Monday, July 11, 2005

Test tube hotdogs

One of the standard props of science fiction is the vat-grown meat product, usually necessitated by the near-extinction of most livestock making real meat tremendously expensive. Or perhaps the story is set on a spacecraft with a long mission. Whatever the case may be, in "The Future" meat could be made artificially.

Now someone is planning to do just that. New Harvest is a nonprofit research organization that intends to develop cultured meat within a few years. The method is relatively simple: grow muscle cell cultures on nutrient-rich scaffolding. No animals required. At first, the products would only be useful for processed meats like chicken nuggets, hot dogs, or sausages. Eventually, it should be possible to achieve more realistic "natural" effects, making steaks and roasts, but that is probably a decade or more away.

As a vegetarian who can certainly remember how good meat tastes, I would love to get my hands on some of this stuff. Humans are evolved to enjoy meat (though far less of it that most omnivores consume nowadays) and if there were no cruelty involved, I'd gladly have some. I enjoy all of the meat substitutes, but it's not quite the same. And for the anti-GMO crowd, nothing about this plan requires genetic modification at all. The meat is all-natural, just grown in an unnatural place.


  1. Yeah, I'd buy it too. But I've spoken to people (meat-eaters) who say they wouldn't. It ain't "natural." (You know, "natural", like microwave ovens, viagra, and transcontinental flight...)

  2. This is very interesting.

    I'd definitely consider it, but I'd be very leery at first...not because I want real animals to continue suffering, but because we tend to find so many ways to screw up things we do on this planet that I'd be concerned that there might be some minor mutation of a subtle protein...the same kind of thing that causes Mad Cow Disease...that this "fabricated" meat might not be 100% safe, either.

    If I could be convinced that it was perfectly safe and without any tampering, I think I'd buy it, too.

    I wonder what kind of impact it would have on the food chain: what would happen to cows if we didn't raise them for meat? If this became the norm, would we exterminate unneeded cattle, or would "real meat" become something solely for the rich?