GEORGE: …So, anyway, if you think about it, manure is not really that bad a word. I mean, it’s ‘newer’, which is good, and a ‘ma’ in front of it, which is also good. Ma-newer , right?
MARISA TOMEI: (laughing) You’re so right. I never thought of it like that. Manure. ‘Ma’ and the ‘newer’.
Marisa laughs and George is smiling happily.
MARISA: Did you just make that up?
GEORGE: What, you think I’m doing material here?
MARISA: (laughs) No, no. It’s hard to believe anyone could be so spontaneously funny.
Okay, for the purposes of this post, only the first piece of dialogue was needed, but don’t you just love this whole scene?
University researchers in Idaho may have figured out how to ameliorate one of the worst environmental problems of the meat industries — the vast stores of manure produced by cattle, hogs, and chickens. As the AP reported last week:
University of Idaho and Idaho State University scientists are working on a new maggot-based feed capable of fattening rainbows for the dinner table, while simultaneously helping slash growing mounds of manure and fish entrails.
Idaho is America’s largest commercial producer of trout, with the industry bringing in more than $35 million annually. And with 500,000 cows, it’s surpassed Pennsylvania as the nation’s fourth-biggest dairy state.
That got Sophie St. Hilaire, an aquatic species veterinarian, thinking: Why couldn’t dairies use a slurry of cow dung and trout intestines to grow maggots rich in fatty acids that make fish so good for humans?
“Animal waste management engineer Ron Sheffield, of the University of Idaho, gathers manure in buckets, then seeds it with fly eggs imported from a commercial insect grower.” Later, fish guts are added. The maggots are captured, washed, ground up and frozen, and then shipped to a rainbow trout run at a Snake river test station. “The fish seem to have developed a taste for them,” the AP article says.
“It makes sense to me that the black soldier flies are closer to their natural food than corn and soybean meal,” said Sheffield, an avid angler.
Meanwhile, the environmental benefits are potentially huge.
Black soldier flies, already used in Asia to eat restaurant waste, can reduce manure by 50 percent, turning it quickly to insect biomass. In fact, they’re being studied in southern states including North Carolina, Georgia and Texas, whose big poultry and hog industries hope to harness the flies’ voracious appetite for manure.
They’re also a tropical species that can’t survive Idaho’s harsh winters, St. Hilaire said, making it unlikely adult flies that might escape could establish themselves and become pests. And though adult flies resemble wasps, they don’t bite.
The article cites some hurdles along the way toward commercialization of the idea.
Dairy farms would have to erect sizable facilities to raise the maggots. A distribution system must be developed. And after harvest, the maggots must be stored for long periods, then mixed seamlessly with other fish food ingredients in existing feed mills.
Still, that’s no different from the various other convoluted tendrils of the cattle culture’s manufacturing and distribution chains. Which, in turn, are not that different from those in many other industries, such as the manufacturing of concrete, which depends on an ash produced in coal-based electricity power plants.
This isn’t going to solve the animal cruelty issues, nor the health consequences of overconsumption of meat and dairy. And hard-core animal-rights people are going to have separate problems with anything that promotes the raising and harvesting of fish. But it does seem like a worthwhile measure to pursue, while waiting for the world to wake up to the other disastrous problems of exploiting animals for food.