In-Vitro Meat: Friend or Foe?


Meat production is hard on the environment and slaughterhouses are hard on our sensibilities. Imagine if we could grow meat in a laboratory, outside an animal, and fashion it into a nicely shaped cow ready for carving -- all with less energy and no suffering. We're almost there. Lee Billings wrote an article on in-vitro meat published today at and I voice my response to the idea of laboratory-made meat here.

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The link to your response to in vitro meat takes me to a 404 Error page.

The first article seems to gloss over the production cost issues involved. A major factor that caused me to go vegetarian was the inefficient use of resources involved in meat production. When the in-vitro meat finally hits stores, how will it stack up? On a humane level, it certainly sounds compelling, but that's really only half of the picture.

This is a very interesting read, thank you for the link. I however, cannot agree with your comment on how "we eat too much meat" and that (perhaps only implied) "frakenmeat" is a lesser solution than say, adopting nobler attitudes to this problem by going vegan.

I think Matheny is very wise to realise that changing human habits is practically futile, and that "addressing the symptom" as you say, is really the only productive way of resolving this meat problem. Any moral criticism here comes across, perhaps only to me, as whinny and self-indulgent. Because otherwise, should innovators like Matheny feel guilty about the way they address such problem? Why should they?

I doubt we all can live within a system that is designed to be better than ourselves - but at least it is nice to know that there are people out there who acknowledge human fallibility and build solutions to complement with our nature, rather than oppose it. I hope none of these people feel guilty in how they pursue their work; for it may only weaken their resolve, as the lead up to depression tends to do.

By CynicView (not verified) on 31 Aug 2009 #permalink

Less land meat, more sea meat. We should remove feed lots for catfish and tilapia ponds. People could eat high quality protein meat and be healthier for it.

It should be noted from the outset that there are some problems that this approach absolutely will not solve. It will always take more energy to sustain a meat diet than a plant diet, whether that energy is going into cows or industrial processes. Similarly, large amounts of energy use associated with transportation and refrigeration would be undiminished in the face of in vitro meat production. Given that plants will probably always be a feedstock to the process, concerns about water and fossil fuel use in agriculture, as well as fertilizer and pesticide runoff, remain in place. That said, it is possible that vat grown meat could be marginally more efficient, since calories would not be directed towards growing skeletal or nervous systems. Big vats would also have a higher volume to surface area ratio than animals, making it less energy intensive to keep warm.

The major problem vat-grown meat could solve is animal welfare, though that is probably the reason for avoiding meat that most people find least compelling. Even most vegetarians drink milk and eat eggs, most of which is produced under conditions equally awful for the animals. Arguably, vat grown meat would still be a kind of ethical violation â not because any animals suffer, per se, but because the whole concept is somehow monstrous and demeaning to nature.

All told, this doesnât seem like much of a solution. The way slaughterhouse animals exist already approximates the character of an industrial meat factory. There is also little reason to believe that firms that happily feed all manner of drugs and hormones to animals would not similarly manipulate huge tanks full of artificial fat and muscle. As such, any hygienic concerns about factory farmed animals would probably translate readily to vat-grown meat.

The relevance of any of this is fairly questionable, given that vats are currently capable of producing the very lowest quality kind of meat (fodder for ground meat and nuggets) and can only do so at a financial cost higher than industrial agriculture. For all intents and purposes, we have already built industrial bioreactors on the skeletons of livestock. Shifting those to steel drums, as an alternative, will only make sense if the economics swing strongly in that direction for some reason.

Check out this BBC article on the new jellies discovered from a scientific expedition to the Arctic. This new jelly looks like some sort of catering device for bacon strips or mango slices -- depending on your appetite:

Ten kilowatt hours per *what*? There's an important word missing in the second sentence of your Seed Magazine article!

Not a good thing for a reader to find on their first ever visit to the Seed site.

being a veterinarian, me seems that if indiscriminate slautering of livestocks and ofcource some of our wild animals, which are considered as game animal by some people then in near future we lost our beautiful nature. so invitro meat production will surely be a good alternative

By vivek saroj (not verified) on 16 Aug 2010 #permalink