Goodbye cows, hello tube meat.

These days, very little would make me happier than to get on the train that asks Americans to reconceive their relationship to beef, by removing the cow at the end of the line. Just NOW on the NYT site, “Engineering the $325,000 Burger.”

The idea of creating meat in a laboratory — actual animal tissue, not a substitute made from soybeans or other protein sources — has been around for decades. The arguments in favor of it are many, covering both animal welfare and environmental issues.
…Yet growing meat in the laboratory has proved difficult and devilishly expensive. Dr. Post, who knows as much about the subject as anybody, has repeatedly postponed the hamburger cook-off, which was originally expected to take place in November. His burger consists of about 20,000 thin strips of cultured muscle tissue. Dr. Post, who has conducted some informal taste tests, said that even without any fat, the tissue “tastes reasonably good.” For the London event he plans to add only salt and pepper.

But the meat is produced with materials — including fetal calf serum, used as a medium in which to grow the cells — that eventually would have to be replaced by similar materials of non-animal origin. And the burger was created at phenomenal cost — 250,000 euros, or about $325,000, provided by a donor who so far has remained anonymous. Large-scale manufacturing of cultured meat that could sit side-by-side with conventional meat in a supermarket and compete with it in price is at the very least a long way off.“This is still an early-stage technology,” said Neil Stephens, a social scientist at Cardiff University in Wales who has long studied the development of what is also sometimes referred to as “shmeat.” “There’s still a huge number of things they need to learn.”

Engineering the $325,000 Burger,  Henry Fountain, New York Times

Shmeat is an unfortunate moniker – a portmanteau of shit n meat.

I dream of ways to reimagine America without our beloved cow/cowboy, and start shifting the paradigms now to embrace the tube meat when it’s ready for prime-time.

Virtual fencing, and the new aesthetic

This just in from Venue, an online mag produced by StudioX.

(10 gallon) hats off to Studio-x for mixing urban and non-urban considerations of architecture.
I’ve been ruminating (yes) about how to better interface with and represent ecocritical investigations on remote public lands, and have the work BE more salient to an urban public.
I sometimes (often) get blank looks if I talk about the fact that we all own the USA’s public land.
So much real and symbolic action takes place on this vast area (over 95,000 square miles) of high plains and high desert*.


In response to the interview about virtual fences, I’m thinking about

– at what point in the interview Anderson (and interviewer) mentions animal welfare – not until midway or later in article, certainly framed as secondary or even an after thought

– how easy it is to privilege convenience and human progress, continuing to make animal welfare second to your priorities (if that)

– looking at Anderson’s enthusiasm about technology controlling our literal actions (and not even in the future, right now, how that’s leading us)

– cows are ‘handed’ (left and right) as we are. They can recall where virtual fences were (because they experienced unpleasant feedback to approaching theses zones)

– question: to surveille the animals via drones and electronics performs what in relation to control of human biopower?

– can one *really* fence off poisonous plants (a single one?)?

– can the drone birds be sent to frighten off wolves and lions and bears (oh my)?

– can songs be sung for other purposes across that landscape, like Anderson does in the cows’ ear pieces?

– the ‘new aesthetic’ privileges a remote sensing of the world, acknowledging the ever-decreasing direct apprehension we have or are interested in having (what are we doing with all that time we gain?)

–  the ‘new aesthetic’ takes non-critical pleasure in surveillance, distance, and the production of accidental wonders. how does this operate with real animals (and real meat and money) at the end of the line?

– the positive impacts of the virtual fencing are great: ease of moving livestock  away from riparian areas and depleted landscapes, away from predators, away from wild herds, removal of hard fencing helps wildlife’s mobility.

– remote sensing from drones (robo birds) can tell you a detailed story of the current conditions of the landscape:


Christie Leece (my collaborator on Gila 2.0) and I are trying to figure out next steps — hopefully in Arizona.



On a related note, basal ganglia controlled (like the robo rat in the Anderson article) in mice is featured on Radiolab:
Damn It, Basal Ganglia


*The North American Deserts includes all the deserts located on the continent. It is also the term for a large U.S. Level 1 ecoregion (EPA)[1] of the North American Cordillera, in theDeserts and xeric shrublands biome (WWF). The continent’s deserts are largely between the Rocky Mountains and Sierra Madre Oriental on the east, and the rain shadow creatingSierra NevadaTransverse, and Peninsular Ranges on the west. The North American xeric region of over 95,751 sq mi (247,990 km2) includes: 3 major deserts; numerous smaller deserts; and large non-desert arid regions; in the western United States and in northeast, central, and northwest Mexico.

Chillingham Wild Cattle

Chris Leyland, manager of the cattle, takes us on a tour - the park has some ancient alder trees
Chris Leyland, manager of the cattle, takes us on a tour – the park has some ancient alder trees
Alder and cattle in bg
Alder and cattle in bg
Sometimes called Fairy Cattle for the unique red fur in ther ears
Sometimes called “Fairy Cattle” for the unique red fur in ther ears
They darken in color as they get older
They darken in color as they get older
definitely curious about us, but on their own terms
definitely curious about us, but on their own terms
the oldest lady with crooked horns - shes 17, but still can satisfy a good itch
the oldest lady with crooked horns – she’s 17, but still can satisfy a good itch
there are about 87 cattle in all
there are about 87 cattle in all
with a decent park range - no shortage of grazing food, minimal human intervention, hay in winter
with a decent park range – no shortage of grazing food, minimal human intervention, hay in winter

Fairy Cattle

Wild Chillingham Cattle are known as “fairy cattle” for their small size and tufted red fur in their ears; they are genetically distinct from any other (including their relatives the White Park Cattle, who have black ear fur).

Fairy Cattle
Fairy Cattle (uncredited/undated on the Chillingham Castle web site) portrayed as a bloody pre-Raphaelite floral

Chillingham Cattle are Clones


Nice overview of the cattle- history and genetics found at the BBC web site.
The cattle, who live in northern Northumberland, have been inbred for 700 years; in the 13th century the park around Chillingham Castle was enclosed to protect the cattle from the Border Reiver rustlers. These are wild cattle that have never been herded or driven, and have the status of wild animals. They are also genetically linked to the  prehistoric Aurochs, extinct for 2500 years. And because of their long inbreeding, Chillingham cattle are all clones:

In recent years DNA samples have been prepared from hair roots collected from dead animals and this work, at the Roslin Institute and Edinburgh University, has revealed that the Wild Cattle are a natural clone.

Not only are all the cattle genetically identical, each animal has also received identical genes from its sire as from its dam (the Y chromosome, which determines masculinity, is not possessed by female mammals, but again the likelihood is that all Y chromosomes in the Chillingham herd are identical).

“Nowhere in the world are there any mammals more inbred than these – yet they continue to survive and thrive.” – The Chillingham Wild Cattle Association

This is unique among animals, and arises from their very long history of inbreeding, together with occasional periods of very low numbers (genetic bottlenecks).

In spite of this genetic identity, it would be difficult to point out two animals that could be said to be identical.

This is because the visible characteristics of any animal (the phenotype) are partly determined by the environment and minor differences between individuals in patterns of development in the womb and afterwards can be expected.

Nowhere in the world are there any mammals more inbred than these – yet they continue to survive and thrive.

The Chillingham Bull. All engravings by Thomas Bewick
The Chillingham Bull. Both engravings by Thomas Bewick