/ Food & Drink

Would you eat lab-grown meat?

Piece of meat in petri dish

If you were presented with a piece of meat that was ‘grown’ in a lab, would you eat it? It might sound unappealing, but after considering the effects it could have on the environment you might just change your mind…

I like to eat meat, but I’m pretty conservative about my tastes. There are some things I just won’t eat, like rabbit.

I will happily acknowledge the hypocrisy of this position. After all, if I’m happy to eat Shaun the Sheep, why do I baulk at Bambi or Peter Rabbit? I guess it’s just what I’m used to.

After all, in some parts of the world it’s perfectly normal to eat parts of animals we tend to throw away. Eyeballs, testicles, brains. Just the thought makes me shudder. But not enough to turn me off meat completely.

I also try to buy high welfare meat, dairy and eggs, from supermarkets I believe have more sustainable standards for livestock. I’ve had many discussions about this with friends who don’t eat meat, and I’m happy with where I stand on the meat issue.

Well I thought I was. Then I read about lab-grown meat. And to be honest, my first thought was “Ewwwww”!

Why is ‘lab-grown’ meat being developed?

In vitro meat – also known as cultured or fake meat – takes real meat cells and grows them in lab dishes. As the Guardian recently reported, the process is in its infancy, but it’s a concept that may well become reality.

Recent research from Oxford and Amsterdam Universities shows that lab-grown meat is more efficient and environmentally friendly than standard practices of raising and slaughtering animals.

This backs up evidence from the Royal Society in 2010, which said artificial meat could be necessary to feed an ever-growing demand without destroying the environment. Since 1961, demand for meat has grown massively, with countries like China showing the biggest growth, and large quantities of agricultural land goes on growing feed for livestock.

Is this the future of food?

So if the current situation is not sustainable in the long-term, what options do we have? Other than all becoming vegetarians, which could be healthier (but that’s another discussion).

We’re not going to be seeing any of the stuff on supermarket shelves tomorrow. At the moment the technology is still new. But it’s coming. And not everyone is repulsed by the idea.

Would you eat artificial meat? After all, it’s just protein, and if it tastes the same, why not? And if you’re vegetarian, would this mean there’s no longer an ethical problem of eating meat?

Comments
Member

“Recent research from Oxford and Amsterdam Universities shows that lab-grown meat is more efficient and environmentally friendly than standard practices of raising and slaughtering animals.” – amazing, next week the unis will be teaching grandma how to suck eggs! 🙂

In all seriousness though, I would need to take a taste test. I am not against the principle, seeing as how much I love sausages and the “mystery meat” that it may contain!

Member

Have just done a little more research into this and found that Japanese scientists have taken this a step further – they have managed to manufacture meat out of recycled human feces!

This to me is perhaps the ultimate in gross and yet strangely, it is also the ultimate act of recycling. Banish those arguments that most people don’t know where their food comes from – they’ll be able to poop it out in the evening and presumably have a tasty snack in the morning. It’s also low in calories. What do you make of it??

Member

That could be taking things a little too far!

Member

😀

Brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “eat sh&*

Member

Lab-produce meat is preferable to farming animals, killing them and hacking bits to eat.

If artificially produced meat was normal, people would be horrified at the thought of what we do now. (Vegetarians already are.) As Jo says, our views are guided by our experience.

Member

Thanks for your reply wavechange. It’s definitely going to be controversial if – or rather when – it becomes a reality. There will be a lot of barriers to get over, not least people’s preferences.

But it has the potential to deal with a lot of the ethical issues that surround the production of meat. And after all, you could say protein is protein, is it not?

Member

Much as this idea doesn’t appeal to me, I think it’s worth considering. Some of the meat we already eat very readily doesn’t have any nicer origins than lab-grown meat. Mechanically recovered meat has to be one of the least appetising things I can think of, and yet many of us happily tuck in to it on a daily basis – I don’t really see this as much different. Both are artificial and bear very little resemblance to meat in its original form.

I’d rather eat less, good quality, meat from real animals and avoid anything fake or processed, but I can see the argument for lab meat to replace the masses of processed meat that is putting such a strain on our environment.

Member

Thanks Hannah. People deserve to know what is in the food they are eating, preferable when they are still at school.

Member

Another product that started out life in the lab is Quorn.

Quorn is popular and generally well accepted, probably better so than meat because most vegetarians are happy to eat it.

What the people marketing Quorn never told the public is that Quorn is mostly made from a mould, Fusarium venenatum. When it was launched in the UK (in the 90s) Quorn was described as a tiny plant, distantly related to the mushroom. The description has been changed numerous times but the fact that Quorn is mould is not advertised for obvious reasons.

Blue cheeses contain moulds too, but that is more common knowledge. These cheeses were around before deceiving the public became big business.

Member

Most people will have already experienced ‘manmade’ meat substitues (Tofu, Quorn etc) and I suspect that most found them just about acceptable. So if ‘lab grown meat’ is offered at the right price I believe many would at least try just to be able to compare and judge for themselves.

Member
Suz says:
17 July 2011

I would certainly be up for this when it comes. I think health implications could be enormous as the rise in obesity is a serious issue at the moment across the uk. I think as long as people have all the information available to them to allow them to make a more informed decision then anything is possible. In parts of japan I think they have vegetable flats where people grow their food indoors as it is cheaper to do so and also because there is a lack of land. Times change and so do trends and the more advanced we get as a civilisation I think more and more we will be getting new ways of living.

Member

Quick update – just been reading that the first lab-grown sausage could be only six months away. More here: http://ht.ly/6lsUi

So it could be sooner than we think – who’s up for it?

Member

Not me. I avoid sausages, mince and burgers because there is too much scope to put all sorts of junk in them.