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Thread: Big Cows vs. Little Cows

  1. #1
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    Big Cows vs. Little Cows

    Tom's post about animals on the moon got me thinking about something and I thought I'd ask here rather than confusing that thread.
    We were discussing animals growing BIG in the Moon's light gravity and I mused that really big cows would be something to see.

    My question is: assuming we have the ability to modify a species' size - either very big in the Moon's light gravity or very small - which would be more efficient for meat production: big cows or little cows? (And any other meat animal, of course...any thoughts on that are welcome as well.)
    Big cows have the advantage of a LOT of meat per animal, while little cows presumably have the advantage of easier care, less feeding, smaller pen size etc. (They're probably cuter too.)

    Referring STRICTLY to the hypothetical scenario of a self-contained large colony on the Moon, which strategy would be more efficient; manipulating the animals so they grow to the maximum possible size in that gravity, or developing small - pygmy - cows?

    And yes, it's an interesting idea that I want to include in my SF universe

    Cheers!

    Edit: Another viable possibility might well be no lunar animal production at all; meat being strictly imported from Earth. We can certainly discuss that too.
    Last edited by NorthernDevo; 2017-Dec-13 at 09:58 PM.
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    I'd put my money in Chickinubs, from Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake.
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    Vat-grown meat, insects, and soy. When under severe resource constraints, meat is a luxury. Or forbid birth control and use the [Jonathan] Swift solution.

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    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    Vat-grown meat, insects, and soy. When under severe resource constraints, meat is a luxury. Or forbid birth control and use the [Jonathan] Swift solution.
    That's a very modest proposal.
    "The difference between theory and practice is that in theory, there's no difference."

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  5. #5
    For physics problems a spherical cow is always preferred.
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    Quote Originally Posted by NorthernDevo View Post
    Big cows have the advantage of a LOT of meat per animal, while little cows presumably have the advantage of easier care, less feeding, smaller pen size etc.
    Less feeding and smaller pen size are liabilities, not benefits.

    The point of scaling up is more profit per unit overhead (i.e. materials, consumables, effort).

    Other factors being equal,
    a small pen with a small cow that eats little food
    will not be as cost efficient as
    a large pen with a large cow that eats more food
    when it comes to profit minus overhead.

  7. #7
    Growing it in cultures would probably be the easiest but I have feeling astronauts might acquire a taste for marmite or vegemite.
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    HAL was going on about Daisy at one point..

    I'd go with Quorn myself....a complete protein....or the snot that they ate in The Matrix...it contained everything the human body needs.
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    I used to keep cows. On wet land small cows are much better, they do not turn the field into thick mud. we had Dexters from Ireland but Aberdeen Angus are quite small too. that's for meat production. The milking cows tend to be chosen big simply to get more milk per day. You can get excellent milk and meat from sheep and goats. Jerseys make the best milk but they are also small. So size does not correlate with taste. If you plan bulls too, aggression also has no size correlation! White Cherolait (SP?) french bulls are really tricky. And big. The meat from extensively grazed stock always tastes better than intensive. I think it's due to stress hormones that taint the meat.
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    Quote Originally Posted by NorthernDevo View Post
    Tom's post about animals on the moon got me thinking about something and I thought I'd ask here rather than confusing that thread.
    We were discussing animals growing BIG in the Moon's light gravity and I mused that really big cows would be something to see.

    My question is: assuming we have the ability to modify a species' size - either very big in the Moon's light gravity or very small - which would be more efficient for meat production: big cows or little cows? (And any other meat animal, of course...any thoughts on that are welcome as well.)
    Big cows have the advantage of a LOT of meat per animal, while little cows presumably have the advantage of easier care, less feeding, smaller pen size etc. (They're probably cuter too.)

    Referring STRICTLY to the hypothetical scenario of a self-contained large colony on the Moon, which strategy would be more efficient; manipulating the animals so they grow to the maximum possible size in that gravity, or developing small - pygmy - cows?

    And yes, it's an interesting idea that I want to include in my SF universe

    Cheers!

    Edit: Another viable possibility might well be no lunar animal production at all; meat being strictly imported from Earth. We can certainly discuss that too.
    For the first couple of decades that makes more sense. Cows suck up food and water like you wouldn't believe. And I can only imagine their oxygen requirements! (Even a vat full of muscle tissue.) The situation wouldn't be like a British colony in the days of sail. The Moon is only three days away or you can't get there at all.

    Mars would be a whole different logistic more in keeping with a British colony model.
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    Quote Originally Posted by astrotimer View Post
    Growing it in cultures would probably be the easiest but I have feeling astronauts might acquire a taste for marmite or vegemite.
    "The hatch is stuck. We'll have to detonate the vegemite to free it up! Take cover!"

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    Quote Originally Posted by BigDon View Post
    For the first couple of decades that makes more sense. Cows suck up food and water like you wouldn't believe. And I can only imagine their oxygen requirements! (Even a vat full of muscle tissue.) The situation wouldn't be like a British colony in the days of sail. The Moon is only three days away or you can't get there at all.

    Mars would be a whole different logistic more in keeping with a British colony model.
    Meat production on a lunar (or any other extraterrestrial colony) makes essentially no sense from the point of view of efficient use of resources: meat is not needed for adequate nutrition. Consider that a cow would use about the same amount of resources as ten people.

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    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    Meat production on a lunar (or any other extraterrestrial colony) makes essentially no sense from the point of view of efficient use of resources: meat is not needed for adequate nutrition. Consider that a cow would use about the same amount of resources as ten people.
    A valid point, but I would counter that if that is correct, I would like to see evidence that post-expansion Humanity would by definition be vegetarian.
    We are, as a species, omnivores and if meat is desired on off-world colonies, business will find a way to supply meat. The question revolves around the most efficient way of doing so.
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  14. #14
    Until there are colonies with a lot of extra space for all the manure that would be generated.
    Last edited by The Backroad Astronomer; 2017-Dec-15 at 03:27 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by NorthernDevo View Post
    A valid point, but I would counter that if that is correct, I would like to see evidence that post-expansion Humanity would by definition be vegetarian.
    We are, as a species, omnivores and if meat is desired on off-world colonies, business will find a way to supply meat. The question revolves around the most efficient way of doing so.
    well sure, I could see a future where there are huge animal breeding plants, where the feed could have been grown in vats. But maybe meat could be grown directly without the need for an actual animal. You could have hundreds of cubic lumps of flesh, supplied with blood from a central blood making area, and the cubic lumps of flesh could be made to tense and untense, to exercise it, and when mature, the cubic lump of beef/pork/chicken could be discontented from the system and send for food processing.

    For eggs, all you might need is the reproductive systems, supplied by a chicken blood producing process, which will also be biological...probably more complicated than just making beef. It might involve some nerve signals sent, perhaps to control the release of the chicken gamete cell from the ovum, and then maybe other signals in the formation process of the egg, and then expelling time for the egg.

    And for milk, maybe you would just need to grow the parts that make milk from cow blood, huge units of this supplied by a cow blood producing system(again biological).
    Last edited by WaxRubiks; 2017-Dec-15 at 06:41 AM.
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    I think 3d printing supplies the answer, with filaments of amino acids , fatty acids, glucose etc you just print what you want.
    sicut vis videre esto
    When we realize that patterns don't exist in the universe, they are a template that we hold to the universe to make sense of it, it all makes a lot more sense.
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    Quote Originally Posted by NorthernDevo View Post
    A valid point, but I would counter that if that is correct, I would like to see evidence that post-expansion Humanity would by definition be vegetarian.
    We are, as a species, omnivores and if meat is desired on off-world colonies, business will find a way to supply meat. The question revolves around the most efficient way of doing so.
    Do remember that, for many years and in many places, meat was a luxury item. Business may find a way to supply meat, but the idea that it will be something that it's a normal, everyday part of a diet doesn't follow. Business may find a way to supply meat, but that doesn't mean that it will be affordable to the vast number of people as everyday fare.
    Last edited by swampyankee; 2017-Dec-15 at 10:30 AM.

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    The cultured meat probably won't taste very good. Don't real meat products require a good admixture of fat, blood and other tissue for their flavor?

    The early colonists will need lots of ketchup, I suspect.

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    Yea, I would suspect that cultured meat might be pretty bland, so I'm not sure what its advantage over Quorn would be, apart from the fact that some people can't eat Quorn due to fungus intolerance.
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    I personally believe - and this is ONLY a belief; not based on any knowledge or science - that when we expand into the Solar System we will bring our wants, desires and preferences with us. SwampYankee is absolutely correct in that meat was once a luxury item and I do personally believe that in the future it will take a less significant role on our dinner plates; especially once we expand outwards. After all, don't we all love pasta? All pasta needs is some flour, some egg (or similar binder) and water.

    But I absolutely do not see any near future in which meat will not play a valuable and valued part of our food-based customs and traditions. Every single point offered - from vat-growth to genetic alteration to 3D printed food - will, in some way, have some role and effect in our future feeding.

    But the desire for a steak cut from a cow and grilled on oxygen-sucking flames will always be a part of our culture; I am absolutely certain. Chicken-flavoured protein-based 3D constructs can look and taste just like chicken, but will never replace the crisp hot feel of pulling a drumstick filled with juicy meat and crispy skin from a steaming hot roasted bird. Food is not just sustenance; it is also satisfaction, ritual, pleasure and comfort. So I do believe that everyone is right and all of the possibilities mentioned above will take shape in our future dining, but the need for real, honest slaughtered animals will never leave us.
    Thanks a lot folks; this is turning into a very delightful discussion!
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    The problem with the " steak cut from a cow and grilled on oxygen-sucking flames will always be a part of our culture" argument is that it's not part of human culture, but part of a limited subset of human culture. While I happen to be an omnivore, I don't have the sort of religious attachment to meat that some people seem to have.

    Of course, any human society will have some level of stratification, so there will be a demand for luxury goods denied either by price or by sumptuary laws to the majority. Mat may well fall into that category.

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    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    The problem with the " steak cut from a cow and grilled on oxygen-sucking flames will always be a part of our culture" argument is that it's not part of human culture, but part of a limited subset of human culture. While I happen to be an omnivore, I don't have the sort of religious attachment to meat that some people seem to have.

    Of course, any human society will have some level of stratification, so there will be a demand for luxury goods denied either by price or by sumptuary laws to the majority. Mat may well fall into that category.
    I would suggest - as a person living in North America; other regions may have different results - that the limited subset of Human culture may well be limited, but is still a very large and demanding subset. As a Maritimer I recognize that the need for a particular food is not 'religious' as you term it, but cultural. And as Humans when we go out into the Solar System we will take our culture with us.
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    'Man v Spacecow': Today Adam Richman will attempt to eat 100cheeseburgers, in zero gravity, on McDonalds III, followed up with 4 litres of Marsberry Milkshake....Adam has recently undergone robotic surgery engineering to give him two extra stomachs, so today's program is sponsored Bio-Argumentations-R-Us.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mudskipper View Post
    'Man v Spacecow': Today Adam Richman will attempt to eat 100cheeseburgers, in zero gravity, on McDonalds III, followed up with 4 litres of Marsberry Milkshake....Adam has recently undergone robotic surgery engineering to give him two extra stomachs, so today's program is sponsored Bio-Argumentations-R-Us.
    I'm betting on the explosion.
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    Quote Originally Posted by NorthernDevo View Post

    ...

    But I absolutely do not see any near future in which meat will not play a valuable and valued part of our food-based customs and traditions. Every single point offered - from vat-growth to genetic alteration to 3D printed food - will, in some way, have some role and effect in our future feeding.

    But the desire for a steak cut from a cow and grilled on oxygen-sucking flames will always be a part of our culture; I am absolutely certain. Chicken-flavoured protein-based 3D constructs can look and taste just like chicken, but will never replace the crisp hot feel of pulling a drumstick filled with juicy meat and crispy skin from a steaming hot roasted bird. Food is not just sustenance; it is also satisfaction, ritual, pleasure and comfort. So I do believe that everyone is right and all of the possibilities mentioned above will take shape in our future dining, but the need for real, honest slaughtered animals will never leave us.
    ...
    In my case, I do eat meat, but I prefer the processed stuff, like hamburger or boneless fillets. I don't enjoy rare steaks or ripping flesh off a bone (so, no KFC for me), or being reminded of what creature provided the dinner (hence nix on steak houses with bull heads on the walls). Upon consideration, I might prefer synthetic stuff ... if they do it nicely.

    (The White Castle type burgers are my favorite, and I don't know if any real meat is involved there. )

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    Quote Originally Posted by NorthernDevo View Post

    But the desire for a steak cut from a cow and grilled on oxygen-sucking flames will always be a part of our culture; I am absolutely certain. Chicken-flavoured protein-based 3D constructs can look and taste just like chicken, but will never replace the crisp hot feel of pulling a drumstick filled with juicy meat and crispy skin from a steaming hot roasted bird.
    I wouldn't be so sure. I think that engineering food to taste like the real thing is a much simpler task than engineering cows to be bigger or smaller. I was at a science communication conference a few months ago and one of the caterers was a company that makes artificial fish from cells grown in culture and then put into scaffolding. I think the name of the company was Finless Foods.
    As above, so below

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    Here's a YouTube clip from a news show about it.
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by NorthernDevo View Post
    I would suggest - as a person living in North America; other regions may have different results - that the limited subset of Human culture may well be limited, but is still a very large and demanding subset. As a Maritimer I recognize that the need for a particular food is not 'religious' as you term it, but cultural. And as Humans when we go out into the Solar System we will take our culture with us.
    "Religious" as in "causing vehement arguments with no rational belief required," like the long argument between proponents of emacs vs vi or proponents of the bondage-and-discipline languages, like Pascal.

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    Well then, if I'm in the minority I will happily be so

    I do acknowledge that in the future manufactured meat may be easier than natural; in fact much of my writing states exactly that. But I will maintain that once a sufficient level of sophistication is reached in an off-world colony natural meat will be a valuable foodsource.
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    Modern cattle are much smaller than there prehistoric ancestors. We have also bread them for many other features - milk, meat (lean or fat) and work oxen. Google auroch or stone age cow.

    We have done this with any number of other creatures some by design (eg guppys) others just because.

    Mark

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