Animals are adorable...but meat is tasty. So what is the solution? Well, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have decided that, indeed, they would be quite happy eating meat....just so long as it isn't grown on an animal.
PETA is offering a USD$1 M prize to the first research group who can create a way to grow commercially viable meat in the laboratory. Now, I'm all for this, but almost every single environmentalist I know finds it very creepy. To me, growing meat on an animal seems like an inherently inefficient process. I mean, you've got to pump tons of food into this living thing so it can create bones and brains and move around and have sex and think little thoughts and create, as almost a side effect, a small amount of food. In the end, you only get back a tiny fraction of the energy you put in.
Granted....it's a very tasty fraction.
Growing meat in the lab isn't a pipe dream. In fact, people are doing it right now. Already, skin grafts can be grown to assist burn victims. And, basically, we're just talking about frying that tissue instead of using it to help sick people. Also, theoretically, we wouldn't be using human tissue as a seed stock...though that opens up some interesting philosophical doors.
PETA's announcement comes on the heels of the completion of the first-ever in vitro meat symposium in Norway where scientists began to organize their efforts. One of the key challenges they faced, they said, was lack of funding (surprise!) Though PETA's $1M prize probably won't add all that much incentive...it is good press...and a good endorsement.
Many of the enviros I've talked to are somewhat repulsed by the idea, a sentiment I absolutely don't understand. But the real problem is technical feasibility. Creating a sheet of pure protein is one thing. But lacing it with the blood vessels, fat pockets, and complex proportions is another story all together. Chances are, the first in vitro meats are not going to be very tasty at all.
Theoretically, the meat could be grown from a single sample from an animal, allowing the possibility for new kinds of meats that could otherwise never be consumed. I don't know why this sounds so appealing to me...but if the pig can create so many fantastic flavors...what are we missing out on by not eating penguins and polar bears?
And, unless they're very cheap, probably won't be a simple thing to market either. In any case, fake meat is likely going to be a part of our future, and with farm animals contributing to the twin global challenges of massive habitat destruction and global warming, it can't come too soon.
written by Jessica, April 24, 2008
written by Phil Plasma, April 25, 2008
written by Aaerion, May 22, 2008
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