you for being part of our community.

What are your thoughts on this?  I'm very interested in knowing what others think about this.  Is it an exciting advancement?  Or scary sci-fi?

Aila

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