Jan and I have been serious cooks for 40 years, going back to our encounters with James Beard's, Irma Rombauer's, Madhur Jaffrey's, and Julia Child's cookbooks. My signature dish is beef short ribs, simmered for hours in wine, stock and vegetables, and for Christmas day dinner, a beef Wellington, a filet mignon smothered in duxelles, pate, and baked in a puff pastry shell. At our dinner parties we always loved to show off our skill with vegetables, but the meat was the star.
Unfortunately for our grand and great-grand children this type of fare will only be a distant memory. It takes a lot of grain to produce a pound of meat, but the real problem is that the grain for animals, not really grain humans want to eat, competes with acreage required for grain for human consumption. As global warming eradicates land used for agriculture, a choice will have to be made between producing grain for humans or for animals. The problem is that animals will feed far fewer people than grain.
What should happen is people reducing their consumption of meat:
The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), a panel of scientists that makes recommendations to the U.S. Department of Agriculture on every five years when the agency updates its Dietary Guidelines, published its 2015 report Thursday. In it, the DGAC states that adopting a sustainable diet helps ensure that future generations will have access to the foods we have access to now. It also stated that “a diet higher in plant-based foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds, and lower in calories and animal-based foods is more health promoting and is associated with less environmental impact than is the current U.S. diet.”
What will happen, though, is that meat will become more and more expensive until only the very wealthy will be able to get it. It is in fact is getting more expensive right now.
Multi-year droughts in states that produce most of the country's beef cattle have driven up costs to historic highs. Last year, ranchers culled deep into their herds — some even liquidated all their cattle — which pushed the U.S. cattle herd to its lowest point since the 1950s.
And dry conditions this summer could cause the herd to dwindle even further. That means beef prices may continue on a steady climb, just in time for grilling season.
I am skeptical that anything significant will be done about our consumption of meat anymore than I think anything significant will be done about global warming. So I believe we can look forward not only to more extreme weather and mega-droughts, but also to fewer and fewer beef dinners.
And don't think we'll be able to find a future with fish and seafood. Ocean acidification is going to do that in as well.
This may sound strange, but the acidification of the oceans will be favorable for one type of seafood species, the jellyfish, and they're edible. And the Puget Sound will be filled with them in the coming years.
And we might not have to do without the taste of chicken. Bill Gates is financing research into a "meat replica".