Petri dish meat, vegetarianism and conscious consumption

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 "the first scientist to produce and bring to market in vitro meat." 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. 


Elizabeth said...

Never heard about it before but it is giving me goosebumps. First we got served this genetic altered stuff and now this. What is happening?

julochka said...

ok, i'm sorry, but that's just FRIGHTENING! as E said...first gene modified and now makes me more determined than ever to raise my own animals, so i know exactly where the meat is coming from and what how it's been fed and treated.

Michelle said...

too spooky. makes it more and more attractive to be a vegetarian.. or at least a baco-tarian. they won't culture bacon, will they?


Anneli/Bockfilz said...

Yak. This really sounds disgusting. How did we get this far, making such a normal thing like eating and growing food that problematic?

Adrian Tineo said...

Very interesting, thanks for sharing. I find it funny that you find it disgusting just because of its origin. Without actually, seeing, smelling and testing a lab meat sample. What if you couldn't taste the difference? What if the nutritional value was that of meat and you could feed more poor people with less impact for the environment? Wouldn't that be worth, at least, a try? You find disgusting an exercising muscle in a lab… well, I find it much more disgusting a cow's throat being slashed as his eyes are crying (and you know it happens!).

Julia said...

What do you suppose is going to happen to all the animals when the majority are eating syntho-meat, sit out in a pasture and enjoy the good life? Nope. They will be dead and gone, alone with farming, farmland and likely open spaces. I like the idea of studying this to graft burn victims, replace organs, etc but for food? no.

Rani said...


I wanted to send you a quick note because I read what you wrote about water conservation above.

I just finished helping to create an infographic about how much fresh water goes into things we do and consume. The idea is to bring a little extra awareness to what our every day impact is.

Some of the information was pretty surprising! I had no idea just how much water is needed to produce some of the foods I eat...

Anyway, after reading what you wrote, I thought you might like to use the infographic on A Sustainable Life.

It's totally free to use, of course. If you do use it, please link back to the original source so anyone else that would like to use it can too.

The infographic is here in the original post link:


~ Mel

Melanie Palmero, Loch Ness Water Gardens
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