Article by Martin Kruse
Strictly speaking, the udders on cows that produce milk do not actually have to be on a cow: in fact, it seems that they may be able to produce more milk if the cow is not “attached” to the udders. After all, cows need warmth and nutrition, and this consumes most of the energy supplied to these animals.
Twenty-five years from now, many areas of agriculture in the Western world will probably still be much the same as they are today. However, technological advances do create room for development. It is possible, for example, that agriculture will move from the country into the towns, and farms will no longer be run by independent farmersbut by multinational companies. Automation and digitalisation may make it possible for “farmers” to control their entire production apparatus from their offices, without ever getting their hands dirty. And then there is the whole issue of biotechnological development. Development in the field of biotechnology is moving towards splitting classic food production up into other areas. Organ transplants and insulin production from pigs already exist, but genetic modification opens up a range of completely new options.
In Canada, the Nexia company has succeeded in raising goats that produce milk containing spider proteins, which can be extracted to make spider webs. The threads that spiders use for their webs are known to be the strongest natural material in the world; its tensile strength is greater than that of steel, and it is 25 percent lighter than synthetic, oil-based polymers. The intention is to use spider web threads to make surgical thread, bulletproof vests and bio-steel. This is just one example of what we can expect. Strictly speaking, the udders on cows that produce milk do not actually have to be on a cow: in fact, it seems that they may be able to produce more milk if the cow is not “attached” to the udders. After all, cows need warmth and nutrition, and this consumes most of the energy supplied to these animals. This may seem fantastical, but it is already possible to produce meat in laboratories, without having to slaughter a single head of cattle. Although the steaks that can be produced today are no bigger than the nail on your little finger, twenty-five years from now, part of global meat production may well have been transferred to laboratories.
This would also alleviate the climate issues associated with eating meat. However, it will take many years before this development really builds up momentum, by which time the population may have learned to eat more CO2-friendly meat. From grasshoppers, for example. Whereas a cow consumes around 10 kilos of feed per kilo of meat it produces, a grasshopper consumes only 2–3 kilos of feed per kilo of meat. This may mean that mince and other animal protein products could contain added grasshopper protein. Admittedly, this may seem incredible. But the majority of the world population already gets some of its nutrition from eating various types of insects, so eating grasshoppers would simply be taking a step towards more natural food for people everywhere …