Scientists are growing meat in labs. They are taking stem cells from a cow and then growing the muscle cells. It’s still in very early stages. But it seems like a likely solution for some of our basic problems of providing food for our future without killing our planet and ourselves.
It also seems vaguely horrific so far. Certainly if you watch this brief video it doesn’t seem appetizing. But that is to be expected. It’s early in the development, the only thing they have is tiny strings of white “meat”. It’s white because there is no blood feeding it. It probably tasteless because there is no fat cell accompanying it. It’s early. But it is a demonstration of possibility.
The implications of this are far reaching. Literally. Imagine taking such a kit to Mars to feed the inhabitants there. The fact is that if you can clone meat, you can also clone the wheat and vegetables. And voila – we have solved food in outer space.
Cloning meat will eliminate a huge amount of greenhouse gases produced by raising animals for food. This is good. It will eliminate the horrific way we treat animals in giant factory farms and slaughter houses. Fewer and fewer family farms exist anymore and with their loss came the terrible cruel treatment of animals in the name of efficiency.
But Lab Meat is also very sad to me. The food we eat is more than the cell. It’s the particular combination of cells that make it taste good. A strawberry grown in hydroponics tastes different than a strawberry grown in the ground in your garden. It’s because the plant, and therefore the fruit, is absorbing a different set of nutrients. There is also a different set of stresses on the plant, which I would guess would make the plant change slightly. Even after they perfect their meat cells and combine it with the appropriate other cells of fat and blood, the lab grown food will almost certainly lack that earthy good flavor of food grown normally. We will be missing something important to the enjoyment of our lives.
Also, because humans are humans, people with money will be able to buy “real” food and people without enough money will be stuck with Lab Meat. It is always the the way.
I don’t suppose that is anywhere near the immediate future though. I expect to be dead before Lab Meat is perfected and so broadly available. And for once I’m grateful that I won’t be around to see the future.