It was only about a month ago I wrote about a European idea to raise bugs to be crushed and used as a protein source for livestock.
As many bugs are happy munching garbage which we produce to excess daily, the idea is not just intriguing, but would seem highly viable, albeit if the idea is a little disquieting too.
Of course if we turn back the clock a few decades to when livestock were all basically free-range, a husbandry style many consumers see as better than high density housing for stock, chickens ate bugs by the bushel, when not pecking through the manure left behind by the pigs and cattle looking for partly digested grain kernels.
And the pigs themselves were avid rooters and you just know bugs were part of what they dug up and munched.
So with some second-thought I look at the idea with a bit less of the ‘ewwww-factor’.
And besides there is something else which popped up last week that has my attention in terms of a squeamish agriculture-related idea.
Fellow Yorkton This Week scribe Thom Barker in his ‘Critically Thinking’ column had what I suspect most are going to see as a far more ‘Orwellian’ idea.
Well actually in this case it’s not so much an idea, as it is emerging technology.
Barker wrote how two food critics in London, England taste-tested the first laboratory-grown hamburger.
The idea of growing a burger in a lab isn’t exactly new.
In fact Canadian author Margaret Atwood wrote about such a thing in her rather dark novel Oryx and Crake. The idea of chicken parts growing on a sort of mechanical tree was not particularly appetizing.
Barker explained the hamburger in this case was “cultured from stem cells harvested from living cows.”
Apparently the two tasters suggested it tasted like meat, to which Barker said, “that doesn’t surprise me all that much, since it is meat. It is meat that was produced in an unconventional way, but meat nonetheless.”
For me this is an interesting development.
I am all about feeding a growing population, and this may become a way to do it.
We know there is pressure from some quarters already questioning dedicating acres to grow feed for livestock when those acres could be producing food directly consumable by humans.
That said we also know as world economies strengthen and create greater personal incomes, South Korea, China and India being the leading examples, they will look for more meat in their diets.
The two things do run counter to one another.
The assembly line burger might be an answer to the apparent conundrum, although factors such as cost to produce a burger are probably far from known, without even venturing into the ethical debate which will no doubt come.
Still buggy protein for livestock, and assembly line grown meat, do seem to suggest we are headed to a very different future for agriculture than we could have even imagined a few years ago.
Calvin Daniels is Assistant Editor with Yorkton This Week.