Where’s the Beef?

Categories: NAEDA Column, NAEDA & Association News, Top Stories | Author: Amy Volk | Posted: 9/9/2013 | Views: 2760
By Mike Williams

Do voters want a Congress genuinely concerned about dealing with real-life issues or will they settle for a pretend version?

On Monday, August 5, the scientists at Dr. Mark Post’s laboratory at the Maastricht University in the Netherlands cooked the world’s most expensive hamburger. It was made from meat grown in petri dishes in his lab for an event they hoped will change the way the world sees food.

Starting with stem cells extracted from a biopsy of a cow, Post’s team grew 20,000 muscle fibers over the course of three months. Each tiny, hoop-like fiber grew in an individual culture well, suspended in a gel-like growth medium.

When they were ready, the fibers were removed individually by hand, cut open and straightened out. All the fibers were pressed together to form the hamburger—biologically identical to beef, but grown in a lab rather than in a field as part of a cow. His aim was simple: to show the world that growing real, edible meat in laboratories is no longer a fantasy and that this could be a potential solution to the impacts of meat production on our environment.

Post acknowledged that it will be essential to produce a product that looks and tastes exactly the same as real meat. And if they find there is a market for cultured beef, the same methods could be used to grow other proteins such as chicken, lamb, fish or pork in the lab.

In an article by The Guardian, Dr. Post said his cultured beef was still undergoing a life-cycle analysis to work out its overall environmental impacts, but early indications were that his lab meat reduced the need for land and water by 90%, and overall energy use was cut by 70%.

Though Post’s work is at its earliest stages—there are many hurdles before he can scale up the process for large-scale manufacture— he has high hopes for his product. “Twenty years from now, if you have a choice in the supermarket between two products that are identical, and they taste and feel the same and have the same price—and one is made in an environmentally friendly way with much less resources and provides food security for the population, and doesn’t have any animal welfare connotations to it—the choice will be relatively easy,” he said. “People will start to prefer this type of product, and then it will gradually transform meat production.”

Compare Dr. Post’s last sentence on people’s preference for changes in food-supply product in relation to today’s political climate in Washington, D.C. Everyone is concerned about what is happening in Washington, but we are gradually being transformed to a new reality.

When presented with the most direct opportunity to actually affect change through low-turnout congressional primaries, many of us apathetically rubber-stamp 95% of the incumbents with another two-year or six-year term. That has got to change if we want change.

This is not the 1990s. The challenges we confront domestically and abroad—challenges that threaten the very fabric of our republic and civil society—make the battles of 20 years ago look like child’s play. As Americans, we can no longer afford to send members to Congress who act for the press release today and/or their next election fundraiser.

At the time of this writing, there are 33 Senate seats up for reelection next year and all 435 House seats. Elections will also be held for the delegates from the District of Columbia and four U.S. territories. The winners of this election will serve in the 114th United States Congress, with seats apportioned among the states based on the 2010 United States Census.

Also there will be local and state elections for governors and state legislators. Issues pertaining to debt, health care, markets and trade, Internet taxation and privacy, immigration, tax reform and infrastructure funding are just a few of the issues that will be debated at the federal, state and local level as this new election cycle starts this fall and winter.

A complete list of those running at the federal and state level can be found for the House at: http://bit.ly/Tt4WdQ and for the Senate at: http://bit.ly/A91sCJ.

The 2014 primaries will actually provide us with opportunities to express the changes we want from government. While we will be forced to deal with some of these congressional members in the general election, we are not in the general elections yet. 

Now is the time for everyone to begin picking the best candidate in primaries to represent the country from all the states. It is also the time to change the Washington country club, and change the faces of both parties so the new electorates understand how we outside the “beltway” operate on a daily basis. I don’t know if it is time to step back from the generic red vs. blue fight, but I do know we need to make sure that what we are looking at is indeed best for the country going forward.

That is where the beef really is! And that is a good thing.


MIKE WILLIAMS is vice president for government relations with NAEDA.  He can be reached at williamsm@naeda.com.

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