The Great Manipulation in Centralization

|November 9, 2021

Editor’s Note: As supply chain issues continue to disrupt what we eat, Manward contributor Joel Salatin ponders what the future holds. While many are looking to synthetic foods to solve our problems… Joel sees a very different outcome… one that takes more of our freedoms away. Read on for his take on where we’re headed and what the solution is.

In a recent issue, The Economist magazine offered an in-depth look at food’s future. It was a future full of cultured, lab-grown fake meat and hydroponic produce grown in LED-powered chambers.

It’s straight out of science fiction and of course promises to reduce greenhouse gases, eliminate pathogens and be far more productive than existing systems.

But does anyone actually sit down and wonder how much energy it will take to replace the sun in order to grow vegetables? Does anyone think all that photosynthesizing will come free when the light source is an LED bulb?

In one slip-up of truth, the article points out that an almond requires four liters of water to grow under current conditions. This admission comes in a section about replacing cow’s milk with plant-based milk like coconut milk or almond milk.

And of course, the piece has nothing to say about feedstocks for the labs growing fake meat. Apparently, magicians hover over giant yeast vats… and the microbes grow out of thin air.

As lengthy supply chains fray and renewed interest in local food and resiliency comes to the fore, does anyone stop to question lab-grown food? It can’t come from home gardens. It can’t come from local pastures. It can’t be processed in your home kitchen.

In fact, if there is one consistent element in all of this futuristic, Star Trek food mania, it is this: It can’t be done at home.

Therein lies the conundrum.

Our Daily Bread

Even if you believe in the climate change narrative and the animals-are-people notion, you still have to wrestle with the centralization of the food system.

When producing food requires sophisticated, multimillion-dollar infrastructure, it changes sustenance from a democratic opportunity to an elitist, tyrannical possibility.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the human experience to preserve is the access to our daily bread.

Nature has lovingly provided sustenance virtually everywhere in the world. The Eskimos figured out how to hunt seals and whales. Folks living in tropical climates developed chickens and wonderful fruits. Everyone in between found sustenance that would grow plentifully in the Earth’s various climates.

The ability to find food to feed one’s family is one of the great provisions the planet bestows on both its wild animals and us humans. People adjust their diets and agricultural practices to what is possible where they live.

This is perhaps an object lesson in opportunity. Wherever on the planet you find yourself, whether by choice or displacement, voluntarily or by force, you can pull sustenance from the Earth. That is hopeful as much as it is helpful. Rich or poor, hot or cold, dry or wet, everyone has a chance to eat.

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But to the lab-food crowd, this notion is not important. Somehow, concentrating food production in the hands of mega-centralized, industrialized outfits and then distributing their output to the masses is no cause for concern.

Right now, many people chafe under their dependence on food from the supermarket, which in turn depends on Cargill and Tyson, which in turn depend on a farmer somewhere to get up in the morning and plant something.

As a culture, we’re beginning to question whether that provision chain is too long or too subject to political whims. That’s why, in 2020, we saw hundreds of thousands of backyard gardens and backyard chicken flocks develop as many turned to scratch cooking.

It was a response to the vulnerability of the system. And that system rests on the principles of nature: sunshine, soil, water.

If that seemingly resilient system can break down as easily as it did, what about a much more sophisticated, unnatural system?

The Great Fallacy

I suggest that the great fallacy of the fake-food movement lies not in its productive capacity or even its dubious promises to end climate change. Rather, the fallacy is that the movement lends toward freedom, when in fact it lends toward the complete control of our food system by industrial entities that are unknowable and unreachable and whose outputs are unduplicatable at the household level.

When we have to rely on systems beyond our control to eat, we are far more subject to manipulation.

When we can feed ourselves from our own local areas, on the other hand, all of us have access to personal providence. But let our food be controlled by far-away factories, and our vulnerability to manipulation increases exponentially.

Imagine if the current computer chip shortage were related to food instead.

Casting away the general freedom to participate in our own food systems for the promises of lab-grown material concocted in a labyrinth of stainless steel and sterile corridors should frighten even the most avid sci-fi devotee.

The fact that proponents seem oblivious to this ability to hold entire groups of people hostage through meal manipulation is a gross oversight.

Either they aren’t thinking, or they are thinking. Either explanation is disheartening.

I’m staying with real cows and real tomatoes, thank you very much.

Joel Salatin
Joel Salatin|Contributor

Joel Salatin calls himself a Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic farmer. Others who like him call him the most famous farmer in the world, the high priest of the pasture, and the most eclectic thinker from Virginia since Thomas Jefferson. Those who don’t like him call him a bioterrorist, Typhoid Mary, a charlatan, and a starvation advocate. With a room full of debate trophies from high school and college days, 12 published books, and a thriving multigenerational family farm, he draws on a lifetime of food, farming and fantasy to entertain and inspire audiences around the world.