Thursday, September 08, 2011 4:03 PM
An estimated 80 percent of the world’s population considers insects a commonplace food source, and soon—as eating meat becomes increasingly costly to wallets and the environment—bugs may hit Western dinner tables, too.
In the Netherlands, the company Bugs Originals recently developed pesto-flavored bug nuggets and chocolate-covered muesli bars made from crushed mealworms, the larvae of the darkling beetle, reports Daniel Fromson for The Atlantic. Bugs Originals has also been successful in selling freeze-dried locusts and mealworms to local outlets. Fromson writes:
The company’s goal is to get consumers to embrace bugs as an eco-friendly alternative to conventional meat. With worldwide demand for meat expected to nearly double by 2050, farm-raised crickets, locusts, and mealworms could provide comparable nutrition while using fewer natural resources than poultry or livestock. Crickets, for example, convert feed to body mass about twice as efficiently as pigs and five times as efficiently as cattle. Insects require less land and water—and measured per kilogram of edible mass, mealworms generate 10 to 100 times less greenhouse gas than pigs.
Here in the states, in an innovation and entrepreneurship competition this spring, the University of Chicago awarded $10,000 to student-conceived Entom Foods, reports Carrie Golus in The Core. The team, which won with their well-received grasshopper cookies, plans to start a for-profit business that produces insect meat as a sustainable food source. But implementation will require clearing some hurdles, Golus says:
For Western consumers, the team admitted in its proposal, “the multiple wings, the beady eyes, the slimy legs . . . all contribute to an overall ‘ick’ factor.” Entom’s brilliant solution: food processing. The shelling machines currently used for lobsters and other crustaceans could be adapted for insects, the team proposes. The wings, legs, eyes, and other gross parts would be whisked away, leaving the thorax meat, “which is nutritious and has the same consistency as more traditional meats.”
Entom has yet to decide which insect will be the focus of their venture. “One possibility is the long-horned grasshopper, which reportedly tastes like a hybrid of butter, bacon, and chicken,” Goluswrites. “Another is the giant prickly stick insect; at eight inches long, this creature could supply a lot of meat.”
But Entom is keeping American tastes in mind. “We’re obviously going to avoid the super-stigmatized insects, like cockroaches and flies,” team leader Matthew Krisiloff tells Golus. Those bugs “wouldn’t have substantive meat on them anyway.”
Sources: The Atlantic, The Core
Image by diverevan, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, July 19, 2011 5:29 PM
“All meat is not created equal,” reads a new report from the Environmental Working Group (EWG). The “Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change + Health” evaluates 20 common protein-rich foods to determine the healthiest picks for the planet and for our bodies.
The best bet is the friendly lentil. The worst offenders? Lamb, beef, and (say it ain’t so!) cheese. The amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs) they generate—from feed production, ruminant digestion, and manure—along with their fat contents and cradle-to-grave carbon footprints put them at the bottom of EWG’s impact chart:
Eating less meat and cheese can make an astonishing reduction in GHG emissions, says political food blog Civil Eats:
Just like reducing home energy use or driving less, skipping meat once a week can make a meaningful difference in GHG emissions if we all do it. According to EWG’s calculations, if everyone in the U.S. chose a vegetarian diet, it would be the equivalent of taking 46 million cars off the road or not driving 555 billion miles. To present a likelier option, if everyone in the U.S. ate no meat or cheese just one day a week, it would be like not driving 91 billion miles–or taking 7.6 million cars off the road.
That said, not all lamb chops are evil. On the farm where I grew up, for example, we had a modest flock of fifty sheep and, although they were raised for meat, the cycle was about as humane and environmentally responsible as it comes: We gently moved them from pasture to pasture, where they grazed on grass and alfalfa; we lovingly sheared them onsite, selling the lanolin-soft wool; we lambed them in the spring, midwifing the hardest births; and, finally, we took the lambs to a small processor just eight miles up the road.
If you’re in search of ethical, eco-friendly, health-smart meat, look for local, lean, pasture-raised cuts, given no antibiotics or hormones and, preferably, certified “organic” and “humane.” Want help losing your appetite for meat instead? Read Will Wlizlo’s soberingly graphic Utne Reader post “Inside the Meat Processing Plant.” (Shudder.)
Sources: Environmental Working Group, Civil Eats
Infographic by Environmental Working Group.
Tuesday, May 03, 2011 3:54 PM
And you thought the stacks of vacuum-packed pork chops sold at Costco were creepy. At the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands, scientists are growing meat in petri dishes, reports Nicola Jones in Conservation.
Utne Reader has been following the in-vitro meat discussion for several years and was interested to read Eindhoven University’s progress. There, researchers like Mark Post harvest myosatellite cells (stem cells responsible for muscle growth and repair) from living pigs, cows, sheep, turkeys, or chickens and turn them into thin strips of animal muscle, only about 200 micrometers thick, through a series of cell division and bundling.
Unsettling as the idea of manufactured meat sounds, the field’s leaders have the best intentions. Post hopes to end the “wasteful production of farm animals for food by helping to develop life-like steaks.” Like vegetarianism and veganism, the prospect could benefit the environment, Jones writes:
Largely because of the inefficiency of growing crops to feed livestock, a vegetarian diet requires only 35 percent as much water and 40 percent as much energy as that of a meat-eater. Future “in-vitrotarians” should be able to claim similar savings.
So, how does it taste? Don’t ask Post—he hasn’t eaten the pork grown in his lab. Jones explains:
The thing that enthusiasts for fake meat talk least about is its taste, perhaps because they haven’t tried it. In the U.S., researchers have largely avoided eating anything grown in the lab for fear of violating a Food and Drug Administration regulation . . . or of being seen as publicity hounds. Researchers generally believe that, if they can get the texture right, taste will follow—particularly once flavoring is added.
As far as [Post] knows, the only person who has swallowed a strip of the pale, limp muscle tissue is a Russian TV journalist who visited the lab this year to film its work. “He just took it with tweezers out of the culture dish and stuffed it in his mouth before I could say anything,” says Post.
Image by cbertel, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, December 17, 2010 4:33 PM
The backyard chicken boom is teaching a lot of urban dwellers about life on the farm—but it’s death that is proving to be the harder lesson for some of them. In “When Backyard Chickens Become Pets,” Meatpaper’s Kassandra Griffin describes the mortal dilemmas that take many a new chicken owner by surprise.
For one thing, predators from hawks to raccoons can break into coops and massacre chickens. For another, hens stop laying eggs when they reach a certain age, and then some hard choices must be made unless one wants to oversee an ever-growing geriatric chicken population.
Griffin interviews a Portland woman who began raising chickens and grew close to a hen named Lucky that no longer lays eggs—but slaughtering Lucky is a no-go. “They’ve been very easy pets to have,” she says. “It’s just heartbreaking when they get killed. I can’t imagine killing one myself, especially not to eat.” Writes Griffin:
In that, she illustrates a new urban problem: People want to get closer to their food, but often that means getting closer to eggs, but not to meat—few want to eat an animal they know by name. When older hens stop laying, the owner runs out of eggs, which were the presumed point of having the chicken in the first place.
Griffin goes on to interview less squeamish chicken owners who’ve made meals of past-their-prime birds. Says one, “I feel kind of sad about the chickens but not sad enough to eat them.”
(article not available online)
, licensed under
Friday, February 05, 2010 3:47 PM
Exploring the relationship between meat and popular music is something you’d only find in Meatpaper. That’s why we love it so much. In the latest issue Tony Michels tackles that juicy history and insists that “meat has always fed music.” He writes:
Indeed, the history of American popular music, in its entirety, may be traced through beef, poultry, and pork. The history of rock ‘n’ roll bears out my claim. Scholars have yet to ascertain the precise number of songs about meat recorded in the 1950s and early 1960s, but a safe estimate would run into the hundreds and perhaps thousands. Any complete repertoire needed at least one song about hot dogs, pulkes, fatback, or ribs. A crowing achievement of the early rock ‘n’ roll era was the Starliters’ hit “Hot Pastrami with Mashed Potatoes,” arguably the most eloquent paean to smoked meats ever performed. Pigmeat Markham and Sleepy LaBeef, who were among the earliest singers to adopt meat-themed monikers, further consolidated the alliance between meat and music. Alas, meat, like all things, is cyclical. With the rise of the counterculture in the late 1960s, animal flesh temporarily lost its appeal. Mind-bending sounds were in; sausages and tube steaks were out.
Michels goes on to discuss the punk revival of meat rock in the ’70s and the magazine also features a menu unearthed from a New York restaurant. It’s a “deli menu” organized into Poultry Albums, Poultry Songs, Meat Songs, Bands/Musicians, Meat Albums, and Little Bites. We can’t bring you that, but you can listen to Joey Dee and the Starliters. Do you have a favorite meat-themed song?
Source: Meatpaper (article not available online)
Friday, December 11, 2009 5:43 PM
McDonalds will begin selling their sausage McMuffin for a buck come January, reports Daily Finance, along with other golden-arch staples such as the hashbrown, small coffee, sausage burrito, and sausage biscuit. The preponderance of meat, specifically sausage, “sparks my interest because I have watched as concern about cheap meat has become more and more mainstream,” Sarah Gilbert writes for the AOL-group beta site.
While analysts are chalking the dollar menu up to slumping sales (and, depressingly, unemployment reducing breakfast-time commuters), Gilbert sees another possibility. In the coming decade, U.S. citizens will have to confront industrial meat production with “an unusual-for-us sobriety,” she contends. Which makes dollar menus at McDonalds and other fast-food chains look an awful lot like a sausage-puck shaped “Hail Mary strategy, a last hurrah before the era of cheap meat comes to an end.”
That or the menu, and others like it, will let Americans fall in love with cheap meat all over again, she concedes. But the stage (or perhaps the table), is set to favor the former: More now than ever, “what dishes one consumes or refuses, what food products one buys or boycotts, constitute an expression of style, statement of politics, reflection of values, index of environmentalism, pledge of allegiance, and measure of health,” Siobhan Phillips writes in The Hudson Review. Even priced at a buck, the sausage McMuffin is becoming an increasingly difficult sell.
Yet trying to articulate what a more sustainable, healthy American food culture will look like is a tricky thing in a country “where pizza bagels, pesto hummus, and picante ramen are as authentic as any other version . . . a place where an indistinct assembly-line beef patty is the only common taste,” Phillips writes. She offers, however, a refreshingly prescription-free suggestion for how we might forge ahead:
No one needs another study on the benefits of the family dinner table or another lament for its supposed—and probably fallacious—demise. But many people, as they manage many different sorts of households and meal plans, would like to feel that feeding is more than functional. . . .
Better to advocate subsidized cooking classes, perhaps—along with an expansion of programs that bring local produce to all and an increase in minimum wages so that strapped workers will have a bit more time and money to spend on their meals. These important specifics however, could and should join a more conceptual shift, a materialist attention as applicable in our talking and thinking about food as in our preparing and partaking of it.
Such a focus is egalitarian, possible in the bite of a lettuce leaf as well as the bouquet of a syrah; it is simple, emphasizing the fragrance of coffee as much as the flavors of caviar; and it is general, accommodating those with no further time to spend as well as those who wish to invest more effort. . . . It is also, importantly, always instructive, leading ordinary eaters to expansive convictions.
Reviving and fostering material attention to food, Phillips argues, could lead people to become dissatisfied with the “sweet-and-salt uniformity of mass-produced items” or the “contradictions of ‘natural flavor.’ ” It could lead the way to “an awareness of the tragedy of hunger and a rejection of the truism that being thin is the goal of eating well.” Even to political action. And, it would seem likely, to the end of cheap meat.
Sources: Daily Finance, The Hudson Review
Image by avlxyz, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, December 03, 2009 1:53 PM
After years of media coverage, including an article in Utne Reader, scientists have finally grown meat in a laboratory. Animal rights advocates are cautiously optimistic, because the proposed food source wouldn’t involve killing animals. According to the British Times, the concoction currently resembles “a soggy form of pork," and the scientists are working to improve the texture. The taste, however, remains in question, since rules currently bar scientists from tasting the In-Vitro meat.
Leaving the scientific and ethical questions behind, Hank Hyena, writing for h+ magazine, envisions a world where In-Vitro meat is already wildly popular. According to Hyena, “In-Vitro Meat will be socially transformative, like automobiles, cinema, vaccines.” Ranches will disappear, urbanization will accelerate, and the price of rural land will plummet. Economies that rely heavily on animal meat for trade, like Argentina and New Zealand, will have to figure out a new source of income or risk collapse. The world will get healthier and more environmentally friendly, according to Hyena, but the meat itself will be a lot more strange.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009 4:46 PM
Environmentalists, especially of the veggie persuasion, are quick to point out that meat accounts for nearly 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing consumption, giving meat up even one day a week, is the easiest way to reduce your carbon footprint, Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the U.N.’s panel on climate change, said last fall.
But not all meat is created equal, Lisa Hamilton writes for Audubon. Some methane production is unavoidable (file this fact under “cow burps”), but “animals reared on organic pasture have a different climate equation from those raised in confinement on imported feed,” asserts Hamilton, author of Deeply Rooted: Unconventional Farmers in the Age of Agribusiness.
In large-scale farming confinement systems, manure flows into (disgusting) lagoons, where its decomposition releases millions of tons of methane and nitrous oxide into the air every year. “On pasture, that same manure is simply assimilated back into the soil with a carbon cost close to zero,” Hamilton writes.
What’s more, grass-fed livestock can be an essential player in a sustainable set-up. Manure revitalizes soil (in lieu of chemical fertilizers or shipped-in compost), and grazing encourages plant growth. Hamilton also points to Holistic Management International, an organization that proposes managed, intensive grazing as part of a climate change solution.
“In order for pasture-based livestock to become a significant part of the meat industry, we need to eat more of its meat, not less,” Hamilton writes. “So if you want to use your food choices to impact climate change, by all means follow Dr. Pachauri’s suggestion for a meatless Monday. But on Tuesday, have a grass-fed burger—and feel good about it.”
Sources: Audubon, Holistic Management International
Image by pointnshoot, licensed under Creative Commons.
Monday, July 13, 2009 9:57 AM
In the latest issue of Meatpaper, Chris Ying deconstructs our love for watching men masticate curious things on television. His equation—dubbed the "unattractive men/unattractive meat narrative" or "UM/UM"—is this: “the weirder-looking you are, the weirder the food you have to eat.” He writes, rather scathingly, that UM/UM explains why “an acid-washed porcupine” like Guy Fieri is forced to scarf the slickest, homeliest burgers in the country (though he seems to dig it), while bitsy Giada De Laurentiis tucks away much tidier pieces of chicken and the occasional mini meatball. After grappling briefly with the consequences of his media equation, Ying has these final words:
In all honesty, we can’t really blame television for overfishing, or for lousy, overpriced renditions of street food in upscale restaurants. Nor can we blame TV for aspiring housewives lusting after organic home gardens and Hamptons beach houses. It’d be like blaming porn for teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease. It’s all just entertainment. And at the end of the day, food television, like porn, is irrevocably and essentially unsatisfying. They keep turning us on, but we keep watching, mouths watering and agape in horror.
Image by sashafatcat, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008 10:26 AM
Amid last fall’s flurry of beef recalls, Meatpaper magazine interviewed Neal Westgerdes (article not available online), the overseer of all California meat inspectors—including those at Westland/Hallmark Meat, the firm responsible for the record 143-million-pound recall on February 17. There have been no reports of illness, but the industry’s integrity is in question. Now I can only read the interview, published in the Winter 2007 issue, with skepticism as Westgerdes explains how inspectors check in daily at all processing facilities and have on-site office space at slaughterhouses. “Consumers don’t get to go where I go and see what’s going on,” Westgerdes says, explaining inspectors’ role as defenders of the public interest. I wonder if Westgerdes would now be so quick to affirm that he confidently eats commercially raised meat, while hunting gives him ethical pause: “I don’t think those animals were put on this planet to satisfy our need for meat.”
Monday, February 25, 2008 4:59 PM
Further fueling suspicions that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals dreams up campaigns by asking conservatives, “What would tick you off the most?” Stratton Lawrence of the Charleston (South Carolina) City Paper reports that the group is lobbying for a 10-cents-a-pound federal meat tax.
PETA likens this “sin tax” to ones already “placed on tobacco, alcohol, and gasoline for their costly effect on the environment and public health,” Lawrence writes. Revenue from this proposed bill (that will never, ever pass) would fund education about the benefits of eating less meat.
“Even though the average American adult would only pay $20 more per year with this tax, it would encourage reduced meat consumption,” PETA’s Ashley Byrne tells Lawrence. “That could save a family thousands in health care costs.”
In pairing the word “meat,” considered icky by most vegetarians, with “tax,” perhaps the most hated word in the English language, PETA, in typical fashion, seems to be saying: Let’s see how polarized this thing can get. Supply-side might be a better place to start—by raising industry standards for environmental remediation or, as one small livestock farmer suggested to Lawrence, by rolling back the huge government subsidies being handed away to factory farms.
Thursday, December 13, 2007 4:05 PM
A new tool in the fight against global warming might be hopping around the Australian outback. A recent report (PDF) by Greenpeace suggests that using kangaroos, instead of cows, as a source of meat could make a substantial impact on Australia’s carbon footprint. Eating cuddly marsupial for dinner might sound unnatural to Americans, but kangaroo has been a part of Australian cuisine from time immemorial. It fact, the practice fits perfectly with many established ideas of green living: eat local, free-range meats; raise animals that help sustain the land; cultivate indigenous plants and animals. Most importantly, according to Greenpeace, kangaroos don’t release as much methane gas as cows do.
(Thanks, Shameless Carnivore.)
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