Fascinating article in Live Science today about the future possibility of “growing” meat from stem cells. Theoretically, any sort of meat could be cultivated in a laboratory, in the same way that heart and nerve tissue are being bioengineered in labs right now.
The article points to a number of positive outcomes from growing our meat, including avoidance of contamination (no Mad Cow or e-coli), less reliance on unsustainable livestock agriculture, and less green house gas emissions from flatulent cows (did you know that two cows fart out enough methane gas to power an average-sized house?).
On the other hand — this is all rather creepy. The article mentions the sci-fi novel “Transmetropolitan” and its reference to genetically engineered exotic meats for sale at supermarkets, like dolphin, manatee, whale, baby seal, monkey and reindeer, while the ‘Long Pig’ franchise sells “cloned human meat at prices you like.”
We aren’t anywhere near that point, though if the technology continues improving there’s no reason why we won’t eventually get there. So far bioengineers have grown only small nuggets of skeletal muscle, about half the size of a thumbnail. Quoting from the article: “Such tidbits could be used in sauces or pizzas, Post and colleagues explained recently in the online edition of the journal Trends in Food Science & Technology, but creating a steak would demand larger-scale production.”
Imagine the marketing that will accompany bioengineered meat: “All-natural hand-grown beef — Good for you and good for the environment!” “No chickens were slaughtered to produce these mouth-watering wings!” The possibilities are endless.
Strikes me as an ideal topic for a poll.