OK, so humanity is going to space, and they are going to take farm animals into space, not only humans on earth value meat, but humans in space do, too. However, they don't want to waste precious resources such as artificial gravity for the farming, so instead of adapting the space ship, they decide to adapt the animals through genetic engineering back on Earth. Fortunately not only has space technology progressed, but genetic engineering has also, so that implementing any change in animals is no problem.

This of course poses one important question: What changes should be done to an animal's genes in order to adapt farm animals to weightlessness?

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    $\begingroup$ Any ability to assume air modification? These farm animals are going to produce a lot of CO2 and a buttload (pun intended) of methane...is the genetic engineering experiment to include methods of reducing these outputs, or can we assume ship ability to handle this? It seems the cost in air modification outweighs what these animals would produce...ejecting your existing crew into space and replacing them with less spoiled astronauts willing to eat artificial meat is an ideal solution here. $\endgroup$ – Twelfth Mar 16 '15 at 21:58
  • $\begingroup$ HOVERCAT is a good start... $\endgroup$ – Oldcat Apr 17 '15 at 23:01
  • $\begingroup$ have you considered vat meat instead? A lot less space and material wastage. Of course eventually people will want pets in space. $\endgroup$ – John Dec 17 '17 at 14:13

Animals in zero G experience the same problems humans do in that environment: loss of muscle mass and decrease of bone density. Astronauts run bungee-corded on a special treadmill to minimize these effects. I think it's highly unlikely you're going to get bessie on that treadmill...

Honestly, if you're capable of genetic engineering a macro-organism like that, you would find lab grown protein to be far more compact and economical a food source - cultivated beef. It already exists, but it's experimental prohibitively expensive at the moment (hundreds of dollars a pound). That's far more doable in your future society where humanity as a whole is travelling into space.

Or you could just use spherical chickens in a vacuum... :D

  • $\begingroup$ But my astronauts insist on meat from real animals! $\endgroup$ – celtschk Mar 15 '15 at 16:23
  • $\begingroup$ @celtschk Then I suggest that you engineer a large pasture with centrifugal force based artificial gravity so your spoiled astronauts can eat living organisms... $\endgroup$ – Isaac Kotlicky Mar 15 '15 at 16:35
  • $\begingroup$ The accounting department won't pay for those artificial-gravity pastures. $\endgroup$ – celtschk Mar 15 '15 at 16:48
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    $\begingroup$ @celtschk then screw the astronauts, let them eat (beef) cake! $\endgroup$ – Isaac Kotlicky Mar 15 '15 at 17:17

I can think of 3 areas for improvement.

1) As has been already mentioned, the control of muscle mass needs to be addressed, so that in a microgravity environment you get muscle rather than fat. Some sort of control of bone density is probably a good idea, too. Presumably the first generation of flight animals has to be raised in a non-zero-gravity environment, so there has to be some sort of internal switch or complementary regulatory pathway for the animal to function in both environments.

2) Assuming we're not talking monkeys or apes, a certain amount of forepaw dexterity needs to be introduced. After all, food won't just sit around waiting to be eaten - the animal will need to be able to hold it.

3) Really, really important - poop modification. It's hard to imagine an animal that can be vacuum-toilet trained. Something like rabbit pellets would be a really good idea, and I don't know what you'll do about urine. Birds, as they don't really have urine, might be a good idea.

ETA: And I'll make that 4) efficiency. Meat production is wildly inefficient in terms of resources. I don't have a reference, but my memory suggests that, as a rule of thumb, production of a calorie of meat takes land that would otherwise have produced 10 calories of vegetable foods. This means that, for instance, if your astronauts want 1/3 of their calories as meat, they need 4 times as much hydroponics capacity as they would if they went vegetarian. The increased volume and mass associated with this bigger farm area might well be a problem.

So you'd want to engineer for quite extraordinary metabolic efficiency, as well as the other things.

  • $\begingroup$ I'd like to add, as I don't think it is enough to warrant an answer on its own, is that birds are probably the most suited for a zero gravity environment that has an atmosphere. $\endgroup$ – Brad Mar 22 '15 at 1:20
  • $\begingroup$ I remember at least one SF story that had a bird that learned to fly in weightlessness. $\endgroup$ – Oldcat Apr 17 '15 at 23:02


You might try eating earthworms:

  1. They are usefull for agriculture.
  2. They have proteins.
  3. They can be processed into burgers and nuggets.
  4. They wont suffer much from lack of gravity.

Properly prepared eathworms...

  • $\begingroup$ You could even top it off with crickets! They are much more efficient food producers than cows and they're relatively easy to raise! $\endgroup$ – MintySoftboi May 3 at 15:41

We'd be eating more beef than chicken.

If our morality doesn't change regarding the treatment of animals meant for consumption, many animals won't be too difficult to bring into space for farming. We can hook up tubes to the requisite orifices, inject them with myostatin, and simply let them turn ten energy units of food into one energy unit of meat.

Except chickens. Chickens lack the ability to swallow, at least, not like we do. We mammals use peristaltic-wave contractions to swallow food and water. Chickens, and most other birds, eat foods and drink water by letting it fall down their throats. They would die of thirst or hunger in a zero gravity environment. However, we could simply get everything they need into them via IV. Or just cut the heads off and stick a tube in there to pump directly to the stomach. Yes, you could do this without removing the head, but you're not going to eat it anyway, why supply it with nutrients?


If you possessed this sort of genetic engineering technology, you probably wouldn't bother. You'd just grow the meat in vats instead. It'd be a lot more space- and resource-efficient, and with sufficient development of the technology, it'd likely be indistinguishable from the meat produced by real animals.


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