There was an interesting article in the New Scientist recently about petri dish meat, vegetarianism and conscious consumption. Yes, petri dish meat. Or invitro meat, or lab meat, or synthetic meat, or cultured meat - all terms for meat grown in a lab. The idea is that through tissue engineering, scientists can produce meat at a grand scale that would meet the meat demands of the world in a more environmentally and humane way. Starting with muscle stem cells, scientists are able to grow muscle cells and then muscle tissue of various animals. One lab even exercises the tissue by stretching it so that it is more like muscle from a living animal. In addition, they can grow meat from a variety of different animals, not just cows and pigs, since all they need are muscle stem cells to begin with and these can be taken without killing the animal.
It is more environmentally friendly and when compared to 'conventional meat', as it uses less energy, lower CO2 emissions, lower water use and perhaps obviously much lower land. Indeed, it is estimated that cultured beef uses 99% less land than beef farming. It also has the potential to be more humane. So much so that PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is running a contest offering $1 million dollars to " Their logic is simply that synthetic meat would relive those animals currently kept and slaughtered for food.
So, what do you think? I will admit I am totally, well, grossed out by the idea of lab meat. The image of these tissue strips getting exercised by stretching just to mimic muscle tissue has been with me for days. I am not a vegetarian but my husband is and I am essentially a vegetarian cook. But every once and a while, I like to eat meat. Like last night, my son and I had spaghetti and meatballs, which I made from Danish organic ground beef, of course. I can manage ground beef because there aren't bones, nerves, skin and all those things that remind me that it comes from an animal. So if I am squeamish about the actual meat when it reminds me that it does come from an animal, then I should be happy about lab meat, right? Why can't I celebrate this new way of producing meat? I mean are hot dogs or chicken nuggets much different? They are made with industrially recovered meat and full of chemicals to preserve, colour, and flavour. (Although, I don't actually eat these either).
As a practitioner of conscious consumption, this in-vitro meat has me re-examining and thinking deeply about what I eat. I'd like to know your thoughts.