Not today. Probably not this century. In the next, I’d be shocked if it didn’t start happening. Outdoor farms in their sprawling plant-filled glory will one day be extinct in most “developed” countries and will be a marker of terrible, desperate poverty.
There are already experiments in urban and/or indoor farming. Experiments and practical endeavors, in fact. With tall racks of trays and hydroponic and similar setups, optimized artificial lighting and harvesting, and total climate control (oh, this is the next paragraph right here, just you wait and see) an indoor farm can produce a LOT more food in the same volume of old-fashioned dirt farm.
And there’s another benefit, one that will grow much more valuable as time advances. You see, the climate is changing, and we humans changed it mainly by burning billions of tons of the distilled hundreds-of-millions-of-years-old forests and dinosaurs we call oil, coal, and natural gas. You can’t burn that much carbon-bearing material and not impact the environment you release it into. Deny it if you want, but the facts say it’s changing and we had a lot to do with it.
Climate change changes farming. Extreme weather events become more common because the global flows of air and heat are disrupted and you can’t disrupt a gigantic complex system without introducing chaos. Rainfall patterns and which land is suited for what crop change as wet land becomes arid (and presumably vice-versa as it’s a big globe with more than the USA in it), and temperatures and season lengths change.
So how do you escape chaotic weather that threatens crops? How do you immunize yourself against the shifting of agricultural zones under the whip of a changing global climate?
You move indoors, of course.
One day, our farms will be many, many thousands of enormous warehouse spaces full of light and the smell of growing things while the hot breath of the climate we screwed up howls against the doors.
OBESITY WILL KILL YOU!
With population levels stabilizing around the world and continued advances in technology that make producing, preserving, transporting, and eating food easier every year, the populations of all but the poorest countries — and even most of those! — have gotten fatter than ever.
SEVENTY-THREE PERCENT OF OF YOU ARE OBESE. FAT! YOU ARE FAT! FATNESS IS THE LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH IN ADULTS OVER TWENTY-EIGHT AND HAS BEEN SINCE 2071.
Only the incredible advances made by modern medicine in the last 50 years have prevented life expectancy from plunging below the sixty-year mark for the first time in the early 20th century.
NeroScarfin IS THE MOST INCREDIBLE ADVANCE OF ALL! IT WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE IF YOU’RE FAT — and you’re fat!
NeroScarfin is a patented and proprietary complex of medical nanomachines, drugs approved for medical use worldwide, vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients that prevents the food you love from making you fat! NeroScarfin has been clinically proven to remove 94% of the calorie content from the food you’re eating so you can eat as much as you want and never get fat! It really will save your life! NeroScarfin encapsulates and denatures sugars, complex carbs, fats, oils, and proteins but leaves all of the delicious taste and the glorious, decadent feeling of fullness you crave! You can eat rich desserts, fatty fried food, fast food, candy, fruit, nuts, meat, fish, butter, cream — absolutely everything you want and as much as you want!
NeroScarfin is a small gelcap no bigger than a common pain reliever. You simply take one with every estimated 2,000 calories of food and per hour spent eating and you can enjoy all of the decadent feasting you want, whenever you want — and because of the way NeroScarfin works, you’ll never even suffer indigestion or diarrhea that rich food normally can cause!
Best of all, because of the vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients that NeroScarfin contains, even if you take it with every single meal you’re in no danger of malnutrition, ever! You’ll be thin, fulfilled, and never have to worry about the early deaths that generations before you had to suffer in order to enjoy food the way it was meant to be enjoyed.
Ask your doctor if NeroScarfin is right for you — and it almost certainly will be, as the side effects are infrequent and usually minor. Ask your doctor to discuss them with you, and if NeroScarfin is not right for you, what you can do to achieve the health you need to take NeroScarfin — because you need NeroScarfin!
Live like a decadent emperor of ancient Rome, enjoying 20,000 calories of the most delicious delicacies you can dream of EVERY SINGLE TIME YOU EAT! Live the NeroScarfin Life today!
[The folks supporting me over on my Patreon page saw this 3 days before it was posted here — plus they have my seriously big and frequent thankyous for their generosity. Head on over and give a self-published indie author struggling for a break — me, silly! — a little love. Thanks!]
Oh, look. A tray of raw beef garnished with… a sprig of juniper for some reason? Who eats raw beef with juniper? What the hell is going on here?
Less than two years ago, laboratory-grown beef made a big splash in the news. The scientists who grew the first hamburger not carved from the flank of a steer munched on quarter-pound burgers that were also quarter-million-dollar burgers, and pronounced them, if not the most delicious ever, acceptably beefy.
The burgers, at that cost, were a curiosity at best. But the price of growing meat by the cell has been dropping steadily and sharply since then. The same quarter-pound patty now costs about ten bucks to grow. At this rate, we may see commercially viable laboratory-gown meat very soon (one expert says twenty years, this writer hopes for much sooner)—and that means you’ll be seeing it in your grocery store by-and-by.
It will be up to the consumers to decide whether or not they want to eat something grown in a lab as opposed to carved out of an animal. Many meat-eaters are skeptical of the idea, but on the other hand, there are a lot of current vegetarians and even carnivores who are skeptical about the level of cruelty involved in factory farms. Personally (I’m a meat-eater), I’ll take the laboratory. Look at it from the cow’s point of view: would you rather have a muscle biopsy so a bunch of people can eat food grown from a few of your cells, or be carved apart with knives and saws and consumed directly? I know which I’d prefer. Also, producing animal flesh in a lab involves a whole lot less water consumption than raising an animal the traditional way, it certainly means less grain going to animal feed rather than feeding hungry humans, and, of course, there’s WAY less animal poop to dispose of. That sounds like a joke, but it’s really not. Have you ever heard of a ‘livestock waste lagoon’? Yes, lagoon. As in, enormous pool of rotting poop that covers several acres, causes various contamination problems, and nobody really knows how to deal with. Yuck.
Those are all important concerns, and all good reasons to look forward to getting our meat out of the laboratory rather than off the hoof.
But, as usual, there’s more here than meets the eye. There’s the potential to do a whole lot of things with meat that are impractical, impossible, or even illegal to do with meat as we know it now.
At present, most people in the USA eat beef, pork, chicken, shrimp, and a few basic fish like tuna and salmon and whiting. Even less-popular meats like lamb can be hard to come by and pricey, because a grocery store has to buy large ‘primal cuts,’ whole portions of an animal, for sale—and that means waste for an unpopular meat: low demand and a requirement to take on a large supply if they want to offer it.
But if it’s grown in the lab, grocery stores have the opportunity to order only what they need, and to order small batches of less common meats to see if consumers are interested in trying them out. The supplier to the store isn’t slaughtering a large animal, they’re growing to order as well. And that means variety becomes easier to offer. Have you ever thought of trying game meats, like caribou or wild boar? You won’t find either in the supermarket. You can order them online—if you don’t mind paying fifty bucks or more per pound.
With a simple muscle biopsy, a meat-growing lab could produce caribou and boar just as cheaply as it produces beef. Or other meats. Have you ever thought you might like to try an elephant steak, or panda or eagle or Galapagos tortoise, if only you could do it without, you know, killing an endangered animal and breaking the law? Well, it’s probably not against the law to buy a small cell sample from the local zoo and grow elephant steaks to sell. Have you seen how many people have been protesting the slaughter of dolphins and whales in Japan lately? Would there be a need for protest if they could take cell samples, let the animals go, and eat as much cruelty-free dolphin and whale as they’d like? And speaking of aquatic creatures, how about fish without overfishing disrupting the oceans’ ecosystems? Who knows what this technology might yield as producers begin to try new things? The possibilities are endless. Here are some pie-in-the-sky imaginings that seem possible, even likely:
You’ve noticed, of course, that bigger shrimp cost more—but if you’re just growing shrimp tissue, there’s no reason you couldn’t just grow it in any size you wanted, for the same price per pound. Imagine picking up a 3-lb chub of solid shrimp, and slicing it into easy-to-sear shrimp patties for the grill. Or quarter-pound chunks in the familiar comma shape.
Family size scallops—one to a pie plate.
A ten-foot roll of bacon. Cut to the strip size you like with your kitchen shears. “The doctor said to hold it down to one strip of bacon with breakfast… mine is three feet long.”
Any meat you’d like, grown in sheets like pie dough, so you can enclose other food with it. Great for Thanksgiving—individual turkey and stuffing pockets! Make a turducken as easily as folding a pillowcase. Or think of delicious shepherd’s pie made in a ‘pie crust’ composed entirely of tender, succulent beef.
Eat quail and trout without having to pick out a million little bones.
3-D dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets for the kids. Like, one that could stand up on the plate like a regular action figure.
3-D dinosaur-shaped dinosaur nuggets for the kids—just need to find a few cells in amber, Jurassic Park style. This one might be a bit of a long shot, but it’s fun to dream, isn’t it?
And wouldn’t it be nice if the few people struck by the creepy desire to eat other humans could go ahead and do so—without murdering anyone? (I’ve already played with this concept a little in a flash story entitled All Flesh Is Grass.)
Lab-grown meat is coming. It has the potential to eliminate the enormous loads that raising animals for consumption places on the environment in terms of demands for water, land, feed, and disposal of waste. And it also has the potential to allow people to indulge in a wider range of culinary exploration than ever before—and no dead animals (or people, for the cannibals in the audience) to show for it.