Tag Archives: food

This Is Not The Synthetic Meat We’re Looking For

Road Trip: Day 1 (crop)

Yuck – Is Pink Slime in the Beef at Your Grocery Store?

As seen in the movie Food Inc., the low-grade trimmings come from the most contaminated parts of the cow and were once only used in dog food and cooking oil. But because of BPI’s treatment of the trimmings — simmering them in low heat, separating fat and tissue using a centrifuge and spraying them with ammonia gas to kill germs — the United States Department of Agriculture says it’s safe to eat.

Fortunately, given the lack of beef cattle on Mars it’s not something that Amber would have to be concerned about eating.

Back in the real world, however, I can see this revelation potentially harming the prospects for true synthetic meat. Should synthetic meat ever prove practical it will be deliberately conflated with pink slime by “pure” food advocates, crusading vegans, anti-corporate activists, and (ironically) live-raised meat producers in an effort to make it an object of disgust and thereby poison any market for it. Assuming synthetic meat would be safe to consume, the environmental and humane benefits will be ignored because (respectively) it isn’t real meat, it is real meat, someone might make a profit on it, and someone else might make a profit on it.

Like GMO foods in In the Shadow of Ares, it might be something that we’ll have to wait for Loonies and Martians to perfect and bring to market, out of local necessity.

Farming in Space

Popular Mechanics takes an ever-so-brief look at farming in space.

Gene Giacomelli, a University of Arizona agricultural researcher and the lead investigator of a NASA-funded growth chamber for the moon, envisions a multiarmed, inflatable greenhouse building staffed with robots that do the bulk of the work. “Astronauts should not have to be farmers,” he says.

Nor (more to the point) should settlers.

The settlers in In the Shadow of Ares make extensive use of this combination of inflatable greenhouses and robotic technology, in the form of the bubbles at the Green and the Jacobsens’ Ares IV homestead and their respective semi-autonomous gardener ‘bots.

While the article mentions food and oxygen production, it does not mention one of the important benefits such greenhouses would offer: enhanced morale. Whether it is the fresh atmosphere of a small homestead garden or the large park tucked into one corner of an industrial-scale agricultural bubble, greenhouses will offer settlers a reminder of Earth and a break from their otherwise wholly artificial surroundings.

Move Over, Taco Bell, Here Comes Vat-Meat

Walter Russell Mead sings the praises of those entrepreneurs who might one day bring us an environmentally-friendly and guilt-free source of protein: synthetic meat.

Now I don’t know whether this particular technology will ever pan out, so that PETA activists will be stopping in at the local McDonalds for a tasty shamburger. Dr. Mironov might be wasting his time, or he might really be onto something.

But the point is that there are hundreds of thousands of Dr. Mironovs working on all kinds of unconventional inventions and ideas in labs and garages all over the world.  Most of them may never produce very much but, especially with the tremendous advance of knowledge in biology of recent decades, some of them are going to get some very remarkable, life changing results.

Whether we will get delicious juicy shamburgers and sinfully salty, crisp facon (fake bacon) anytime soon is beyond me.  But that the future will be full of surprises that change the basic rules of the energy game is almost certain.  This is why I don’t think the prophets of doom have it right.  Human ingenuity has been getting us out of tight corners and making life unexpectedly better for thousands of years; I don’t think we’re done yet.

Those who have read In the Shadow of Ares already know of one possible market for this technology. Indeed, a grow-it-at-home version appears in the opening chapters of the book. If the technology works, and can be packaged into a reliable system with reasonable space and resource requirements, it would be a wonderful source of protein and familiar foodstuffs in an early Martian settlement, where raising livestock would be impractical for many years until sufficient habitable volume and related infrastructure had been established.

Indeed, if it works well (by which I mean it produces something more palatable and less monotonous than just a synthetic form of Spam), the technology would eliminate the need to ever raise livestock on Mars…if anyone would ever seriously consider doing such a thing.