Which Came First: Chickens, Eggs, or Trendy Environmentalists?
Okay, I'll 'fess up. I'm not cool enough to know that chickens and eggs are planet-wide scourges, they having made Bill Gates' enemies list and the enemies lists of other filthy rich mostly left-coast lefties. But if Gates is against bourgeois exploitation of cluckers and their in-shell progeny, perhaps we should take a moment to dumpster-dive the scramble that makes up his valiant cause.
Reports the AP via News Republic:
Funded by prominent Silicon Valley investors and Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Hampton Creek Foods seeks to disrupt a global egg industry that backers say wastes energy, pollutes the environment, causes disease outbreaks and confines chickens to tiny spaces.
And this chicken nugget from the AP story:
"Our approach is to use plants that are much more sustainable -- less greenhouse gas emissions, less water, no animal involved and a whole lot more affordable -- to create a better food system," said [Josh Tetrick, Hampton Creek Foods CEO] the former linebacker on West Virginia University's football team.
Food politics, folks, and we ain't talking about grain embargoes of the Soviet Union back in the day. Since when are business startups about "disrupting" markets, i.e., bringing political agendas into marketplaces? Anyone else smelling the Alinsky fox trying to sneak into the hen houses?
Yes, food politics, the Left Way. We're talking about the Stunningly Socially Conscious with money and time on their hands who've decided that your mornings shouldn't start sunny-side up or over-easy -- unless what's on your plate began as bougainvillea or kudzu.
Hampton Creek Foods, which, one assumes, is along the bucolic banks of Hampton Creek, is a socially conscious startup in San Francisco's South Market, a hotbed for tech births. (Evidently, being near Silicon Valley's money bags is more important than being near the creek, unless it runs under the Streets of San Francisco.)
The Hampton Creek Foods website offers your typical touchy-feely declarations. Better for your heart health to lay off fried eggs; better for the world (let's add: "We are the..."), which suffers grievously from the despoiling of the planet by those nasty transnational poultry exploiters and egg-pushers.
The faux-food company claims that they're developing poultry and egg substitutes that taste every bit as good as the real deal, so make chickens petting zoo denizens and use acrylic paints to swab those plastic Easter eggs bright colors. Chicken and egg liberation is at hand, brothers and sisters! Which is liberated first, though, the chicken or the egg, is a philosophical matter, better left to tenured profs at Berkeley. But, pray tell, how do we liberate ourselves from trendy environmentalism and the enterprising who use social consciousness to line their pockets? Al Gore ain't saying.
Hampton Creek Foods is cruising on venture capital and other private investment as it concocts fake mayo and cookie dough. Aside from Bill Gates, who has his fingers in just about everything gooey and non (a personal worth estimated at $72 billion ain't chicken scratch), the firm is backed by heavy-hitters Peter Theil (Pay Pal co-founder) and Vinod Klosla (Sun Microsystems co-founder and a venture capitalist).
The American Egg Board, per the AP story, has its hackles up over the developing assault on the Incredible, Edible Egg TM, which presents an intriguing dilemma for the anti-poultry and anti-egg brigades. Again, from the AP story:
The American Egg Board, which represents U.S. producers, said eggs can't be replaced.
"Our customers have said they're not interested in egg substitutes. They want real, natural eggs with their familiar ingredients," Mitch Kanter, executive director of the board-funded Egg Nutrition Center, said in a statement.
The industry has reduced its water use and greenhouse gas emissions, and hens are living longer due to better health and nutrition, he said.
Kanter needs to learn the first vital rule when battling the enviro-zealots: Don't play defense. Greenies have effectively shut down oil and gas production for years in ANWR thanks to their propaganda about how drilling will trash the environment and disrupt caribou herds. Oil and gas technologies have advanced eons. Gushing oil wells went out with Giant. But no matter.
The anti-egg crowd expects the poultry and egg industries to react exactly as Kanter did, with expressions of accommodation -- accommodation which is never sufficient. The antis bait the trap and politically witless businessmen take the bait. Less water use and pollution by poultry operations, but not zeroed-out, not good. Reduction of fatuous "greenhouse gas" emissions means little -- zero 'em out or else. Hens are living longer -- but not long enough -- and, darn it, they're still being cooped up (would winters in Florida help?).
Playing the antis' game is a no-win proposition. Poultry and egg producers need to educate the public about all the benefits of their industry to economies and consumers, yes, but they need to aggressively frame the debate, define their opponents before their opponents define them into vacant chicken houses surrounded by loads of empty egg cartons. In the game of Chicken being played with the antis, no yellow streaks allowed.
Getting back to the dilemma facing the Chicken and Egg Liberation Movement, the fact is that a critical ally -- supposed -- has fretted publicly about innovation and technology doing great harm to the American worker. That would be the incredible, inedible Barack Obama, who's railed against ATMs deep-sixing bank tellers and technological progress as the bane of stonemasons, goat herders, and charwomen worldwide.
Eggs from IvyTM (just trademarked by this enterprising writer) threaten countless jobs from the chicken house to the grocery store to the fast food counter, not to mention all the ancillary businesses that employ millions (are there after-markets in chicken parts?). Surely, our compassionate prez is foursquare on the side of the status quo? No way Barack is going to let kelp-as-eggs destroy livelihoods? Or will Gates' money and libs' hypocrisy keep the president's trap shut? My shekels are on the latter.
Let's underscore that there's nothing wrong -- and nearly everything right -- with inventors and innovators coming up with better light bulbs or replacements or chicken and egg substitutes. The American and global marketplaces are huge and growing. Competition's healthy.
If a hemp-clothed lass or lad wants to shuffle off in sandaled feet to Whole Foods or a local food co-op for ragweed made into eggs, go for it. If you think that ornamental grasses disguised as the Colonel's finest is good for your cholesterol, chow down. The diversity and abundance of free marketplaces are wondrous; consumer choice is a blessing. But don't use business to denigrate and destroy other businesses to advance a political agenda. Bill Gates should think through consequences more painstakingly. Microsoft is a fat target for someone's political agenda someday. You can't buy enough protection in the "social consciousness" racket indefinitely.
Me, I prefer ground cow (medium well) and fried chicken that once clucked to Bean-O®-on-a-bun. That's my choice.