Responses: The Future of Meat

Experts Respond to Breakthrough Essay


As part of Breakthrough's Future of Food series, we have invited experts on food, farming, livestock, and resource use to respond to and critique our research essays. We hope this will be the starting point for an inclusive, productive, and exciting new conversation about twenty-first century food systems. You can read the responses to our Future of Meat essay below.


A Meatier Story
Maureen Ogle Responds to Breakthrough’s Future of Meat

Outdated notions about our food system are hampering support for innovations that could improve the environmental performance of our livestock systems. If we admit that demand for meat isn’t going away, we might be more inclined to improve the system we have, rather than fixating on utopian alternatives.


More Than Meat
Alison Van Eenennaam Responds to Breakthrough’s Future of Meat

Agricultural scientists can’t offer easy answers to questions of environmental sustainability in livestock systems. Context matters: what region and animal are we considering, and what metrics do we care about? The more you learn about animal agriculture, the more you realize you don’t know.


Meat Production, Responsibly
Jayson Lusk Responds to Breakthrough’s Future of Meat

Whether we get meat from a lab, from a cow, or from a chicken, it is important to recognize science and technology as a path to improve environmental outcomes and animal welfare. There are always trade-offs in food production systems: even lab-grown meat requires resources to grow. And while beef may have the biggest environmental footprint, a case can be made that beef cattle have the highest animal well-being.


The Future’s Bright; The Future’s…Meaty?
Judith Capper Responds to Breakthrough’s Future of Meat

Food production may have a big environmental footprint, but this makes sense given that it is a necessity for human life. Meat production can and should improve its environmental performance, but given the role of livestock in global livelihoods, we shouldn’t rush to reject meat as an unsustainable food source.


Avoiding Backfires in Brazil
Simon Hall Responds to Breakthrough’s Future of Meat

Global demand for beef is exerting significant pressure on important ecosystems. The fate of these regions will likely depend on how we approach the transition towards more intensive production systems. Will we capitalize on opportunities for sustainable productivity gains or will we allow our efforts to be undermined by backfiring outcomes? 


 The Shrinking Footprint of American Meat
Jesse Ausubel and Iddo Wernick Respond to Breakthrough's Future of Meat

How has the amount of cropland used to raise meat for the US population changed over the past few decades? Using the "ImPACT Identity" Wernick and Ausubel determine that it has shrunk by nearly a third, as a result of rising yields, the shift of consumption from beef and pork to chicken, and improvements in animal breeding and nutrition. Such findings point to the sizeable reductions in land use that are possible even without a shift to vegetarianism.


A Breakthrough Series


An Introduction: The Future of Food
by Ted Nordhaus


Is Precision Agriculture the Way to Peak Cropland?
by Linus Blomqvist and David Douglas


The Future of Meat
by Marian Swain


Food Production and Wildlife on Farmland
by Linus Blomqvist


Plenty of Fish on the Farm
by Marian Swain



subscribe to our Food & Farming newsletter