Should you be reading this column while consuming a meal, you might want to press pause on the eating thing. Although neither of these two stories is overly graphic, they do cause the eewww-factor meter to rev up.
Bizarre food news item #1:
Making cattle ecstatic the world over, scientists recently grew hamburger in a lab without harming any of our bovine, cud-chewing friends.
To do so, they took stem cells extracted from a biopsy of a cow and grew 20,000 muscle fibers. (Bet you won’t find that recipe in the “Joy of Cooking.”) When ready, these fibers were cut open and straightened — after all, who wants crooked meat? — and pressed together to form hamburger. Although biologically identical to beef, it isn’t actually beef. Moreover, before you fire up the barbeque for some good petri-dish burgers, you might want to be aware of the cost. Whereby “traditional” ground beef sets you back about three or four dollars a pound, this grown-in-a-lab version costs more than the average price of a house; about $340,000!
So why might a six-figure hamburger be of interest?
Well, aside from eventually being able to help feed more people, our appetite for meat means that about 30 percent of the Earth’s useable surface is covered by pasture land for animals, compared with just four percent used to feed humans. Moreover, livestock accounts for about five percent of carbon dioxide emissions and 40 percent of methane emissions. Summed up, cows are inefficient as food and they’re quite gassy. Who would have thunk?
Needless to say, a hamburger requiring a mortgage to finance it has a few hurdles to overcome, but the doctor who created “Frankenmeat” is confident that in two decades — when it’s more affordable and more tasty — people will actually prefer it.
To increase the appeal and give it better taste, he plans to add lab-grown fat cells and perhaps even bone cells for those who want a fully lab-cultured T-bone steak. Speaking for myself, I’m pretty competent at growing fat cells. I’ll be glad to share a few.
Which leads to…
Under the streets of London exist “Fatbergs,” ginormous collections of grease, oil, and, of course, fat.
Turns out, when folks pour inappropriate things down their drains, they end up in the raw sewage tunnels (along with the other obvious things that float around down there). Although fatbergs appear to occur with regularity, recently they discovered the biggest one yet, a 15-ton mound about the size of a school bus. (Man, how would you like to be the guy who gets to go into the sewers and measure these things? Yick!) Turns out the local residents were not able to flush their toilets so city workers had to see what was wrong and found the berg was plugging up 95 percent of the tunnel.
Yet behind every cloud of adipose, there lies a silver (greasy) lining. Since fatbergs are made of dense fats and oils, which are of course highly caloric, they could be helpful for producing energy. Rob Smith, whose title is London’s “chief flusher,” (really!) pointed out that simply removing the fat and burning it in a turbine can produce more than 130 gigawatt-hours of energy each year, or about enough to power 40,000 homes; about the size of a smaller county like Humboldt or Tehama. The good folks of London are planning to do just that.
Whether or not they’ll be cooking Frankenmeat for dinner remains to be seen.
About the author: Scott “Q” Marcus is a motivational productivity expert and weight loss speaker. He will be co-producing an event in Humboldt County on October 12 best described as “a cross between a creativity workshop and productivity training – with a bit of life balance thrown in for good measure.” If you are a solo-entrepreneur, business manager, or artisan, find out how to save 33% at http://bit.ly/PlorkHumboldt