Recently, there was an article about lab-grown beef published in the Western Courier, that is Western Illinois University’s newspaper. The first two paragraphs were about “lab-grown beef,” but then the article took a turn against agriculture. The point of this post is to shine some light on the agriculture community, hopefully show you how important it is to keep cattle around, and inform you of the false statements mentioned in the article “Consider Lab-Grown Proteins.”
Let’s begin with the false statements that are told in the Western Courier article. I’ll start off with the fact that agriculture in general, including animal production and crop production makes up only 8% of the total greenhouse emissions, while only 2% of that is actually from cattle. The total emissions in 2014 was 6,870 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent. Agriculture was 549.6 million metric tons of that, while transportation was 1,786.2 million metric tons. Livestock production, which was only 2% of agriculture’s 8%, comes to a total of 12.37 million metric tons. To put all of this into perspective, a Chicago emissions inventory was conducted in the year 2000, 16 years ago mind you, this study found that the city put out 34.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents. Chicago is 234 square miles; agriculture, including livestock production, is nationwide.
Along with the false statements of agriculture’s pollution, there are other statements in the article that should have been researched a little more such as how we use chemicals on crops to “keep it alive.” Pesticides and fertilizer applications are used to help the plants grow strong and healthy and also help fend off disease, insects, and weeds. Another statement, for example, is the one that talks about the use of these “growth hormones;” did you know that it is against the law to use any sort of hormone in the production of hogs and chickens? In cattle, supplements are added to feed; these are the equivalent of a weight lifter’s protein shake. Also, this “lab-grown beef” is still derived from beef cattle, so vegans and vegetarians technically don’t have an alternative.
I really want to focus now on what would happen if we cut out animal agriculture. If we cut out beef production, it will most likely cause a domino effect and everyone around the country would feel the effect. Here are some statistics from the USDA 2012 Ag Census that the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association had on their website: there are 619,172 farms and ranches specializing in beef cattle, number of cattle calf operations: 915,000, the economic impact was $88.25 billion. The number of cattle as of January 1, 2016 92.0 million head. ninety two million cows; that is a lot of cows. If we went to all lab-grown beef, where would all these cows go? Would we just let them go to run wild like deer? Maybe we could have a hunting season for cattle.
As stated in the previous paragraph, there are 619,172 farms and ranches that specialize in beef cattle. That is basically putting 619,172 businesses and family owned farms out of business. Not only would it be putting farmers out on the streets, but production facilities and all of their employees would be without a job. This would also affect row crop farming as well. almost 70% of grain production is made for livestock feed. The demand for grain would go down dramatically; with that 70% of the market gone, prices would plummet and row crop farmers would practically have to just give away their grain. This, in turn, would put many row crop farmers out of business.
This “lab-grown” proteins could potentially put agriculture in the past. I understand that America is a nation of innovation. We, as a nation, have created great innovations that have changed the world in many ways. With lab-grown meat, are we innovating? Or are we just looking for the next big thing? Ask yourself, would you eat beef grown from a petri dish?
My name is James Miller and I am a senior here at WIU majoring in Agriculture Business. I transferred to WIU after attending Illinois College where I played football for two years. I am from small town about a half hour north of Macomb called Avon.