In the 1986 remake of the science fiction classic The Fly, an early scene shows the scientist, Seth Brundle, tinkering with his teleportation machine and using a cut of steak as the subject of his experiment. He teleports the steak from one pod to another, fries it up and serves it to his girlfriend and asks if it accurately approximates the real thing. With disgust, she spits it out, basically says it tastes artificial, and inspires the scientist to keep trying. He does, and by the end of the film he has figured out the steak problem, but he is also a pathetic mutant rotting from within.
I am reminded of this particular scene whenever I see a discussion about in-vitro meat – meat scientifically cultured in a lab and not directly taken from a slaughtered animal. Researchers are successfully doing this (at great expense) by actually growing meat that has its origins from stem cells removed directly from live cows. The idea of scientifically creating meat (and we are not talking about the various meat substitutes out there) has many environmental, animal welfare, and scientific proponents and has been floating around for several years. For instance, A 2011 study in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, revealed that full-scale production of cultured meat could greatly reduce water, land and energy use, and emissions of methane and other greenhouse gases, compared with conventional raising and slaughtering of cattle or other livestock. And many animal rights advocates, as well as some vegetarians, applaud the idea as it has the long-term potential to derail the current system of industrialized meat production as well as animal slaughter. But considering the costs associated with in-vitro meat (around $325,000 for an experimental burger, according to The New York Times) and the amount of tinkering needed to make it affordable and palatable to the public, we are likely many generations away from a steady stream of accessible in-vitro meat. But the possible benefits may warrant further investigation, as there exists potential to have a pathogen-free meat supply that was created without harming billions of animals each year. You could probably see the appeal; however, whether or not you want to eat such meat is another issue entirely.
What do you make of in-vitro meat? Is it a way of employing science to force us to be more humane and responsible citizens of the planet, or a potential disaster in the making? Are there any vegans or vegetarians out there who would ever consider eating such a product, providing it actually tasted good?