In vitro meat

In vitro meat, also known as cultured meat, is a type of flesh that is of animal origin, but has not come from a complete animal.

My understanding of its production is collagen is seeded with muscle cells of an animal, which are then soaked in a special solution in a controlled environment to encourage growth. It’s basically meat made in a test tube; with an animal “starter” culture.

As an omnivore I have mixed feelings about the concept of in vitro meat. There’s the initial “ick” and “what is the world coming to” type reaction, but I can see the method to the apparent madness.

a) It could theoretically reduce or even practically abolish the slaughter and mistreatment of animals.

b) The meat industry has a massive impact on the environment in so many aspects. For example, vast regions of the Amazon are cleared for the cultivation of soy beans to be used as animal feed. Then there’s also the methane production from livestock. Methane is another type of greenhouse gas that has a GWP (Global Warming Potential) of 62 – meaning 62 times the heat trapping capacity of CO2.

On the other hand, there’s issues similar to the ones in relation to GMO crops – the long term effects of consumption, ethical and economic issues; but unlike GMO crops the potential impact om biodiversity wouldn’t be as great.

Don’t expect in vitro meat to be on the supermarket shelves any time soon. While scientists have been experimenting growing in vitro meat in laboratories for a few years now, but they aren’t anywhere close to a commercially viable product as yet.

If you’re interested in learning more about in vitro meat, Wikipedia has a good article and the full text of the patent can be found here

I always find it a difficult predicament – I do love animals, alive and unfortunately cooked as well. I’m not squeamish of slaughtering my own meat or eating more unusual meat products, but by the same token I hate to see animals suffer for my meal. Over the last couple of years I’ve also increasingly come to realize the impact my diet is having on the environment.

I’ve watched many of the PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) videos which can be rather gory and confrontational, but it hasn’t stopped me from eating meat. I have cut back; which I guess is a start. Having family members who lean towards vegetarianism or are vegans, I’ve come across a few meat substitutes which actually taste quite good; so I am starting to run out of excuses.

As for in vitro meat, I think I’d give it a try if I was still omnivorous by the time it became commercially available, maybe as another stepping stone towards a more vegetarian focused diet. But then again, it’s so incredibly far away from a “natural” diet. I guess alternatives like these while seeming to be attractive in some ways are simply a deterrent from the simple fact we need to consume less of everything and live more in harmony with nature.

What about you – would you give it a whirl?