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You've been living in a dream world, Ginger.
February 15, 2012 3:34 PM   Subscribe

"As long as their brain stem is intact, the homeostatic functions of the chicken will continue to operate." It's the Matrix. For chickens.
posted by Cool Papa Bell (89 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
Mouse: That's exactly my point. Exactly. Because you have to wonder: how do the machines know what Tasty Wheat tasted like? Maybe they got it wrong. Maybe what I think Tasty Wheat tasted like actually tasted like oatmeal, or tuna fish. That makes you wonder about a lot of things. You take chicken, for example: maybe they couldn't figure out what to make chicken taste like, which is why chicken tastes like everything.

Apoc: Shut up, Mouse.
posted by Celsius1414 at 3:39 PM on February 15, 2012 [8 favorites]


Proof of concept: the most famous headless chicken of all.
posted by delfin at 3:39 PM on February 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


Wow, that's totally fucking insane. +1
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:44 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


An ancillary part of my proposal is to use the blood of the chicken posthumous, to hydroponically feed a nursery of rare orchids.

Holy shit a Ballard character has escaped the books and is walking amongst us.
posted by The Whelk at 3:45 PM on February 15, 2012 [29 favorites]


Will we use their flesh in the nutrient solution that helps sustain our tank-dwelling brains?
posted by longsleeves at 3:45 PM on February 15, 2012


In her apartment, the Oracle holds a plate up to Neo: "Would you like a drumstick, dear?"
posted by gimonca at 3:49 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


All I know about chickens with their heads cut off (aside from having family friends that slaughtered chickens and turkeys for food and seeing it happen in the flesh as a wee lad), is Fresh Prince gave a mighty rhyme:

"You better duck, and pray for good luck
Chuck, cause you're stuck
You're like a Thanksgiving turkey
and it's time to be plucked
I see you're nervous purpose
that's how I now you're soft
You're runnin round like a chicken
with your head cut off

But just relax my power to the max
And I'm cuttin no slack on this rap track, Jack
So back up, as if you got good sense
OR FEEL THE FURY.. of the Prince!"
posted by symbioid at 3:49 PM on February 15, 2012


Will we use their flesh in the nutrient solution that helps sustain our tank-dwelling brains?

The singularity tastes like chicken.
posted by pompomtom at 3:50 PM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


We do not, and cannot, provide adequate welfare for these agricultural products and therefore welfare should be removed entirely.

I do not agree. The problem is that it's HARD and it significantly lowers production, which raises prices. And most people like cheap things and don't care that much about chickens. The Dutch Rondeel system is quite promising as far as industrial systems go http://www.rondeel.org/rondeel/het-systeem/ but that is mainly for layers.

My family did a flock of free-range broilers this year and while they kind of did whatever they wanted, we lost about 20% to predation. When I calculated a reasonable cost for them, it ended up being around $12 a lb, which is higher than the price of beef that we sell.
posted by melissam at 3:50 PM on February 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


Be more efficient to hang them side by side.

Also, a little genetic modification and we could cause chickens to revert to the size of their distant ancestors. Be pretty cool to have a chicken breast the size of a Volkswagen.

And of course, we are overlooking the obvious. Just install humans into interconnected bioinfrastructure networks, where foods, oxygen and wastes are distributed and collected. Ot shouldn't matter to the humans, since they will be long gone into the cybernetic world. Robots of course will tend to the physical maintenance of The Network.
posted by Xoebe at 3:54 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Taking a chicken and effectively killing it (at least it's conscious self) for this purpose doesn't really sit well with me for reasons I cannot yet grasp.

But, if we were to breed these chickens with a mutation that prevented the development of a conscious brain, I wonder what ethical difference there would be between that and vat-raised meat?

It seems to me that if there was never a consciousness that could experience pain or other types of discomfort, then a complete "in vitro" fore-brain / consciousness-free process remaining "in vivo" for growing meat could be both more economical and also cruelty free.
posted by chimaera at 3:57 PM on February 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


I think I'll stick to my dream of living somewhere I can have a chicken coop so I can murder my own happy, conscious chickens and eat their ova.
posted by cmoj at 3:57 PM on February 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


Mike the headless chicken's a fuckin' piker, man. There can be only one.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:59 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


melissam, at $12 a pound (before shipping, storage, and additional handing costs are factored in) a lot of people couldn't afford to eat chicken anymore.

If to "provide adequate welfare" for livestock means pricing now common foods outside of ANY segment of the population's reach then it seems your results confirm the articles statement that we (as a society) can't do it, in the sense that political, economic, and cultural forces will prevent it from ever happening, not in the sense that it's technically impossible.
posted by oblio_one at 4:02 PM on February 15, 2012


For context, I'm an omnivore who is of the opinion that the law should require (and be strictly enforced) that animals raised for food must be, basically, free range (in the sense of a density of animals per square meter that does not cause stress to them, and able to move freely in an environment that allows for sunlight, shade, fresh water and clean 100% vegetable-matter food), hormone-free, and basically given a life in which they are as comfortable and fulfilled as possible until they are slaughtered in the most rapid and humane fashion that is reasonable. As a society, we should accept any additional cost that comes about from this type of regulation.

Congenitally anencephalic birds (or other livestock), though, could be raised pretty much any way that saves money while keeping the meat safe for consumption.
posted by chimaera at 4:03 PM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Weird. If the cognitive parts of the chickens' nervous systems are removed and they aren't feeling any pain or anxiety, then I suppose it can be loosely called ethical, at least compared to current methods. On the other hand, the meat probably tastes terrible compared to a good free range bird so forget about it.
posted by Burhanistan at 4:06 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


It might taste terrible compared to free range (and it might not, if the muscles get some appropriate level of stimulation), but maybe free range should come at a luxury premium anyway for being less efficient. If there's no thinking part to experience pain, meat could become far, far cheaper than it already is.
posted by chimaera at 4:10 PM on February 15, 2012


Fun watching the corporate mind at work. First they build factory farms, putting all the small producers out of work. Then they blame the consumer for the demand ... "it's all on you boyo" ... and the inhumane conditions to which the consumer desensitizes himself in order to eat corporate chicken.

If some larger animal wanted to eat me? guess who I'd be pointing at?
posted by Twang at 4:12 PM on February 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


My name is Tyson Purdue Sanders, and I approve of this message.
posted by not_on_display at 4:15 PM on February 15, 2012


Phew. Glad we found a solution to this food ethics thing that everyone can agree on.
posted by Skwirl at 4:17 PM on February 15, 2012


melissam, at $12 a pound (before shipping, storage, and additional handing costs are factored in) a lot of people couldn't afford to eat chicken anymore.

That's my point. Seems like a lot of the world is doing fine without chicken. I do fine without chicken. A hundred years ago, Americans didn't eat this much chicken. It's a new phenomenon. My grandmother remembers when chicken was a treat. Would it be so tragic for that to be the case again?

I'm not raising a flock this year. I'm certainly not a pusher of vegetarianism, but I don't think there is a humane way to feed all the schoolchildren in the USA chicken nuggets and have $1.99 a lb chicken breasts on the grocery store. In that way, I agree with this project.

I would note that there are other animal products that are easier to scale humanely, which is what Chipotle has done. It requires people eat less meat and cook in a way that extends small amounts of meat though.
posted by melissam at 4:24 PM on February 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


I realise that the best way to raise chickens is a popular conversational subject amongst people with little experience of life outside of cities, amongst people who seem to equate anthropomorphism with empathy. What a chicken wants is not, necessarily, what you would want if you were a chicken. It's kind of narcissistic to think that everyone else, even animals, wants what you want…

Before you develop strong feelings about a subject it's usually good to go out and experience it for yourself and maybe get the opinions of people who have been in the game and seem to know what they're talking about. Demanding reforms when you have taken a fickle dislike to something you have no direct experience of is not really making an informed decision. Also, feeling squeamish about something is not really the same as holding an ethical position.
posted by chrisgregory at 4:26 PM on February 15, 2012 [11 favorites]


If some larger animal wanted to eat me? guess who I'd be pointing at?

The larger animal, I hope. Otherewise, your shot is going to miss.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:26 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am really surprised that some people here are taking this seriously. To me it is more of a "modest proposal;" an art project designed to get you think about the insanity of everyday life, by taking it to an extreme.
posted by bitslayer at 4:27 PM on February 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


chimaera: It might taste terrible compared to free range (and it might not, if the muscles get some appropriate level of stimulation)

True. A little bit of electricity to make the muscles twitch regularly...
It would certainly make the chicken matrix look even creepier... a moire pattern of suspended chickens, a carpet hundreds of slots wide and tall, with waves rippling across it in controlled patterns as the chickens subtly twitch...
posted by Hairy Lobster at 4:28 PM on February 15, 2012 [13 favorites]


For context, I'm an omnivore who is of the opinion that the law should require (and be strictly enforced) that animals raised for food must be, basically, free range (in the sense of a density of animals per square meter that does not cause stress to them, and able to move freely in an environment that allows for sunlight, shade, fresh water and clean 100% vegetable-matter food), hormone-free, and basically given a life in which they are as comfortable and fulfilled as possible until they are slaughtered in the most rapid and humane fashion that is reasonable.

I don't think free range is really compatible with "humane" as André Ford and others see it. Free range can subject animals to an incredible amount of pain and stress, from inevitable weather, predation, and accidents. And a truly free-range chicken is an omnivore too, as chickens have evolved to eat bugs and other critters. I definitely agree that free-range systems cannot be up to the standard of either productive capacity or the mores of the people who tend to buy this sort of product. André Ford forces people to think about this more seriously. I've thought about it seriously and I decided just not to eat much chicken.
posted by melissam at 4:28 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Now I'm hungry.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 4:30 PM on February 15, 2012


BEHOLD THE GREAT WALL OF CHIckeNA
posted by Kabanos at 4:31 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


What a chicken wants is not, necessarily, what you would want if you were a chicken.

No, I'm fairly sure all chickens want what I would want as a chicken. A life where I can exercise whatever reasonable level of agency I have. That includes reasonable free movement (if they're happy sitting still, then they're free to do so), clean water, and a quantity and quality of food that keeps me healthy. In short, an environment which does not inflict needless pain or discomfort.

I'd be very curious to see if you can convince me that a chicken would not be happy with the above conditions, and want to have their movement limited, have contaminated water, meager or horrible food, and a frequent experience of unnecessary pain.
posted by chimaera at 4:32 PM on February 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


The ChickenMatrix will be much more labor intensive than the current system. Where in a concentration shed you have only to feed and clean, now you have to feed, and clean, and maintain all of the life support hardware. You also have to have workers with the right training, and in an environment with a much higher standard of sterility, to perform the initial surgical preparation.

Also, this rack system only shows the chickens at a certain stage of development, and the harnesses are correctly sized for that stage. In the real world chicks grow into chickens, and you'll have to keep switching harnesses as they get larger, as well as the tubing and other equipment. Biofilm accumulation also makes medical tubing very difficult to clean, meaning you will have to replace it periodically, which is also expensive.

Furthermore, all the tubes and needles inserted into the chickens will be points of possible infection. They won't be moving through their full range of articulation, so lymph will also not be pumped through their bodies by the usual mechanical action, making them even more susceptible to infection. The lifetime antibiotic dose per bird will triple at the very least.

This is great as an artistic concept. It restates the context in a new, shocking way and forces you to assess your ethics. But as a a technical idea it's ridiculous.
posted by clarknova at 4:33 PM on February 15, 2012 [31 favorites]


ChikieNobs
posted by Slackermagee at 4:34 PM on February 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


I, for one, am not looking forward to chickens learning Kung Fu.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:36 PM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Isn't the brain stem also the only necessary pathway for a virus to take over a dead organism and turn it into a zombie? Maybe this is how it starts.
posted by neversummer at 4:39 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Be pretty cool to have a chicken breast the size of a Volkswagen.

No you don't. We already sort of have that, "Superchickens" nearly the size of turkeys. A single breast weighs a couple of pounds and is more meat than I can eat at a sitting. But such a breast is very thick, and thanks to the square-cubed law no matter what you do to the outside in cooking the inside is a bland slab of relatively flavorless meat.

They are cheap per pound, though.
posted by localroger at 4:39 PM on February 15, 2012


Poultry centipede.
posted by furtive at 4:40 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm all in favor of this, but I think he missed the mark with the chicken. Why not puppy? Seriously, a good food dog would be way better as far as an economic meat source and you'd have a bonus pelt for clothing!

I guess I'm just selfish. It just that I woke up this morning and was greeted with mouth watering photos of this year's Westminster dog show winner. I know most people looks and thought, "Ah, cute!" Me? I thought Peking Pekingese!

I'm looking to the future, man. This guy is living in the present!
posted by cjorgensen at 4:42 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


The future is lab grown meat. The chicken matrix is a failure.
posted by humanfont at 4:44 PM on February 15, 2012


Margaret Atwood riffed on this sardonic concept in 'Oryx and Crake'..
posted by ovvl at 4:45 PM on February 15, 2012


Are people who object to this also against the concept of vat-grown meat (strictly from an ethical point of view, as opposed to gourmet)? It seems to me that this is approaching the same solution from the other direction. Once the brain is gone, does it really matter what the liver or kidneys think?
posted by Jakey at 4:46 PM on February 15, 2012


So, it's all the deliciousness of chicken, with none of the "inhumane factory farm" nonsense? Sounds like a win-win to me!
posted by kafziel at 4:48 PM on February 15, 2012


"The future is lab grown meat."

It's not, though. The idea that you could get anything at all like what we consider meat from a "vat" is extremely far-fetched. Muscle is a complex structure and many of the things that give meat its texture and flavor are dependent upon that complex structure growing and being active in the way that muscles usually grow and behave.

What's more likely is something closer to what's being discussed here. Some genetically altered organism that is minimally functional except where function is directly necessary to the desired food product.

My own ethics regarding animal rights have everything to do with cognition and so I'd be entirely in favor of moving in this direction and away from abuse and consumption of animals that have evolved with a degree of self-determination and awareness that is violated by our use of them.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:52 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Meatrix (slyt)
posted by steamynachos at 4:52 PM on February 15, 2012


I, for one, am not looking forward to chickens learning Kung Fu.

Kung Pao, on the other hand...
posted by jonmc at 4:54 PM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Kung Pao: Wings of Fury
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:57 PM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't think free range is really compatible with "humane" as André Ford and others see it. Free range can subject animals to an incredible amount of pain and stress, from inevitable weather, predation, and accidents.

Now you're simply hitting the reality that life for animals is harsh, even in the wild. I've seen an integrated farming system where modular electrical fencing kept the birds relatively safe from ground predators and kept them rotating through different farm zones. The chickens ate insect pests out of crop areas as they were cycled through. Combined with their feed they got a good dietary variety. They also had plenty of room to run around and looked very healthy. They still got to retire to the safety and comfort of their coop every night, and wire mesh flooring ensured they were never standing in their own guano. There was no sign of aggressive pecking that you see with confined chickens.

This is about as nice as I can imagine it getting for a chicken. And I still wouldn't want to be one. It rains. It can be cold. There are owls. Being a chicken sucks.


The future is lab grown meat. The chicken matrix is a failure.

There's a reason they're still only growing it in layers a few cells thick. Any thicker and the vat meat starts requiring blood vessels to supply it with oxygen and nutrients. And then you need a pumping system to move the fluid through the vessels. And the thicker the meat the more branched and complex the vasculature has to be, so you may as well just allow it to form normal venous and arterial tissues. And then the best pump to attach to that is a heart so you may as well have one of those too. And so on and so on. Ultimately it's just cheaper to raise an animal.
posted by clarknova at 4:57 PM on February 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


There's a reason they're still only growing it in layers a few cells thick.

'Cause it's designed to replace New York deli slices.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:02 PM on February 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


I like me some meat, but I do wonder how many humans we could actually support without being so horrid to other species.
posted by lucidium at 5:06 PM on February 15, 2012


The ChickenMatrix will be much more labor intensive than the current system.

But thats a good thing, right? The ChickenMatrix will creat jobs!
posted by hermitosis at 5:12 PM on February 15, 2012


"Joel Salatin and the Expression of Chickenness" may be relevant here.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:15 PM on February 15, 2012


I like me some meat, but I do wonder how many humans we could actually support without being so horrid to other species.

A lot more than we have now. They just wouldn't be living in a world where six dollar roasters are considered a human right.


'Cause it's designed to replace New York deli slices.
But thats a good thing, right? The ChickenMatrix will creat jobs!


I keep settin' 'em up...
posted by clarknova at 5:16 PM on February 15, 2012


Why did the headless chicken cross the road?

Because it didn't have the necessary sensory apparatus to warn it that there were oncoming vehicles.

True fact.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:23 PM on February 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


Interesting stuff. Provocative, ultimately impractical, but certainly interesting. You guys are fun to watch, too.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 5:23 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Which came first: The Chicken or the vat?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:27 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Chicken Souls For The Soup
posted by XMLicious at 5:28 PM on February 15, 2012 [18 favorites]


Interesting article about Mark Post, who's working on in vitro meat at Maastricht University. The technical challenges are pretty formidable, but apparently surmountable -- just not cheaply (or soon). The first commercially viable in vitro meat product will probably be some kind of hot dog, which will make it not only the first lab-grown meat product, but also the first hot dog to actually contain meat! hiyoooo
posted by El Sabor Asiatico at 5:30 PM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


The real solution is to genetically engineer a plant that grows meat; a literal hot dog tree.
posted by Pyry at 5:35 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Isn't that a corn dog? A mixture of corn and dog.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:39 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


(or soon)

The timetable probably coincides nicely with his tenure track.
posted by clarknova at 5:39 PM on February 15, 2012


a moire pattern of suspended chickens

Band name. CLAIMED.
posted by delfin at 5:49 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


You know what would be really cool? Suppose one of these chickens wakes up and realizes that it is part of The Matrix and learns to control its presence in the "real world" and pretty soon there are these really cool chickens wearing sunglasses and trench coats and fighting for the freedom of chickens and there are giant robot killing machines and stuff.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:50 PM on February 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


I find this 'modest proposal' just creepy. I saw free range chickens during the part of my childhood spent in Mexico.
Chickens are a lot easier to keep on a small scale in good health than many other animals used for food. They actually are really bright and lively.
I am here to tell you that free-range chickens taste better, their eggs taste better too.
Even in a city environment, a small flock of hens only is certainly quieter than small dogs. Chickens will let you know if a stranger is
around.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 5:52 PM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


"a moire pattern of suspended chickens, a carpet hundreds of slots wide and tall, with waves rippling across it in controlled patterns as the chickens subtly twitch..."

Throw in an Arduino to drive it and it becomes an art project featured in Make
posted by Pinback at 5:56 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


My whole idea of free-range broccoli never took off and this seems like the perfect place to pitch it again.
posted by twoleftfeet at 6:01 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm always looking for appropriate places to drop a link to Kibo's post about Animal 57.
posted by radwolf76 at 6:06 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


And I'm always looking for appropriate places to drop a link to Solberg's Misery Chicken (not for the squeamish).
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:11 PM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Man, USENET was messed up back then, wasn't it.
posted by radwolf76 at 6:17 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


And I'm always looking for appropriate places to drop a link to Katie's new boyfriend.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 6:18 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fucking GLORIOUS you mean.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:21 PM on February 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Muscle tissues are complex, but 3-d bio printer technology is rapidly advancing. The cells grown in bioreactors. Blood vessels and scaffolding are printed as the fat and muscle cells are turned into McNugget sized or breast sized morsels. A couple of days in a finishing are where these meat hunks are developed/finished with blood pumped from a central system and given electrical stimulation to make the muscle cells less mushy. The whole process might be reduced to a few days from vat to table.
posted by humanfont at 6:34 PM on February 15, 2012


I've never much liked Chicken myself, but headless chickens don't bother me more than our current practices.
Agribusiness related : Farmers hope for lawsuit against Monsanto
posted by jeffburdges at 6:57 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


One of the current major problems with "vat grown meat" is the requirement for animal-derived serum to keep the cells growing. That serum has to come from somewhere, and currently its harvested from dead animals, most of which are from the current industrial food supply. It's currently far too expensive to make artificial serum with recombinant proteins and other biological factors, some of which are as yet "undefined."

I grow primary rodent brain tissue, which I admit is finickier than a lot of other primary cells (I used to grow primary rodent and human peripheral blood mononuclear cells, ie. white blood cells), which are usually more more difficult to grow than cell lines, and I've tried using artificial supplements but a good batch of animal-derived serum is this-side-of-impossible to go without. All of the published research articles to date on vat grown meat admit/state in their methods and materials the use of animal-derived serum in the culture media.

Of course, I guess you could raise some animals and treat them as gods and harvest serum from them.

There's this difference between primary tissue and "cell lines," cell lines are essentially immortalized cells that keep growing and growing and growing - which are also known as cancer. Opponents of vat grown meat are inevitably going to say, "That vat grown meat this giant corporation wants you to eat/sell-to-you? It's a bunch of cancer cells."

That's not going to fly without a lot more public education. Also, even immortalized (cancerized) cell lines are going to run into telomere shortening problems. I'm not up to date on current investigation on telomerase treatment, but after the Hayflick limit (even for cell lines), the culture is going to be increasingly unstable and will eventually fail. Even before culture failure, the cells are going to change their gene expression profile and probably end up being less tasty (than they potentially are engineered to taste). But I guess we can go back to the animals-treated-as-gods and derive new cell lines from them.

Instead of "vat grown meat," I think yeast/algae may be the way to go for vat-derived protein, but it's going to be incredibly difficult to replicate the mouth-feel of actual animal skeletal muscle. I recall reading that chlorella was once touted as the "protein of the future" in the '60s or '70s but its taste and texture limited its popularity despite health claims, which iirc, were never borne out. It was probably one of the influences on soylent green (and the negative connotations, before the big reveal at the end of the movie) and their like in fiction.

Also, the super-duper cheap meat? It really seems like a very US-centric thing. Meat's fricken' expensive in Canada in comparison with the numbers that've shown up in this thread.
posted by porpoise at 7:46 PM on February 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


The real solution is to genetically engineer a plant that grows meat; a literal hot dog tree.

Isn't that a corn dog? A mixture of corn and dog.


And wood for the stick!
posted by wallabear at 7:47 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


The solution is chickapedes.
posted by Decimask at 7:51 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]



I like me some meat, but I do wonder how many humans we could actually support without being so horrid to other species.
posted by lucidium at 8:06 PM on February 15 [+] [!]


You may be interested to know that meat livestock have to eat lots of food themselves to grow to an eatable size before humans consume them, and, in the process, considerable inefficiencies are introduced.

Humans giving up on eating meat (which is how I interpreted "without being horrid to other species" in this context) would actually greatly reduce the amount of food and fresh water required to support the human population, as well as eliminate the staggering environmental degradation caused by the meat industry.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 8:04 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also, the super-duper cheap meat? It really seems like a very US-centric thing. Meat's fricken' expensive in Canada in comparison with the numbers that've shown up in this thread.

Yeah, it is. The scale of our livestock industries really challenge the imagination. You've got cultivated prairie there, and a lot of it, but we have even more. The majority of it is raising animal feed. I don't think any group in human history has had meat as cheap as we do now.
posted by clarknova at 8:37 PM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well my heart conceptual art exhibit is running around like a chicken with its head cut off...
posted by Rangeboy at 9:03 PM on February 15, 2012


Can't believe it took this long for the Magnetic Fields reference.
posted by benzenedream at 10:25 PM on February 15, 2012


My favorite phrase from any of Peter Singer's books is "the much-derided chicken", used when talking about how many chickens die from poultry farming. It has such a great rhythm to it, and also includes the word "chicken."
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 1:08 AM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Interesting stuff. Provocative, ultimately impractical, but certainly interesting. You guys are fun to watch, too.

sebastienbailard's intact brainstem favorited this comment.
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:41 AM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Escher-esk
Should be combined with fish to reach higher density.
posted by Akeem at 3:59 AM on February 16, 2012


Unfortunately tests indicate that it tastes like despair.
posted by mcrandello at 5:34 AM on February 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


The administration of a chicken matrix would in fact be more complex than that of a factory farm, but after you get it set up, it can be done in the same manner as a datacenter: deliveries of food go in one end, waste goes into a cesspit (replaced occasionally), a well-paid physical maintenance staff to replace parts and clean whatever the tubes don't catch, and one guy with a command line. None of the staff need to be dedicated to any particular chicken matrix; you can rotate them around a region.

So it's a case where the extra complication does actually save you money. Much like going from paper files to a database, really.
posted by LogicalDash at 5:53 AM on February 16, 2012


I am really surprised that some people here are taking this seriously. To me it is more of a "modest proposal;" an art project designed to get you think about the insanity of everyday life, by taking it to an extreme.

It does seem to be a statement made in that direction, but it is different from the original modest proposal because it is not nearly so absurd. In fact, it is challenging to point out what is wrong with his logic. Since I am unable to, whatever the objective, I am forced to agree with his proposal. Morality wasn't actually made for this kind of situation. If morality could be thought to have an evolutionarily directed goal, it is so humans can cooperate with and refrain from killing each other. I'm not saying that this somehow invalidates vegetarianism, but I am saying that applying morality to such matters is somewhat more arbitrary than normal.
posted by Edgewise at 7:51 AM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm thinking they could alternate with some black-skinned asian chickens, and get a pleasing checkerboard effect.
posted by Kabanos at 8:55 AM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


No one got the "Ginger" reference?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:02 AM on February 16, 2012


Maggots. Rather than removing the cortex of a bird, why not selectively breed animals with the simplest nervous systems that can support flesh growth? Sure, it sounds lousy now, but selectively bred maggots could be big chunky steaks. Rather than pushing your ideas about which parts of an (incompletely understood) nervous system are expendable, start with something simpler!
posted by stonepharisee at 11:35 AM on February 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ooh, nice idea stonepharisee. Not only would that provide a better solution to the ethical issues but it would reduce the compounded enviromental problems involved with growing animal feed, since insects consume much less.
posted by XMLicious at 5:11 PM on February 16, 2012


I am really surprised that some people here are taking this seriously.

Selection bias. They WANT to be outraged over this because it fits they worldview.

To get the density you need to pay for the tubes and provide brain surgery - how does that make economic sense? But to ask that question - you can't be outraged.

Meanwhile actual things being done for years Since we found genotoxic effects after short exposure to concentrations that correspond to a 450-fold dilution of spraying used in agriculture, our findings indicate that inhalation may cause DNA damage in exposed individuals go without notice.
posted by rough ashlar at 9:28 PM on February 16, 2012


El Sabor Asiatico: "Interesting article about Mark Post, who's working on in vitro meat at Maastricht University. The technical challenges are pretty formidable, but apparently surmountable -- just not cheaply (or soon). The first commercially viable in vitro meat product will probably be some kind of hot dog, which will make it not only the first lab-grown meat product, but also the first hot dog to actually contain meat! hiyoooo"

Featured again on the BBC.
posted by arcticseal at 5:33 AM on February 20, 2012


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