A few weeks ago, a chance meeting with an auld adversary of mine opened my eyes to something that has left me sleepless ever since - a subject that I cannot now un-hear. I have sat on it for a few weeks, but would now like to share a situation that is as scary as it is unavoidable.
I didn't see the programme on C4 last night but I gather it was more propaganda from the plant based corner. Now many folks, farmers particularly, might see these eco-activists as bunch of lefty crackpots shouting out for their faddish cause. What most folks don’t see is the future of the food industry being rapidly shifted in to the hands of power, and away from the small supplier, but not quite in the way we currently believe.
I am reliably informed that Fake Meat is the new techno holy grail in California's Silicone Valley and the giants are piling millions upon millions into R&D in hopes their company will become the next Google, Amazon etc within the food industry. A risk so worth taking that Bill Gates has chucked in £250m and, of course, Google themselves are forefront investors. To quote my source, the whole industry is awash with cash to fund its research.
Now we are all aware Fake meat exists, but it's not the chemically produced plant based shit such as pups-in-blankets and tofu sausage rolls that should concern us. I am talking about real meat, grown from stem cells in factories, looking, tasting and, in fact, totally resembling the real thing in every way. At present, the cost of a 'replica' sirloin or tuna steak is 100 times that of the real product but.... and here's the thing....it doesn’t eat grass where trees could grow, give off methane, get killed or endure factory living conditions, or become unsustainable (vegan's ethical arguments, not mine). And it sure is better for the climate, huh?
As with all R&D, it is about getting the product right before going to mass production, in the same way the silicone chip did or, say, the car. The clock is now ticking nicely for the big guns, as to who gets it right first, builds a big f-off factory and starts growing our food on a massive commercial scale at a price far, far less than us farmers, can compete with. The process requires no labour, feed, not even water, just electricity. So why build the 'farms' in the west when they can be stuck out in the desert run on solar power? Or Africa where land cost next to nothing? And most of all, corporate business has complete control.
Of course, before they start mass production, the product will need to have a market, which is where we go back to the ethics of brain-washing ill-informed intelligent people into believing meat is bad for us, and the planet. Starting to make sense now?
Will our gripes with a TV show reverse this process when it is driven from the top? I am afraid not.
Inevitably, at some stage the 'modern' vegans will need to be persuaded over to eating 'fake-real' meat instead of their current fake-chemical diet but, with the power of the media, I am sure that is just a matter of hitting a political switch when the time is right. The media will be fed news of how unhealthy vegans are becoming, dying on our streets from a dozen side-effects of malnutrition. Vegans in it for the bragging rights, such as our teen generation, will soon switch allegiance to meat which is ethical, healthier and cheaper than their current chemical intake.
Unfortunately, by the time this reality hits us like an oncoming train, within a decade at most, we will be completely powerless to defend our industry and proper grass-fed beef and lamb may become a commodity that only the wealthy can afford.
Now can you see why my sleep has been disturbed?
I would apologise for proffering such gloom in an already dark January, but burying our heads and/or making enemies of the consumer won't really do us much good either.
I wish I had a counter solution, but this is where my information runs out.