Well, There’s A Thought

I am a confessed and unabashed meat-eater. However, I do go to great lengths to ensure that the animal products I consume are not from battery farms, and I appreciate that the meat industry takes a heavy toll on the environment. This video puts forth a very interesting proposition as to how to confront these issues going forward, with science, of course.


It may be a little hyperbolic for the sake of comedy, but the gist of the video does provide some interesting (ahem) food for thought.

I’m sorry to break it to you vegans of the world, but it is simply not feasible to expect the entire globe to go vegan and organic. It is not going to happen. It’s time to think outside the box a little bit, and if this technology becomes solid and affordable, by dang I think we’ve got it.

Many meat-eaters, on the other hand, will see this and moan that lab-grown meat could not possibly taste as good as the “real thing”. However, I will counter that the vast majority of meat produced at the moment is, by no stretch of the imagination, high quality meat. Even if we were to take the lab-grown stuff to make all of the burgers, the sausages, the chicken nuggets and the supermarket-grade cuts, that would still be an enormous relief on our environment, and we can still keep the occasional Kobe beef, Chianina or milk and honey fed chicken farm out there.

If this takes off, I’m all for it. What do you think?


  1. Great American Satan says

    I don’t feel like watching the video, but yeah, vat grown meat. I’ve seen a few comedy bits on it including one where a for real scientist was calling it “inexorable wave of future.” I’m hella all about it. One thing veg types never seem to cop to is that vegetable matter is, for many people, far more difficult to digest than food without cell walls. Insisting everyone does veg means telling some people to exacerbate their IBS or straight-up dangerously under-nourish themselves. Feed the people. Use the vat.

    • thoughtsofcrys says

      Actually, no human being on the planet can digest cellulose, i.e. what cell walls are made of. It’s the reason things like lettuce and broccoli have virtually “no calories”, and yet other mammals seem to be able to live off of plant matter alone just fine. We lack the bacteria in a caecum to digest cell walls at all, so it passes right through us as “fiber”. While having fiber in your diet is all well and good to keep you regular, you can’t live off fiber alone, and as you rightly said, people with IBS or Crohn’s disease cannot live a high-fiber vegan lifestyle.
      I mean, what are the main arguments for going vegan? 1- animal cruelty and 2- the environment. This solution would, in principle, solve both. So great, we shouldn’t be at odds then!

  2. says

    It seems likely that lab-grown meat will be very popular in the future, if the cost is low enough and the quality high enough.

    Oh – and I highly recommend an Arthur C. Clarke short story on this topic, “The Food of the Gods”.

  3. Johnny Vector says

    I haven’t watched the video (why is everything video now? If you really want to convince me, give me some text I can look at and, um, digest on my own schedule), but I do recall PZ had a long and well-reasoned post many years ago explaining why Animal 57 is unlikely to become a thing.

    • thoughtsofcrys says

      LOL ok, the video does not mention anything about telepathic blocks of meat that will stare back at you in a tank. Rather, it is the developing of muscles in culture from small biopsies taken from real animals. The technology for growing muscle fibers in a lab does exist right now, and has been done. In theory, the proposal in the video is possible, but of course they do not pretend that the technology is advanced enough that we’re already at the point of sending tanks around the world to grow chicken and beef and whatnot at this point. Rather, they suggest that this is something we should try to develop more thoroughly, as it could be an interesting solution for feeding the growing world population while putting less strain on the environment and avoiding the mass slaughter of animals. At the moment, this technology is being developed primarily from the medical standpoint, but it would be cool to also develop it for human consumption. I don’t know what PZ’s thoughts on it were, so I cannot comment on his reservations at this point, but if they can figure out a good way to do it, I’d be all for it.

    • thoughtsofcrys says

      I’ve given it a read. Yes, I agree that different parts of an animal will be far more difficult to grow than others. A chicken leg, for example, is going to be a hell of a lot more complicated than a mass of chicken muscle. But, as people have mentioned in the comments and as I mentioned in the post, even if, for now, we were to confine lab-grown meat (which does not have excellent texture or taste) to replacing animal-derived meat in all of our processed meat products, like sausages and chicken nuggets, which are so processed anyway that texture is not an issue, that’s already cutting a big chunk out of the problem of battery farming. Maybe we will be able to work our way up to a convincingly tasty steak, and maybe we wont, but I still think the possibility is fascinating enough to be interested to see how it might develop. Also, I don’t think that it will ever replace the meat industry completely, but reducing it significantly would still be a win in my book!

  4. says

    Count me in on trying that.
    Though it would still not solve the issue of animals as byproduct of things like milk.
    That’s why I find vegetarians to be hypocrites. “Oh no, no animal dies for my diet (rich on cheese and egg) but your beefsteak and chicken are barbaric”.

  5. anat says

    Are these products grown without the use of any reagents from animal sources? Because common cell culture techniques use plenty of animal-sourced reagents, which would make the whole thing futile.

    • thoughtsofcrys says

      It’s true that common, i.e. the oldest and cheapest cell culture menthods use serum from animals, but it is certainly not necessary for cell culture anymore. There are many media and supplements which do not contain serum. The video didn’t specify how they are planning to develop the cell culture, but I certainly get your point!

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