Meat by any other name would be as troubling

Seth Victor

Humans have been flirting with the idea of lab-grown, or in vitro meat for a while. We’ve commented about it previously here. PETA has a standing offer of a $1 million monetary incentive for the first successful synthetic meat that can find its way to supermarket shelves. Yesterday, FT Magazine ran a feature by William Little about a lab in the Netherlands that is poised to take the big step between the laboratory and the cash register, though that step is still years away.

As usual, many of the problems surrounding this concept have been revealed through humor. Thank you, Mr. Colbert. But it isn’t the public’s perception that I worried about as I read Mr. Little’s article. It’s the viability of this process. I’ve read articles touting the benefits of lab meat, including reduced pollution and less consumption of natural resources, if the process is profitable. I’m not arguing that replacing the CAFO system we currently employ for our meals isn’t admirable. I just question whether this is the way to do it, and if we aren’t just creating a new monster.

Mr. Little notes in the article that the first hamburger will cost €250,000 to create, with a year spent constructing it. The actual process, as lampooned in the Colbert skit, is highly involved and demanding. This doesn’t exactly scream viability. It also begs the question of whether this isn’t a little hypocritical; at once we are asking people to not eat CAFO meat because the process, aside from being harsh on animals, has been taken over by pharmaceuticals in order to mass produce livestock, while at the same time we encouraging a very expensive, highly cultured process to replace the meat we eat.

Perhaps the true solution will never be a meat alternative, however much it might alleviate CAFO consumption. As philosopher Dr. Sparrow states in the feature, “This idea is a fantasy promoted by scientists who neglect the social and emotional meaning of food. . . We need to look at restoring local diversity in food production and adapting more ecologically well-founded methods of farming.” Or to put it another way, teach a man to farm, and he’ll eat for a year; give a man a laboratory hamburger, and he’ll sink another couple thousand dollars into the next one.

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2 Responses

  1. I support lab grown meat without any reservation. There will always be people eating animals. Now, they can eat lab grown meat and spare countless animals suffering, earth degradation.

  2. I am happy I do not eat meat!

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