Would you eat lab-manufactured meat?

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In 2008, I posted some thoughts on cloned animals for human consumption. Yes, food. As in “Would you eat meat from a cloned pig?” that was triggered by a news article from CNN, “FDA OKs meat, milk from most cloned animals.”

The debate is renewed today albeit on another dimension. It seems that we’re no longer talking about cloning entire animals. Rather, the controversy is now centered on lab-grown meat. In vitro or cultured meat. As in portions of animals. Using stem cells, meat would be grown in laboratories. No live animals. Just slabs of meat. Superior slabs of meat, in fact, because the cells would be taken from high grade animal meat. No more worries about unsanitary slaughterhouses and cruel slaughter procedures (should make animal rights advocates happy). From the lab, the meat goes straight to the grocery store.

And, from the grocery store, the meat goes directly to home and restaurant kitchens.

No, this isn’t a science fiction movie. It is real and it is happening. We won’t find lab-grown meat in groceries yet, however. Not yet. But in ten years or so, who knows especially since the scientific community seems to be heading successfully toward the direction of commercial production of lab-grown meat.

Imagine that. No animal feeds. No grazing. No animals to compete with humans for land and water. No carbon footprints (should make environmentalists happy). The scientific process is being hailed by its supporters as the solution to world hunger.

The question, of course, is whether YOU would eat lab-manufactured meat.

The answer is at least two-fold. The first part concerns health. The second part is about ethics.

How safe will lab-grown meat be for humans? It is artificial meat, after all, and there are people — me, included — who don’t take kindly to artificial food. But when we consider the artificial feeds, growth boosters and antibiotics given to cows, pigs, chickens and fish to make them grow big faster and fatter, aren’t we, in fact, consuming artificial food too although indirectly?

On the ethical side, the guilt that some people feel over eating animals that have been raised and slaughtered for food (exclude me — I’m a believer in the food chain) might be assuaged if they know they are eating meat from animals that never existed and were thus never slaughtered.

A third perspective, probably premature to discuss but worth thinking about anyway, concerns retail prices. How affordable will lab-grown meat be? If the process is patented, then, the patent owner will be able to dictate the prices, irrespective of the law of supply and demand.

Think of medicines and how patents are owned by pharmaceutical companies. Medicines are expensive not really because of high cost of production but because the patent owners determine the prices at rates that are most profitable to them.

While the true blue scientists do their work for the benefit of mankind, it is a harsh reality that scientific experiments need funding. And funding rarely comes without strings attached.

So, will lab-grown meat solve the problem of escalating global hunger? We really can’t tell at this point, can we?





10 Comments

  • Dinah says:

    oh no, science fiction no more ;-( i guess, the world is headed to somewhere like this in the future and at this time, i dont know what I think. At this point, I still prefer my meat to come from live animals, no guilt there too ;-)

  • Ilyn says:

    Lab grown meat..Think about all the chemical they will use to make that possible,and people will consume that as well.And think about all the illness would bring that to people in the future.
    So Lab grown meat?not so sure about that forget it.I would prefer the long process in growing animals for consumption.Except if most consumer is unaware of the harm of chemical would bring in our body!!!!

    • Connie says:

      I’m all for natural too. But there was an interesting comment on my FB page about hungry people not being choosy.

  • Natz SM says:

    I believe that Genetically Modified Organism (GMO), Genetically Engineered Organism (GME), Genetically Modified Food (GMF) and now Lab Manufactured Meat would ultimately be the answer to world hunger.

    There is an important need to increase food yield and quality for a growing world population and many of these genetically modified/engineered foods are cheaper than organic natural foods.

    I am not against organic free range chicken and eggs and other organic vegetables but like most people, price is a very important factor in making a purchase decision. I would much prefer to be able to choose to buy chicken for 120 pesos per kilo at a supermarket than have to shell out 250 pesos per kilo or even more for one being sold as free range at a specialty heath shop- no matter what the health benefits of the free range chicken would be or the chickens living conditions during mass production. Same hold true to the debate between farmed or wild salmon.

    I believe though that PROPER LABELING should be observed by manufacturers and retailers of these genetically modified or engineered foods so consumers could make informed choices.

  • Natz SM says:

    I would also want to add that as a food enthusiast, I find it amazing to see fruits and vegetables in different sizes and colors and even shapes. Watermelons, oranges and even atis that are seedless, or half kilo mangoes.

    The possibilities are endless!

  • Connie says:

    Hi Natz, I agree that we shouldn’t be too resistant about anything that’s new (but that’s how most people are — scared of change).

    My problem with anything that involves consumer goods is precisely the lack of transparency. As patent laws all over the world go, the owner of the patent is not obliged to give out the formula. An ingredient may be mentioned but if the amount is not specified, it is hard to judge whether it is safe or not.

  • Jameson says:

    Hey I know this is old but if you’re reading this, there are much more important factors than whether the meat is “artificial” (as the article mainly focuses on). The health concern that comes to my mind is the genetic implications of what they’re trying to do. Since plants have already been proven to react to gene-splicing through potentially harmful mutations (here’s an example: http://www.safe-food.org/-issue/dangers.html), imagine how animal cells could react. I mean, they’re talking about growing slabs of cow meat using horse fetal cells… now that is just messed up, and it’s not like the DNA isn’t going to react. It will, and it will cause strange mutations which could affect people in a real way. Another factor to take into account is that plant DNA is usually in a longer sequence (genome) that animal DNA, meaning that there could be less chance of a mutation in plants than animals, and that the mutations are less extreme. No one knows what is going to happen when horse, pig, cow, chicken, fish, etc, DNA is spliced together, because it hasn’t been done to this extent. I tell you this much — I wouldn’t want to be the first one to test it… Wouldn’t surprise me at all if he/she ends up dead. Why can’t we just get better at plant-based fake meat? It’s already getting pretty good (and wayyyy healthier than real meat, or lab meat)

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