wen

238Joined Apr 2020

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What do you mean? I’ve not heard of critical social science before and just googled it. Are you saying that EA should ignore ‘social conditions that contribute to relations of domination and oppression’?

Fab post George!

Some assorted, unrefined thoughts (it's 12am and I don't have a coherent view of the world atm)

  1. Agree on restaurants being the best place to start promotion because you can generate both supply and demand while maintaining control. Have you done case studies of how people have approached restaurants, developed dishes, managed launch and press? E.g. with the restaurants serving cultivated meat in Singapore. There is almost certainly a handbook on how to get your product into restaurants. I know a bit about getting products into supermarkets.

  2. East Asians LOVE a food trend. These trends tend to stay within the community though, bubble tea/boba is an exception. But possibly with deliberate marketing there can be some positive impact of targeting Asians in the US? (I say this as someone of East Asian ethnicity)

  3. Disagree with this bit -- 'I don’t think cultural appropriation is as big an issue in food as other spaces of society. No one boycotts Thai food for using American chilies, or Mexican food for using European wheat flour tortillas, even though those ingredients originally came from a different culture.'

First of all nobody is boycotting these in the US context because they are global South / majority cultures using Western ingredients.

Second of all, I don't think there is a moral difference between cultural appropriation of food vs. clothes, spiritual practice, language. I think the appropriation of food is less 'condemned' because it's harder for an individual to avoid it if they're eating at restaurants, following recipes written by Americans, etc. And people are less likely to see something as wrong if they are participants.

  1. The food pics look absolutely delicious and fascinating and I wish I still had some of your tofu in my freezer!
Answer by wenJun 30, 20208

We don't really know. Cell ag companies haven't been releasing cost estimates lately. A lot of progress has been made, though. Most of the cost comes from the growth factors in the culture media, and Mosa Meat has been working on their own media formulation, plus a bunch of growth factors/media manufacturers have sprung up to supply the industry.

I'd like to note that much of the movement between '$1e6/kg in 2013 to to $100/kg in 2019' can be explained by labour costs and moving from bench-scale to larger-scale production (i.e. buying lab supplies in bulk).

Hello! Any updates on the ethics of poverty alleviation and animal welfare?

Ah, I was thinking primarily about low and middle-income countries for both of these.

I am a big fan of 'internalising the externalities' of meat production by making prices higher in developed countries, but I think this becomes a more ethically and strategically complex tactic when we're looking at places where people are already spending large proportions of their incomes on food, are in calorie deficits, etc.

You're probably right that improving biosecurity on factory farms might not make a big difference to antibiotic resistance and animal welfare. I'm thinking of improving biosecurity on smaller farms / closing smaller farms and encouraging larger farms because of their better biosecurity, which is already happening in China (haven't read this particular article but seems like an appropriate source).

Thank you for this post! I gave a strong upvote because this claim has been growing in strength in animal advocacy communities, and I have often thought that we need to examine it and make sure it actually makes sense, or it damages our credibility.

I realise now that I've actually been sceptical about the claim 'More than half of the antibiotics today are used for meat production'. This seems to be correct; this article says 73% of antimicrobials[1] sold are used in animals (which I think cites an article by Van Boeckel et al 2017, in Science, but I can't access these articles). I also formerly believed this was predominantly a US issue, given the scale of poorly regulated factory farming there, but it's actually China that is the biggest consumer of veterinary microbials, in both absolute and relative terms.

This paper suggests 'user fees', i.e. taxes, on veterinary antimicrobials. This seems like it could have very bad consequences on food prices, supply, and thus nutrition in low and middle-income countries, which the paper says have more elastic demand. Do you have views on this?

Additionally, one potential negative consequence of this narrative is that improved farm biosecurity might be a strong solution to prevent antibiotic resistance from crossing over to humans. And this would probably entail making farms more technologically sophisticated, more intensive, and bigger, which tends to be much worse for animals.


  1. Not sure if the distinction between antimicrobials and antibiotics makes a big difference. ↩︎

Thank you for writing this post! These are really good points. I think EA Singapore is looking to do more research on poverty and development in Southeast Asia, which can unlock more funding from funders who want to donate to a particular country or region. But I'm not the best person to speak about this.

I also thought of another point: if you're outside of the US and Western Europe,[1] it's just harder to stay involved in EA as a human being. This feels obvious to me and I almost didn't post this comment because it seemed like 'duh', but I remembered that I've found simple, clear explanations of 'obvious' things helpful in the past, and at least they reminded me to consider them.

  • EA in general: unlike some other communities or ideologies, being involved in EA requires a good amount of effort. You're expected to take action -- donating, planning your career -- and stay updated on current thinking, which changes very quickly -- earn to give vs. direct impact? chicken eggs...no wait, fish! no wait, insects![2]
  • But it's not easy to visit or live in an EA hub city like London or San Francisco, for most of the global population (financially, legally, for family reasons)
  • In less rich countries, professional altruism & charity aren't as well-regarded and it can be difficult to get support from your family or friends
  • Fewer like-minded people around you means you have to put in a lot more effort to stay engaged and informed
  • Donating 10% (or any %) is more difficult. Your salary isn't as high. Maybe you're already giving 10% to your parents. Maybe you've grown up in a strong culture of saving. And you're very aware that the 10% of your salary is the equivalent of 1% or 0.1% for someone in a richer country
  • You have to create your own opportunities, e.g. organise your own EA group, find impactful policy jobs, set up your own charity, get people to translate EA materials from English
  • On top of all this, you probably feel consistently excluded from narratives, like your post explains

There are some good posts on the EA forum about value drift, but a bunch of the actions that people can take are less accessible for people outside of the US and Western Europe.

A Qualitative Analysis of Value Drift in EA

Concrete Ways to Reduce Risks of Value Drift and Lifestyle Drift

At some level, this is basically 'how to set up EA communities in other countries and the challenges in this'. But I think there is value in considering people's varying circumstances and the effort needed to be 'EA', even if the effect is just that some people feel a little more encouraged and validated.


  1. Not sure about the exact geographies. It's a spectrum (e.g. Australia is somewhere in between) and there's variation within countries as well. ↩︎

  2. Just to be clear, I think taking action and changing your mind frequently based on the best available evidence are good things. ↩︎

This seems obvious to me but I haven't seen ALLFED mention it; forgive me if you already considered this ages ago.

Is cellular/acellular agriculture research relevant to this? If so, are you in touch with the organisations working to advance this -- New Harvest and the Good Food Institute?

e.g. Solar Foods in Finland is using bacteria to produce protein from hydrogen: https://www.labiotech.eu/biotech-of-the-week/solar-foods-space-mission-finland/

These are not yet cost-effective, and they might not be feasible in a catastrophe, but the equipment, knowledge, and processes are probably highly transferable to other forms of microbial foods produced from single-cell proteins via hydrogen.

Cool! I found this post from your comment in this thread: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/wwW4u4sXbP8YbfBts/eagxvirtual-unconference-saturday-june-20th-2020. With interest rates dropping, high-yield savings accounts are becoming less attractive, at least in the US and UK. Does this affect your other recommendations too?

I think this is what Blake is talking about when he writes 'a lot of the true technical challenges are on the bioprocess design side'. These are exactly as you say -- the 'creation of thick cuts of any tissue' includes getting the right cell lines and having them differentiate into the right things at the right time, having the right scaffolds, and putting things into the right bioreactors.

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