Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Brave New Food

It seems obvious to me that in-vitro meat is a more-ethical way to build a burger.  Lots of people are working on making a commercially-viable system for in-vitro meat.  I have a really really hard time believing that the huge amount of resources needed to maintain tissue culture could ever compare favorably with cows cycling the energy from grass into meat that other animals can eat.  As it turns out, in-vitro muscle tissue needs to be "exercised" to avoid atrophy.  This presents a huge problem for those wishing to culture the tissue.  Instead of letting a cow's native metabolism exercise the muscle, we have to provide that energy.

I'm also perplexed by common attitudes toward cultured meat or protein products.  In fact, I would suggest you try Quorn, a mycoprotein chicken substitute, before it loses its commercial viability.  A few years ago, on  short-lived sitcom Better off Ted, the company that all the characters work for developed an in-vitro steak, which turned out not to be delicious and beefy, but to taste of "despair."  It was implied that such an artificial process for creating a steak would have to be depressing.  I would agree that it's "soulless," but here that's only a good thing.  There aren't any potential animal souls harmed in the making of this dinner.

But if the energy demands of the process can be surmounted, I'd really love to see something like this at my supermarket.  Also, I'm sure investigating the ins and outs of growing actual tissues in vitro will advance the technology for creating replacement organs or tissues for humans who need them.

And because I was apparently the only person who really dug Better off Ted, I'm going include a few of the awesome advertisements for the fictional corporation Veridian Dynamics.  



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