Thursday, April 12, 2012

Is Lab Meat Local?

This is a little bit different than what I normally write about, but I thought I'd stretch out.  

I found this article a while ago and it got me thinking.

In Vitro Meat: Will 'Frankenfood' Save The Planet Or Just Gross Out Consumers?

There are lots of reasons not to eat meat. Some people object to the inhumane treatment of the animals. Some people want to avoid the higher cancer rates associated with red meat intake. Some people don't want to support the environmentally taxing production methods.

But what if all that was taken away? What if no animals were killed, the meat was actually filled with beneficial nutrients, and the environmental impact was basically eliminated? Sounds too good to be true? Well, not if you are willing to buy your meat from a meat lab. 

How many vegetarians would open up to a nice lab-burger? 

In some ways this reminds me of things like veggie-sausage and soy nuggets. All those vegetarian products designed to look and taste like meat products. They never really do taste like the real thing, but people still eat them because they contain almost none of the negative associations that so many people object to. This could be a whole new category of food. Cruelty-free meat. Almost like cubic zirconium--the cruelty free diamond. You could choose from veggie-dogs, lab-dogs, and hot dogs. Restaurants could have a "No Kill" option on their menu, similar to the vegetarian options sometimes given. Or they might call it something more positive like "Heart Healthy Meats"--the marketing departments will find a good name for it. Or it will just slip in as a supporting ingredient and we'll never even realize it. 

Think of all the beer you've drank lately. All the brewer's yeast required for that beer was grown in a lab. And the hops were probably designed in a lab too. Same with yeast and flour that was used to make the bread for the sandwich you might be eating for lunch today. Laboratory created.

What if you had a bowl of lentil soup and the chicken stock used as the broth for the soup was made from laboratory chicken meat? Could you tell the difference? Probably not. Would you care? Would you prefer it?

Either way, it doesn't surprise me that this is coming along. I have no doubt it will make it onto the shelves in the US (with no labels required) sooner or later. We already eat so many things that are dependent on laboratory creations.

Would laboratory meat be the antithesis of local food? What if it was meat cultivated in a local lab from indigenous species? It would certainly be a betrayal of the aesthetics of the local food movement, but possibly it could meet the principals of the local food movement better than most small farms today growing imported breeds of cows.

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