You are going to hear about a lot of activity among a dozen or so companies whose aim it is to replace cows, pigs, chickens, sheep, goats and fish in the diet of everyone in the world. Some of them want to do it with plant-based protein made to look and taste like real meat. Others are into a sort of cloning thing where they take a piece of animal flesh — they call it a biopsy — and grow meat from that. Whatever the track, it means to do away with animal agriculture.

One of the companies, particularly full of themselves, even stated in a news release that their intention was to make this happen by 2050. What is it about 2050, anyway? The world-enders now use that date. The climate panic crowd says we’ll all be gone by then.

The investment funding for the research that is bent on feeding you anything but a real burger or steak is coming from companies like Tyson and Cargill. Now, some of the research is being carried on with the noble fear that our food supply chain won’t be able to keep up with the growing need. Of course, there also is the faction that claims animals either shouldn’t harvested or that raising them is somehow deadly to the environment. Ultimately, the question is, will anyone be able to afford to eat the — pardon me please — fake meat? And will the majority ever really want to eat it?

There is one very visible product that is now on the market, made by Impossible Foods. A consortium of chefs, scientists, and veggie farmers have spent five years making the Impossible Burger. And you can buy one at, for example, Burger King. Oh, it only costs a dollar more than the real meat version. White Castle, the king of the cheap sliders, sells an Impossible slider for $1.99. Not sure about you, but I remember when the slider was a dime.

So, do real folks want to eat unreal meat? There is a market share that will, about 8.3 percent of people surveyed in nationwide sampling, would absolutely go for it. The maybe group is at 39 percent. And finally, 52 percent said absolutely not, no way, get outta here with that stuff.

Mud and manure

When I first took on this beat for the Wick papers, I teased our editor, Justin Tubbs, about being the “mud and manure” editor. We had a laugh and then dismissed it. We may have to revisit that “joke.” Manure is on the radar. Feedlots, swine farms, dairies, and chicken outfits all have massive waste disposal issues.

In 2017, the North American livestock industry produced and processed just under 10 billion animals. That’s a whole #$@%load of manure. Need perspective? A 200-cow dairy farm produces as much nitrogen as the sewerage from a community of 7,500 people.

Over the years a typical farm would remove manure from pens, sties, and barns and just put it into the fields to fertilize other crops. One of my boyhood jobs was cleaning the chicken coop and hauling the results to the cornfield. Cattle and sheep fertilized their own food chain on the range. But those options don’t present themselves to someone with a few thousand chickens or hundreds of hogs doing number two all day, every day. Piles and piles of poop create environmental issues, health problems, and odor issues. Comes now the Manure Challenge. And manure and mud become a big, complicated deal.

Suddenly there is a lot of money being spent trying to figure out what to do about it. Some of it comes from an unlikely source, The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), an organization that has been at odds with many agriculture enterprise sectors over the years. The aim is what they call circular farming, which is really nothing more than returning to the old way by coming up with methods to handle the huge fecal load, from say a large dairy or swine operation.

The Dairy Farmers of America, WWF, and the Yield Lab Institute are partnering to stage the Manure Challenge. The challenge is aimed at engaging a manure-based marketing system with a group of solution providers. You can find out more about the challenge at https://www.manurechallenge.com.

The stationary combine

They have stationary bikes at the gym and treadmills where you can walk a hundred miles and never go anywhere. Now, Dick Tofflemoyer operates a giant combine that will go through hundreds of acres of hemp everyday and never move an inch.

Dick operates the combine for General Processing, the new hemp processing plant, servicing the Montrose and Delta County hemp farmers. Turns out that a combine which mows, ingests, and separates the bloom from the chaff, or waste, of a grain stalk is perfect for separating the stalks and chaff from the usable biomass of the hemp plant.

So every morning, Dick climbs the half dozen ladder steps to the spacious cab and cranks up his monster. The General Processing hemp handlers pitch fork the hemp into the business end of the machine. The big green plants disappear into the combine’s angry maw. The waste comes out one side and the biomass goes out the other into storage bags. The bags are stored for the extraction process that will take place later this winter.

Dick, who is a legend in the farm machinery arena, says the combine is perfect for the job. As for not rolling. Well it’s a shorter walk to the restroom.

According to plant boss Matt Miles, Dick is an institution in Olathe. Our short chat confirmed that the man has some stories. I’ll write down some of them in the near future and share them with you.

Michael A. Cox is a Montrose-based content provider. He may be reached at michaelc@agwriter.us

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