Mmm, Science: Lab-Grown Burgers Aren't Far Off, But will Anyone Eat Them?


Meatless Monday, oddly enough, has me thinking about meat more than ever.

Apparently I'm not the only one. The New York Times recently held an essay contest for readers. The subject: "Is it ethical to eat meat?" A loaded question, no doubt, and one bound to inspire passionate responses from just about everyone, regardless of which end of the spectrum they reside on.

The responses ran the gamut, from a practical piece on the necessity of eating animals to maintain balance in our food system, to an existential dissertation quoting obscure poetry, but one in particular piqued my interest. The writer makes the claim that there's only one way to ethically eat meat: if said meat is grown in a lab.

Scientists have been working on "in vitro" meat for decades, but recently Dutch scientists have made great strides and say that the world's first artificial burger is just mere months away from becoming a reality.

So progressive, those Dutch, with their legalized prostitution, lenient drug laws and socialist healthcare system. Now they're setting their sights on revamping industrialized meat production.

The aim of their research was to find a more efficient way of producing meat, believing that our current global meat production is unsustainables. (Reducing animal cruelty would be, it seems, an added bonus.)

Meat grown in a lab admittedly sounds like a horror movie in the making (sort of a Bizarro World twist on Soylent Green), but then again, we eat this stuff, so is it really that much of a leap? Blending man-made meat tissues with artificially grown fat and antibiotics sounds similar to the process by which McDonald's manipulates chicken to make their famous uniformly-shaped McNuggets.

Do we really need meat so badly that we would resort to eating shit grown out of petri dishes? Is the thought of eating less cow and more carrots so painful that lab-created burgers sounds like a good alternative? And would anyone even buy this stuff? If the backlash against GMO foods is any indicator, the idea of lab-grown meat may be too much for most people to stomach, despite whatever environmental and economic benefits it may have to offer.

Then again, with the demand for meat on the rise globally and showing no signs of slowing, maybe drastic measures are necessary to slow our roll. What say you, dear reader? Would you eat a burger grown in a lab, assuming it looked and tasted like the real thing, or do you prefer your meat to have had a face?

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