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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Meat can not be murder? Meet 'Artificial Meat'

No, I am not talking about fake meat, mock meat or anything that want to taste like meat but it is made of x-y-z, all of these being vegetables... I am talking about REAL meat. Just not coming from an animal.

A few months ago I first read about a new experiment related to creating muscle tissue from one single cell: for my understanding it is a pretty standard procedure, which has already been used for years in a variety of medical applications (for example to produce new skin to transplant to patients with severe burns). However, the difference this time was that the purpose is to produce artificially grown muscle meat (here with a video as well)for human consuption... in the form of some sort of steaks!

As much as it first sounded as a joke, it is not at all: scientists are thinking of creating artificial (but on every biological aspect real) meat on a large scale for us to eat it!!!
I thought this idea to be pretty crazy but doing a little more research about this topic, I discovered that they are for real: the development of artificial meat has progressed a lot more than I thought and they are making it sound a less far fetched idea that what I had thought at the beginning.

The first big breakthough for articial meat happened a year ago, when the news that massive production was proven to be possible: "Scientists at the University of Maryland think that large quantities of artificial meat could be produced to supply the world with animal-free meat products, like chickenless nuggets. This is based on experiments for NASA, that created small amounts of muscle fibre cultured from single cells. According to the researchers, larger quantities could be grown in thin sheets and then stacked up to create thickness".

The reasons behind artificial meat are many, the most obvious of a commercial nature, even if developers are keeping in mind that "cultured meat could appeal to people concerned about food safety, the environment, and animal welfare, and people who want to tailor food to their individual tastes".
This experiment is not a one time and soon-to-be-forgotten event either: a non profit foundation to help develop artificial meat was founded, it is called New Harvest (it does sound very much like something that came out of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, does it not??) and on their website they declare that "one novel line of research is to produce meat in vitro, in a cell culture, rather than from an animal. The production of such "cultured meat" begins by taking a number of cells from a farm animal and proliferating them in a nutrient—rich medium. Cells are capable of multiplying so many times in culture that, in theory, a single cell could be used to produce enough meat to feed the global population for a year".

Now, the idea is definitely a bit shocking... and I am not totally sure what I think about it. However, for lay reporters it is VERY clear that the preferred (and in their eyes extremely thankful) target of this new product is us, the vegetarians and vegans.
Almost no article, aside for scientific papers which stick to the principle of science neutrality, mention artificial meat without talking about animal lovers, environmental activists, militant vegetarians! Let me just list here some of the newspaper articles that appeared on the subjedct to give you an idea: "It's time to stop killing meat and start growing it " (Washington Post and Slate), "Will consumers have a beef with test-tube meat?"(Globe And Mail), "Brave New Hamburger "(Village Voice), "When meat is not murder " (Guardian), "Why meat may not be murder " (The Independent).

The problem is... are we really a target for this possibly future product? I immediately asked myself what I was thinking about the issue, me being a vegan. And I am still pretty unsure whether this is ethical or not: I just know I am so turned off by meat that I would not eat it, even if coming from non animal sources (right now the starting for the cell culture is coming by animals but there are plans to totally ditch using animals all together, since this was the scientist's original purpuse)... On the other hand, if mass production was indeed possible, it could mean a huge relief from the terrible impact factory farming is having on the environment.

At last, what do you think? Would you abandon your veg*n habits if meat was made a healthy and completely cruelty free viable option? What is your position on this experiment? A marginal break thought that will never develop or the hope for humanity?

Submitted by G. Luisi


Blogger Danielle said...

The idea of the tube-cultured meat is utterly creepy to me, and I would not eat it. But if it meant that fewer animals suffered and died, I would endorse it to those people who feel they cannot give up meat.

3:50 am  
Blogger Melody said...

I think I read about this in Vegetarian Times...

The whole idea grosses me out.. I wouldn't eat it.. but I'd be for it over the torture and slaughter of animals of today.. but again, I wouldn't eat it. I've been a Vegetarian my entire life... and on/off vegan for years now.. there is nothing appetizing about a steak...

8:31 pm  
Blogger t. said...

I would not come close by either, but actually what I find interesting is that my motivation would be based on a deep seeded habit more than moral concerns, which would by then vanish, right?
I would, like Melody, say that I have been vegetarian for too long, too much accustomed to go meat free to eat meat again. But isn't this what meat eaters say about going vegetarian? "I am used to eat meat/cannot go without meat/I have been eating meat all my life"... to emulate the mindsets and reasoning of a meat eater on this subject scares me.

9:45 pm  
Blogger Urban Vegan said...

When I first heard about this I was icked out. If this artificial meat can save the lives of animals, i'm all for it. My gut instinct says something so artificial can only be unhealthy, though.

I don't think I'll ever change my eating habits. Besides being an ethical vegan, I just never liked the taste or look of meat.

4:00 am  
Blogger Dori said...

I do enjoy making seitan roasts, but I think this would attempt for massive artificial meat production is not good. I agree with urban vegan about unhealthy.

Who would these be marketed to.... meat eaters? "sad" vegetarians who simply want meat but not death? ...?

5:14 am  
Blogger OkraMary said...

Actually, last month there was a huge spread in VegNews about what they dubbed "iMeat."

I think it's completely wonderful if it works and people warm up to the idea. I mean, I personally won't eat it because at this point I don't find meat appetizing + my plant-based diet is fun/delicious/and much more healthy than any meat, but if it means no more useless slaughter of animals for consumption, I'm all for it!

There are going to be people that refuse to quit their meat-eating habits and I think it's important that we all support this idea so that maybe, just maybe, we can stop factory farming and mass slaughter.

I also read in the "iMeat" article that scientists are going to be able to recreate the actual "cuts" of meat - like prime rib and other stuff as well as cut down on the fat and cholesterol content in the meat. Weird, right?

2:09 pm  
Blogger Jackie said...

Also saw it a while back and hoped it would actually become a reality.

If it happens although it will probably make me heave we will have to promote to all our meat eating friends and pretend we like it.

The only way it will become popular is if it becomes cheaper than meat so ladies and gents we will have to promote it and buy it even if we give it to our pets to eat or the local animal shelter.

By the way would love to join but I don't quite fit in. My recipes belong to others and I haven't got a cruelty free promotion blog yet...coming up shortly but not there yet. Just a health and nutrition vegan site.

9:04 pm  
Blogger KleoPatra said...

Too weird, could never "go there."

5:37 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! I never would have thought. This is very interesting. I wouldn't be interested in eating this. However, I understand that the majority of the population will never become vegans. So if this helps save animal lives, then I'm all for it. So much of the food most people eat is processed anyway. If people are eating Oreos and McDonalds, I don't see this as too much of a difference.

With the amount of money that the meat, dairy, and egg industries spend to keep people eating their products, I think they will go to GREAT lengths to stop this from developing into something truly viable as they don't want to see their profits marginalized.

6:31 am  
Blogger Gaby de Wilde said...

I'm eating meat right now! *grin*

But if you look at the sadist methods of the meat-industry it's safe to say people don't care where their meat comes from.

Some peeps will say artificial meat is creepy but I would like to hear them say that after killing animals for a day or so.

It can be of much better in quality as the real thing ever could, a healthy diet can prevent a lot of diseases, a bad one creates them.

It's hard to convince someone to become a vegetarian but it should be quite easy to lure us with a big cheap steak.

I'm looking for companies producing this stuff. Sounds worthy of some attention/promotion.

Anyway, thanks for the writeup. :-)

1:51 am  

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Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened. Anatole France