Posted 8.15.13 @ 12:20
From cronuts we move to the (hopefully not) next big thing in food: lab grown meat! To be served August 5th in London, it’ll have to pass the taste test at a public tasting. For the last couple years a Dutch scientist, Mark Post, has been working in the lab trying to create the “perfect, cruelty free meat”. Taking cells from the muscle tissues of cows he’s grown fibers that eventually became the delicious meat we enjoy today – all without the pressures and inhumanity of old fashioned animal husbandry. We know that it can be done… but do we know it’ll actually taste any better than some of the other “meat alternatives” most of us have tried in the past?
In Vitro Meat
In vitro meat sounds so sinister, but it’s just lab grown meat. A scientist extracts muscle stem cells, in this case a cow, and grows them in the lab to mature muscle tissue like what we eat off the animal today. It’s being touted as a kinder and more ecofriendly way to grow meat; if huge herds of cattle don’t have to be raised on grasslands, no more cutting down the rainforests, or so they say. Either way, it’s an inventive solution for an extremely pressing problem.
A Proof of Concept
Right now it’s just not a feasible solution; the burger that will be served this month cost almost $350,000 to make – not to mention the 8 months of grow time.
Post hopes that this proof of concept will draw investors that will allow him to continue his research and push down the cost. The more it’s done, the more the process can be refined and the lower the price will become. But what are the ethical issues, and will people actually EAT it?
Are There Ethical Issues?
Let’s face it, no one wants to eat something grown in a lab. But the world is changing and we’re going to have to change along with it – this might be just what the doctor ordered. Many animal rights activists aren’t big fans of the solution, but it would mitigate most of the need to keep large herds of animals in a factory farm situation.
That means no more animal cruelty, better animal welfare conditions for those that are still being slaughtered for meat (there’ll always be a market for “the real thing”) and it could solve some of the problems facing the meat industry today. You wouldn’t have to worry about cattlemen having to slaughter their cattle early in a drought, or having to cut down virgin forests to make way for more grassland. But then again, what’s a solution really offer if you can’t get people to eat it?
Would You Eat It?
It comes down to this: would you eat something grown in a lab? We already have texturized vegetable and soy protein, this isn’t a big leap forward from that. Many have concerns about GMO foods and there’s little doubt that this is the pinnacle of a GMO food.
It probably doesn’t sound like the most interesting thing to eat, but from an animal welfare and human quality of life perspective, it might just be the thing we need. If it’s more affordable and tastes just like the real thing, it might make it. Either way, the world will find out if it’s something they want to eat on the 5th!
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