Who won the New York Times’ “ethical meat” essay contest? »
You guys, check it out: The in-vitro-meat vegetarian won the essay contest in the New York Times! I voted for this essay, because of ethics and also aesthetics—it’s totally weird to think about eating meat that isn’t dead.
The last paragraph is particularly powerful; allow me to quote:
In vitro meat is real meat, grown from real cow, chicken, pig and fish cells, all grown in culture without the mess and misery, without pigs frozen to the sides of metal transport trucks in winter and without intensive water use, massive manure lagoons that leach into streams or antibiotics that are sprayed onto and ingested by live animals and which can no longer fight ever-stronger, drug-resistant bacteria. It comes without E. coli, campylobacter, salmonella or other health problems that are unavoidable when meat comes from animals who defecate. It comes without the need for excuses. It is ethical meat. Aside from accidental roadkill or the fish washed up dead on the shore, it is perhaps the only ethical meat.
So once the test tube meat comes, will you eat it? I am … undecided. It’s just so strange, I can’t wrap my head around it!
Good news: test tube meat burgers will be available this fall! For a zillion dollars! »
Picture from Maastricht University of test tube meat!
This weekend, Prof Mark Post of Maastricht University in the Netherlands spoke at the American Academy for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Vancouver and broke the super news that a test tube hamburger is on the immediate horizon! Last year, Post was able to grow small strips of muscle tissue from a pig’s stem cells. He told the AAAS yesterday that he has successfully replicated the process using a cow’s stem cells. In light of this, Post thinks he can create the first lab-meat hamburger ready for consumption this fall!: “In October we are going to provide a proof of concept showing out of stem cells we can make a product that looks, feels and hopefully tastes like meat,” Post said.
Of course, the process is so arduous that each burger will cost 250,000 euros (about $329,950.00), but researchers think soon they will be able to produce the stuff on a larger, cheaper scale.
I think most of us at Vegansaurus are pro-lab meat, if it means less suffering for animals. But according to the Telegraph:
Although it is possible to extract a limited number of stem cells from cows without killing them, Prof Post said the most efficient way of taking the process forward would still involve slaughter.
He said: “Eventually my vision is that you have a limited herd of donor animals in the world that you keep in stock and that you get your cells form there.”
So, that rains on my parade a bit. But I mean, who thought they were going to be able to make hamburgers from stem cells?! Fairly soon, scientist could be like, “dudes, we totes don’t need any cows at all.” Who can say?!
You may remember that last year, PETA said they’d pay a million dollars to the first scientist “to produce and bring to market in vitro meat.” BUT! PETA’s offer is actually for chicken, so Post’s burger doesn’t cut it. Plus, you have to sell a lot of it commercially before you can win anyway and at $329,950.00 a burger, Post has a ways to go. But maybe he doesn’t need PETA’s money because apparently he has some mysterious, extremely rich donor. The donor wishes to remain anonymous to the public but Post says he’s a household name known for “turning everything into gold.” When the first hamburger is ready, Post wants British celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal to cook it and this mysterious guy gets to try it with whomever* he invites to join him.
This mysterious benefactor is my favorite part of the whole story because you know he’s one of those gagillionaires that hunts humans on his own private island. But, alas, even cannibalism has lost its novelty and so onto the lab meat!
*I don’t know if that should be whoever or whomever but I tried my best!
In The Future We Will Eat Cylon Burgers »
In vitro meat made Time Magazine’s 50 Best Inventions of 2009, coming in at #36. Which is pretty respectable, though it still means there are 35 other inventors who might cockblock you at a party if they hear you bragging about having the 36th best invention. “Meat farms? Please. I made the Electric Eye. Ladies, line up.”
Like Barack Obama, in vitro meat is one of those rare things that hopes to bring two squabbling sides together to a bimeatisan state of mutual harmony. PETA loves it because it would replace the killing of animals. Meat eaters love it because, well, it’s meat. It’s win-win, chocolate and peanut butter.
Yet there’s something about the idea of growing animal tissue in labs that creeps people the fuck out. Whether it’s because we’re worried about unnatural and potentially unsafe food flooding the market, or because we secretly fear a lab-grown flesh uprising, I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone genuinely enthusiastic about replacing their Tofurkey sausages with a dystopian nightmare.
In the end, the choice will probably be made for us by, what else, economics. As in, poor people get infinitely reproducible lab grown meat in their McAtkins burgers, and rich people get the expensive family farm humanely raised UNTIL WE BLUDGEON IT TO DEATH organic grass fed meat. Since there are more poor people than rich people, on balance this works out for the animals. Classism wins again!
Still, don’t expect the “think of the children” crowd to go down without a fight, not without attack ads raising vague doubts about safety paid for by the cattle ranchers. The thing is, it will be safe, certainly safer than crowded disease-ridden feedlots are today.
Sustainability strikes me as the real thing to watch, because this whole idea will sink or swim on how resource intensive the process is. Will culturing meat use less water and less feedstock than raising animals in factory farms? And will it do it all while decreasing greenhouse emissions? We don’t really know yet because they’re still in the phase of tinkering around in labs, but in theory the answer should be yes. And I really want the scientists behind this to get it right, because if we’re tearing down forests to grow plant protein to feed our lab meat, then the animals aren’t really that much better off. So GET IT RIGHT, scientists!
Which is all just another of saying that I think in vitro meat is awesome and I hope it happens. But is it vegan? Would I eat it? I still haven’t made up my mind. It may be lab grown meat, but it’s still meat. So, I think I come down on the side of “yuck”.