Beyond animal agriculture


While some of us begin to eat fully-plant based foods, or at least consume fewer animal products out of a wish to save our planet and our health, the intensely discussed topic of how we use our public lands is raging. A new report on food and agriculture by RethinkX, an independent think tank, shows that the food production industry is one of several beginning to demonstrate how technology is driving rapid change. You can download the report at

The report states that new methods of producing proteins will significantly shift the entire industry toward more cost-effective, nutritious and less-impactful methods of producing our food. Typical market studies are inaccurate, it states, because older methods of analysis do not take into account how fast-paced technology-driven business innovation has become. The report predicts that by 2030, the number of cows in the United States will have fallen 50 percent and the cattle farming industry will be all but bankrupt; all other livestock industries will suffer a similar fate. The collapse of the animal agriculture industry will also severely impact feed crop farmers and all the businesses related to the industry.  

The dairy industry will not fare any better. The report states: “Modern foods have already started disrupting the ground meat market (i.e. Beyond Meat and the Impossible Burger), but once cost parity is reached, we believe in 2021-23, adoption will tip and accelerate exponentially.” The dairy industry is already feeling the impact of the popularity of nut milks, evidenced by the filing for bankruptcy protection by Dean Foods, the largest milk company in the U.S., last week.  

I am afraid that no matter how much we like our cheese, chicken, beef, fish, bacon and lattes, technology and business is rapidly developing methods to produce foods that are much easier and cost-effective to produce—and much healthier. No more grazing cattle or raising livestock feed on over 50 percent of our land mass; no more using thousands of gallons of water for animals and their feed; no more spewing tons and tons of C02 and methane into the atmosphere; no more pollution of our waterways, oceans and lakes; no more needing thousands of gas- and diesel-powered vehicles to transport feed to animals and animals to slaughterhouses; no more climate destruction, resource depletion and mistreatment of animals.

According to The Economist, “a whopping 25 percent of Americans 25 to 34 years old identify as vegan or vegetarian. And U.S. sales of vegan foods rose 10 times faster from January to June 2018 than food sales as a whole, a spike largely attributable to millennials and Gen Z members, who are increasingly switching to a vegan lifestyle.”

It appears that 20-year leases on Point Reyes are going to be unnecessary. You can see the writing on the wall. Hopefully, our cattle ranchers and dairy farmers will see the same writing and consider transitioning to vegetable and fruit crops. There are several organizations now offering financial help and consulting services to ranchers and dairy farmers who wish to transition to sustainable, non-animal agricultural operations. Miyoko’s, a plant-based cheese company, recently announced that it is offering up to $250,000 to help these interested ranchers and farmers transition to raising plants.

I sincerely hope that all of us will live healthy and long lives by starting to eat—if not doing so already—more whole-plant foods like vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains, seeds and nuts while cutting back on animal products. I hope we can bring about change to save the planet. Sadly, though, it looks like market forces might ultimately be necessary for global change. 


Dave Osborn is a semi-retired contractor who lives in Point Reyes Station.