A pair of scientists have apparently figured out how to grow meat in a lab using stem cells in localized factories. I suppose we could call this the lab-to-table movement. They evidently think that will make a big difference in public acceptance of the idea of cultured meat.
The global demand for meat is steadily increasing. Left unchecked, it’s a trend that will be sure to result in increased environmental pollution, energy consumption, animal suffering, and the proliferation of animal-borne diseases. This is why cultured meat is increasingly being seen as a potential solution despite the “yuck” response that typically accompanies the prospect. Indeed, as illustrated in a Times editorial last year: “‘How absurd is it to imagine all our meat one day being produced by a similar process [tissue culturing]? Not much more absurd than it is to imagine all our meat continuing to be produced as it is now.”
As noted, it’s already possible to make meat from stem cells. The technique was devised by Maastricht University physiologist Mark Post, who assembled a 5-oz beef patty from thousands of tiny meat strips cultured from the stem cells of a single cow. It’s a technological advance that ScienceNow’s Kai Kupferschmidt believes could kickstart “the biggest agricultural revolution since the domestication of livestock.”
But according to biologists Cor van der Weele and Johannes Tramper in a new Science & Society paper, though the potential advantages of cultured meat are clear, there’s no guarantee that people will want to eat it. The mode of production, they argue, makes a difference for appreciation. To that end, they’ve developed an eco-friendly model for producing greener, ethical meat — one that involves small-scale local factories that are not only technologically feasible, but also socially acceptable. As per the title of their paper, they’re hoping to see “every village [with] its own factory.”
So if this became widely available, would you eat it? My answer: Hell yes. I’d at least try it. I’d certainly be curious to see if they can make it as good as regular meat. I have my doubts — the kind of food an animal eats has a dramatic effect on the taste of the meat. But I’d be more than happy to throw a lab-grown brisket in my smoker and see how it turns out.
And you know what chefs will do with it. Instead of mentioning the farm it came from on the menus, they’ll talk about which factory it came from.