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What’s Your Beef with 3D-Printed Steaks?

Blog Post | Science & Technology

What’s Your Beef with 3D-Printed Steaks?

The benefits of 3D-printed meat, from increasing affordability to reducing animal suffering, will be considerable.

On Twitter, I mean “X,” everyone is bound to touch someone’s third rail at some point. Well, it finally happened to me. Lots of folks did not like my tweet in which I enthused about an Israeli company that, quelle horreur, 3D-prints a steak in one minute and a grouper fillet in three. The Israeli PM, Benjamin Netanyahu, tasted the product and seemed impressed. Many who saw my tweet were not. Turns out, folks are very particular about beef and feel that their steaks should originate within Daisy in Texas or Betty in Oklahoma. Well, 3D-printed beef does that and more. The process starts with extracting a few cells from a living, breathing animal, which are then grown and multiplied in a sterile environment, and finally printed to resemble the ribeye on a shelf at Wholefoods.

If this innovation takes off, the benefits of 3D-printed meat will be considerable. First, the need for animal suffering will diminish. We will need fewer cows, so we will raise and kill fewer of the beasts. Second, we will need less land for cattle, thus returning land to the wild ­– a goal long sought by environmentalists. We will also use less water and animal fodder – which should please the last of the deluded Malthusians. Third, 3D-printed meat may well turn out to be cleaner and healthier; animals on farms or in the wild are constantly exposed to viruses and parasites, which need to be medically treated before the meat becomes fit for human consumption. In a sterile lab environment, such problems will be minimized or eliminated.

[Some of the above applies to fish as well. Thanks to their more primitive nervous systems, fish don’t suffer as much as cows. However, since the oceans are being overfished due to a lack of proper property rights (i.e., the tragedy of the commons), it is more ecologically sensible to eat farmed fish, and even better to eat 3D-printed fish meat, which uses less space, water, and fish feed and gets around the problem of waste and disease.]   

Traditional cattle ranchers will remain in the same economic niche as fancy Italian shoemakers. Yes, you can still go to Milano and have bespoke shoes made for $5,000. But most of us order Johnson and Murphy’s’ for $250 from Amazon. And so, the cognoscenti may go on enjoying the normal beef, while others switch to 3D-printed steaks. Ultimately, it is the market that will decide. The taste, texture, and price will have to be right. Once they are, most normal meat will go the way of cotton spinning, which was replaced by spinning jenny – much to the chagrin of the Luddites.

Affordability depends on mass production, and mass production depends on mechanization. Mechanize the process, and a poor manual laborer in Brazil might be able to have a proper steak dinner for the first time in his life. As for the rest of us, we will be able to stop pretending that a plant-based burger comes anywhere close to the real thing. What’s not to like? A lot, apparently. As far as I can tell, the critics’ objections are as follows:

  1. You can take my steak out of my cold dead hands.

    I need not do that because I do not want to ban normal meat. I welcome 3D-printed meat as an expansion of customer choice, not as a replacement for normal meat. In a free market, some people will eat 3D-printed meat due to ethical considerations, such as animal welfare (in the same way that some customers prefer locally grown produce to food transported from afar). Others will eat 3D-printed meat because it becomes cheaper than normal meat. Some will eat it because they want to try a Wagyu steak but could never afford an organic one. After all, 3D-printed Wagyu steaks will benefit from the same efficiency gains as any other type of beef. Still others will eat 3D-printed meat because it becomes healthier than normal meat.

  2. It is unnatural.

    Just about everything in the modern world – from the corn we eat to the planes we fly – is unnatural. Humans suffer and die in natural environments (i.e., from viruses, bacteria, deadly fungi, heat, cold, dark, poisonous snakes, malarial mosquitos, lions, etc.) and thrive in unnatural environments (e.g., air-conditioned homes and offices, pizza delivery). Just because something is natural does not make it good – just think of earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanos, solar flares, and so on. In the past, nature dominated humans, and we died by the millions. Today, we tend to dominate nature for better (i.e., improved human survival) and for worse (i.e., some degree of environmental degradation). For more, see the naturalistic fallacy.

  3. You are conspiring with Klaus Schwab.

    I am doing the exact opposite. Schwab believes that the world cannot feed 8 billion humans and, consequently, we need to limit procreation and consumption. And yes, his Malthusianism makes him weirdly obsessed with eating bugs. (No way, Jose!) Moreover, neither Schwab nor the Davos crowd trust the market and freedom of choice. Their vision is one of a planned society presided over by a technocratic elite. In contrast, I believe that technological progress can make the lives of ever more people ever more bountiful (i.e., no limits on consumption), safer, healthier, and more interesting. If technological progress can result in environmental benefits, so much the better. The point is, human flourishing (call it anthropocentrism, if you will) is central to my thinking. I hope the kind of steak you eat will always be up to you.

Blog Post | Health & Medical Care

Why Are We So Gloomy?

Our evolved instincts are making us more anxious and depressed than we should be.

Do you believe that the world is coming to an end? If so, you are not alone.

In 2021, researchers at the University of Bath polled 10,000 young people between the ages of 16 and 25 in Australia, Brazil, Finland, France, Great Britain, India, Nigeria, the Philippines, Portugal, and the United States. The researchers found that, on average, 83 percent of respondents thought that “people have failed to care for the planet.” Seventy-five percent thought that the “future is frightening.” Fifty-six percent thought that “humanity is doomed.” Fifty-five percent thought that they will have “less opportunity than [their] parents.” Finally, 39 percent stated that they were “hesitant to have children.”

The study remains one of the most comprehensive surveys of young people’s perception of the environmental state of the planet. But is this kind of doom warranted? The following global statistics paint an entirely different picture:

Between 1950 and 2020, the average inflation-adjusted income per person rose from $4,158 to $16,904, or 307 percent. Between 1960 and 2019, the average life expectancy, rose from 50.9 years to 72.9 years, or 43.2 percent. (Unfortunately, the pandemic reduced that number to 72.2 years.)

Between 2000 and 2020, the homicide rate fell from 6.85 per 100,000 to 5.77, or 16 percent.

Deaths from inter-state wars fell from a high of 596,000 in 1950 to a low of 49,000 in 2020, or 92 percent (though the war between Russia and Ukraine is bound to increase that number).

The rates of extreme poverty have plummeted, with the share of people living on less than $1.90 per day declining from 36 percent in 1990 to 8.7 percent in 2019. Though, once again, the pandemic has temporarily worsened that number somewhat.

Between 1969 and 2019, the average infant mortality rate per 1,000 live births fell from 89.7 to 20.9, or 77 percent.

Between 1961 and 2018, the daily supply of calories rose from 2,192 to 2,928, or 34 percent. Today, even in Africa, obesity is a growing concern.

The gross primary school enrollment rate rose from 89 percent in 1970 to 100 percent in 2018. The gross secondary school enrollment rate rose from 40 percent to 76 percent over the same period. Finally, the gross tertiary school enrollment rate rose from 9.7 percent to 38 percent.

The literacy rate among men aged 15 and older rose from 74 percent in 1975 to 90 percent in 2018. The literacy rate among women aged 15 and older rose from 56 percent in 1976 to 83 percent in 2018.

In 2018, 90 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 24 were literate. That number was almost 93 percent among men of the same age. The age-old literacy gap between the sexes has all but disappeared.

There is plenty of good news on the global environmental front as well:

The chance of a person dying in a natural catastrophe — earthquake, flood, drought, storm, wildfire, landslide or epidemic — fell by almost 99 percent over the last century.

Between 1982 and 2016, the global tree canopy cover increased by an area larger than Alaska and Montana combined.

In 2017, the World Database on Protected Areas reported that 15 percent of the planet’s land surface was covered by protected areas. That’s an area almost double the size of the U.S.

That year, marine protected areas covered nearly seven percent of the world’s oceans. That’s an area more than twice the size of South America.

There is more good news for the fish: Since 2012, more than half of all seafood consumed came from aquaculture, as opposed to the fish caught in the wild.

And while it is true that the total amount of CO2 emitted throughout the world is still rising, CO2 emissions in rich countries are falling both in totality and on a per capita basis.

With so much good news around us, why are we so gloomy? We have evolved to look out for danger. That was the best way to survive when the world was much more threatening. But, while the world has changed, our genes have not. That’s why the front pages of the newspapers are always filled with the most horrific stories. If it bleeds, it leads.

To make matters worse, the media compete with one another for a finite number of eyeballs. So, presenting stories in the most dramatic light pays dividends. Or, as one study recently found, for a headline of average length, “each additional negative word increased the click-through rate by 2.3%.” And so, in a race to the bottom, all media coverage got much darker over the last two decades.

We are literally scaring ourselves to death, with rates of anxiety, depression and even suicide rising in some parts of the world. To maintain your mental composure and to keep matters in perspective, follow the trendlines, not the headlines. You will discover that the world is in a much better shape than it appears. You will be more cheerful and, most importantly, accurately informed.

This article was originally published at RealClearPolicy on May 31st, 2023.

Blog Post | Health Systems

Lesson Plan: Dubrovnik (Public Health)

In this lesson, students will learn about the great public health achievements of medieval Dubrovnik, which developed early pandemic-response policies and facilitated great advancements in freedom for its inhabitants.

You can find a PDF of this lesson plan here.

Lesson Overview

Featured article: Centers of Progress, Pt. 37: Dubrovnik (Public Health) by Chelsea Follett

Dubrovnik is a beautiful walled city on the Dalmatian coast of Croatia. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Mediterranean. But did you know that it was also once home to one of the freest and most cosmopolitan societies in Europe and one of the first societies to implement comprehensive public health measures to contain disease?

Chelsea Follet writes, “Not only was the small city-state of the Republic of Ragusa at the forefront of freedom for its time, being one of the earliest countries to ban slavery, but the glittering merchant city on the sea was also the site of an early milestone in the history of public health: quarantine waiting periods, which were first implemented in 1377.”


Where is Dubrovnik? What is it like there? Watch this 5-minute video from Rick Steves to build background about this picturesque city.

When you’re done watching, with partners, in small groups, or as a whole class, respond to the following questions:

  • In the 15th century, what were the mainstays of Dubrovnik’s economy?
  • Steves mentions that the city walls were fortified about 500 years ago. Which world power threatened Dubrovnik during that time?
  • Dubrovnik remained independent until the 1800s. Make an educated guess: Which European power took control over the city at that time?
  • Which conflict affected Dubrovnik during the 1990s, resulting in significant damage to many buildings?

Questions for reading, writing, and discussion

Read the article, then answer the following questions:

  • The Describe the political structure of the Republic of Ragusa during its period of independence from 1358 to 1808. Why was this type of governance unique for that period?
  • What sociopolitical practice does Follett cite as important to maintaining the pool of eligible aristocrats charged with governing the city-state?
  • The constitution of the Republic of Ragusa stipulated that the top government official had a term limit of just one month. What do you think were the likely social and political effects of that limit?
  • The article discusses several manifestations of Dubrovnik’s economic ethos of capitalism and free trade. Describe three specific examples of these economic ideas from the article.
  • The article also cites several ways that Dubrovnik promoted freedom and human rights. Explain three specific examples of these humanistic ideals mentioned in the article.
  • What were some of the ways that Dubrovnik promoted public health prior to and during the Black Death? Name at least three.
  • Dubrovnik is famous as the originator of a systematic quarantine policy for those possibly carrying infectious diseases. What is the etymology of the word “quarantine”? How is the meaning of that word specifically related to victims of the bubonic plague?

Extension Activity/Homework

Make a case study of your community.

Follett holds up Dubrovnik as a model. She uses detailed information to argue that peace, prosperity, and tolerance come about when there is respect for individual rights, the promotion of economic freedom, and limited government.

Create a Google Presentation or PowerPoint about your own community. Make a case for the dominant ethos of your hometown and explain why it has helped to grow your community. For this case study, conduct research and present information about:

  • History: founding, important figures, growth over the years
  • Population: age range, racial and ethnic groups, languages spoken, religions
  • Economy: main sectors, number and types of jobs, big employers
  • Institutions: government structure, schools and colleges, civil society (churches, clubs, nonprofits, etc.)
  • Outlook: What does the future hold for your community?

Create at least 10 slides. Be creative. Find or take photos to supplement your writing. Think deeply about why your hometown has been successful. Does it have a strong tradition of public education? A tight-knit faith community? A strategic location near key economic resources? Make an argument about why it’s been a success.

Write about quarantine and isolation.

Over the centuries, the government of Dubrovnik instituted quarantine policies for all those entering the city from infected areas. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, billions of people around the world also went through a prolonged period during which they were isolated from friends and family. You were likely unable to see your loved ones for many months.

How did this period of isolation affect you? How did you change and/or grow as a person? What did you like about that time? What did you dislike?

In a short reflective piece—either a paragraph, poem, song, drawing, or another creative medium of your choice—describe your personal reaction to this period of prolonged isolation.

Blog Post | Leisure

Lesson Plan: Chichen Itza (Team Sports)

In this lesson, students will learn about Chichen Itza—a sprawling ruined city in the Yucatán Peninsula in modern Mexico—and the important role team sports have played in culture and politics throughout human history.

You can find a PDF of this lesson plan here.

Lesson Overview

Featured article: Centers Progress, Pt. 6: Chichen Itza (Team Sports) by Chelsea Follett

In this article, Follett writes, “The development of team sports was a significant cultural achievement. Sports have transformed the way that people spend their leisure time by being one of the most universally loved forms of entertainment. To many people, team sports fulfill deeper psychological functions, such as providing an additional sense of meaning in their lives.”

In this lesson, you will learn about Chichen Itza—a sprawling ruined city in the Yucatán Peninsula in modern Mexico—and the oldest continuously played ball sport in the world variously called Pok-A-Tok, Ulama, or simply, the Ball Game.


Watch this video about the revival of a version of the Mesoamerican Ball Game. After watching, in partners, small groups, or as a whole class, answer these questions:

  • What are some unique aspects of this ball game?
  • Why isn’t this game more widely played now? Which huge change occurred in Mesoamerica that outlawed this game several centuries ago?
  • What are these players’ larger goals for the revival of the game? In other words, what legacy do they want to pass on to their descendants and to Mexican culture?

What do you know about Chichen Itza? Watch this video to build background knowledge about this UNESCO World Heritage site.

After watching, in partners, small groups, or as a whole class, answer these questions:

  • What is the significance of the four sets of 91 steps leading to the top of the pyramid and the additional step on the pyramid’s top?
  • What happens at the stone step pyramid Kukulkan on the spring and autumn equinoxes?
  • What do the construction and placement of monumental architecture at Chichen Itza tell us about the sophistication of Mayan civilization?

Questions for reading, writing, and discussion

Read the article, then answer the following questions:

  • Follett writes, “Sports are among humanity’s oldest innovations.” Why do people play sports? What social and/or cultural functions do team sports like the Mesoamerican Ball Game have in society?
  • Which three achievements make the Maya stand apart from all other pre-Columbian civilizations?
  • What extant evidence do we have of Toltec influence on Mayan culture?
  • What role did human sacrifice have in Mayan society?
  • Describe the economy of Chichen Itza. What was the basis of the economy?
  • What role did the Mesoamerican Ball Game have in the life of Mayan city-states like Chichen Itza?

Extension Activity/Homework

Play the Mesoamerican Ball Game

Watch this video on how to play the Mesoamerican Ball Game, also known as Pok-A-Tok. After watching, play the game!

  • Go to a basketball court with your classmates. Bring a foam ball, two hula hoops, and several cones (optional).
  • Use the cones to mark the boundary of your ball court. If there are already markings, you can use those instead.
  • Secure the hula hoops at either end of the court at about head height. The hoop’s opening should be vertical (not horizontal like a basketball hoop).
  • Form two teams of 4–6 players. Teams face each other.
  • The referee says, “Pok-A-Tok,” and the game begins.


  • The ball is hit into the field of play.
  • Players can pass the ball to each other using only their elbows, knees, and hips; hands, heads, and feet are not allowed.
  • A point is scored when the opposing team fails to return the ball before it bounces a second time or when the ball reaches the opposing end zone.
  • The game finishes when a player from one team gets the ball through the hoop at the opposite end of the court or when time runs out (together, you may decide the length of each game).

Profile a Pre-Columbian Civilization

Create a PowerPoint or Google Slides presentation about one pre-Columbian American civilization. Choose one of the following:

  • Olmec
  • Maya
  • Aztec
  • Inca
  • Mississippian
  • Pueblo

Before making your presentation, do research using reliable sources and take notes in the chart below. You must use your own words.

SlideThe ____ Civilization
One-paragraph summary about the civilization
Population, social structure (classes)
Powerholders, governmental structure, role of military
Interactions with the environment
Resource use, geographical location and extant
Religion(s), artifacts, writing systems, pastimes
Economic system, trading partners
Architecture, canals, irrigation, roads
Works Cited
Cite sources using APA format

When you’ve gathered the necessary information, create your presentation using the categories above. Your presentation must have at least eight slides, and they must include visuals such as maps, photos, graphs, or artwork. Be as detailed and creative as you like.

Write an Essay on Sports and War

In the article, Follett writes:

The Ball Game occasionally served as a substitute for war, with rival political leaders in the later Aztec civilization purportedly agreeing to confront each other on a ball court rather than on a battlefield. In fact, some psychologists believe that sports today help human beings to channel their competitive and aggressive impulses away from violence, and that athletic competitions are intertwined with the decline of overt conflict between states.

What do you think? Do you think the decline in interstate warfare over the past 75 years is partly the result of the increase in the popularity of sports? Why or why not? Write an essay in which you take a stand on this question. Support your thesis with evidence (you may use this article, also linked above). In your essay, be sure to present and refute at least one counterargument.

Blog Post | Violence

Beheading Live Geese Barehanded Used to Pass for Easter Merriment

Remembering the callous diversions of yore can help put the modern world into perspective.

Easter is the most important Christian holiday, and many families, regardless of their religion, celebrate the day by enjoying Easter traditions such as painting hard-boiled eggs, going on Easter egg hunts, decorating bonnets, and wearing cheerful-looking pastel-colored clothes. Easter customs vary from place to place: The people of Florence, Italy, traditionally explode a cart filled with fireworks, and in Finland, children dress as witches for the holiday. Many Easter celebrants aim to preserve or resurrect old traditions. But some traditions are better left dead.

Consider “gander pulling,” which entailed beheading a live goose, barehanded, while riding a horse—and, usually, while drunk—in front of a roaring crowd. Particularly popular around Easter in the American South, gander pulling was once a beloved pastime in the United States and many parts of Europe. The writer Carl Sandburg claims that even U.S. President Abraham Lincoln attended gander pulls in his youth.

It may be hard to believe that people chose to spend their time in this manner, but they did. The sport even earned an entry in Merriam-Webster.com, which defines it as “a pastime especially formerly in the South and Southwest in which a person on horseback rides rapidly past a goose hanging with its neck down and greased and tries to pull off its head.” The blood sport was most popular from the 17th to the 19th centuries and may date back to 12th-century Spain. Gander pulling may also be the source of the idiom “the goose hangs high,” meaning that “things are or will be pleasant, desirable, or merry.”

Writer Louis B. Wright describes gander pulling among other bygone forms of entertainment in his book Everyday Life in Colonial America: “[Pastimes included] running after a greased pig or ‘gander pulling,’ in which men rode by and tried to pull off the well-greased head of a goose suspended from a bar. When a rider lost his balance and tumbled to the ground, the crowd held their sides with laughter. Our ancestors were not overly refined and they did not worry about such things as pain to the goose or danger to the rider.”

Frederick Remington, A Gander-Pull, 1894, Harper’s Weekly.

In her book The New Nation: American Popular Culture Through History, Pennsylvania State University professor Anita Vickers notes that sometimes a hare was substituted for the goose, that the audience often doused failed contestants with buckets of water, and that gander pulling contests often lasted for hours—resulting in drenched competitors and a thoroughly tortured goose. Vickers also writes:

Gander pulling was one of the oldest of American sports, brought to New Amsterdam by the Dutch. As with other cruel and bloody sports, gander pulling spread to other parts of the colonies and remained popular in the United States and its territories until the mid-nineteenth century … The prize in a gander pulling contest was trivial. Sometimes the purse consisted of contributions by the audience, approximately 25 cents a head. . . . Other times the winner was treated to rounds of drinks at the local tavern. Frequently, the prize was the bird itself. The true draw was the betting that ensued, sometimes for money but more often than not for liquor.

The anthology We Are What We Celebrate: Understanding Holidays and Rituals, published by New York University Press, identifies gander pulling as a tradition on both Easter Monday and Shrove Tuesday. Another source similarly claims that, in Virginia, gander pulling tournaments often took place on the Monday following Easter. The Chicago Tribune states, in contrast, that in Illinois gander pulling was a yuletide tradition. And the Encyclopedia of North Carolina describes gander pulling as a popular “Easter time” tradition in that state, noting that most contestants fortified themselves for the undertaking with copious amounts of homemade corn liquor.

Women did not compete but found entertainment in the sport as well, according to the Encyclopedia of North Carolina: “The event offered a holiday outing for nearly everyone. Female spectators—who seem to have enjoyed gander pulling as much as men—cheered the crude ‘knights’ on their sturdy mounts and encouraged them to ‘seize the day’ (or gander). Each competitor hoped he would tear the prize from the body and nobly present a battered, bloody trophy to the lady of his choice.” Much has been written about the supposed death of romance, but at least men today do not present the objects of their affection with blood-soaked severed goose heads.

For a contemporary account of a gander pull, which goes into lengthy and grotesque detail, read the chapter “A Gander Pull in Arkansas,” from In the Louisiana Lowlands, a book published in 1900. The author mentions an occasion when it took “twenty-eight pulls on the picked and greased head of a gander before his obdurate head was induced to leave his body.” The author then muses, tongue-in-cheek, “Who could say that the gander might also not enjoy the tournament and imagine himself the highly honored object for which renowned knights were contending, and by skillfully dodging some and resigning his head to more favored ones he could choose the knight upon whose banner victory should perch.”

Our ancestors inhabited a more brutal world, where violent treatment of human beings was routine and mistreatment of animals hardly given a thought. Our forebears were also often bored out of their minds. It is easy to forget just how limited entertainment options were in the past. In an era before access to electricity, recorded music, movies, television, the internet, video games, or smartphones, tedious and mind-numbing manual labor might have kept people occupied, but it could not fulfill their longing for amusement and novelty. The pervasive and extreme boredom that often defined premodern life, combined with the ubiquity of frivolous cruelty at the time, may explain pastimes such as gander pulling.

Remembering the callous diversions of yore can help put the modern world into perspective. This Easter—however you spend the day—take a moment to appreciate the many ways that humanity has found to engage in merriment, rejoice during holidays, and have fun without yanking the greased head off a frantic goose or participating in other forms of needless violence. Happy Easter to all who celebrate; may your day be filled with joy and peace.