All hail the New Flesh – in-vitro meat on sale within a decade

Paul Raven @ 15-04-2008

Blue steakHere’s another item to add to the list of science fictional ideas that are edging close to becoming a reality – in-vitro (or “vat-grown”) meat could be sat on supermarket shelves within ten years.

The technology is already tried and tested, it’s just a case of waiting for the economic cost to become competitive … which, given the sharp (and probably continuing) rise in global food prices, may come sooner than anyone would like to think. [image by Yandle]

I’ve spoken to friends about in-vitro meat and their reaction has usually been disgust. I’m guessing that the economics will change that attitude more effectively than any amount of rational discussion – principles tend to be the first thing that gets eaten when someone’s stomach is empty, and we’re already consuming meat from cloned livestock.

And after all, it’s not quite the same as Soylent Green. Would you move to eating in-vitro meat right now if it cost less than the real thing?

[And we’re back to song lyric references in headlines … 😉 ]

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14 Responses to “All hail the New Flesh – in-vitro meat on sale within a decade”

  1. Jeremy says:

    As long as there’s no way to tell the difference by looking and it’s good for you, then sure.

  2. Paul Raven says:

    Wouldn’t bother me either, Jeremy. But I guess this must be one of those things that science fiction thinking can prepare you for, because as I say the majority of people I’ve asked about this are repelled by the “un-naturalness” of the idea.

  3. Khannea Suntzu says:

    Any supermarket reading this – I am a vegetarian because I don’t have money to eat meat and I pity animals. I would be willing to buy this starting from day one. Please make it affordable.

  4. ShaunCG says:

    Sure as hell, were the nutritional value of it good. And I’m a vegetarian! My objections to eating meat are ethical so I would have no problem with eating in-vitro flesh provided it were produced in a sustainable manner (as much as anything can be).

  5. Jeremy says:

    I’m not concerned at all about the “ick factor.” To be honest, I’m more concerned about food preservatives and MSG.

    To commenters #3&4, I mentioned this to my roommate this afternoon, and he brought up vegetarians. But he also said he’s not too keen on the idea.

  6. Anthony says:

    Sure, I’ve been saying for years now that this would be the coming thing. I grew up on a small beef farm, and the amount of waste, compared to the parts that you ate of a cow, is considerable, not to mention the amount of manure produced over the lifespan of the animal. This makes a great deal of sense to me to produce meat this way.

    I’m reminded of one of Bujold’s “Vorkosigan” books, in which Miles reports that he used to catch fish when he was a child and be so proud when his mother would have them served for supper. It was only later that he realized that she was gritting her teeth every time she ate those fish, because she’d be raised on another colony, where they only had vat-grown meat, and the thought of eating ‘live flesh’ turned her stomach. C’est la vie!

  7. Matt says:

    I think the big initial market for in-vitro meat will be the vegetarian and vegan crowd. As long as the taste and nutrition value is ok then it shouldn’t take very long from there for it to make it’s way out into the general population.

  8. Ryan says:

    As an ethical vegan, I would love for people who choose to eat meat to eat meat that didn’t come from a sentient animal. I, personally, wouldn’t eat it not because of my ethics, but for the same reason I try to avoid wearing even fake leather or fur — to those who don’t know it’s fake, it perpetuates the misconception that animals are property to use for food or clothing.

  9. csven says:

    Was just posting tweets as I watched this video over on Near Future Lab – http://www.nearfuturelaboratory.com/2008/04/14/designed-implications . The “victimless meat” portion of the talk is especially compelling.

  10. Phil says:

    As a geek vegetarian, I’ve considered vat-grown meat for a long time before this news came out. I would eat it in a heartbeat, but I think it’s going to be a hard sell to anyone outside of sci-fi geeks, vegetarian or not. My wife, who hasn’t eaten meat in almost 20 years, seemed pretty disgusted when I asked her about this.

  11. Brian Wang says:

    People do not think enough about what they already eat. Yogurt (bacterial fermented milk), twinkies, spam, hot dogs, oreos, colas etc… Tofu meat, fake lobster meat, margerine etc…

    invitro hot dogs, sausages, patties and then other later steak (when they can grow veins and arteries and other meat structures. In vitro meat is and will be closer to “natural” and healthier than many things we eat now. Once the marketers, taste tests, commercials, packaging and food scientist get going there will be a large market for it.
    http://nextbigfuture.com/2008/04/meat-factories-food-substitution-and.html

  12. Orac says:

    I would definately prefer to eat this and I think if people really knew how convential meat was farmed, they’d see this as a wondefully humane alternative.

    Most people I know already think meat just comes in styrofoam packets, not wanting to think about where it comes from – so why the fuss with vat grown meat?

  13. Paul Raven says:

    Exactly, orac – ignorance is bliss for many folks. We could probably just switch to vat-meat and not tell ’em, and no-one would notice! 😉

  14. mymagic123 says:

    Here is a very good link http://www.futurefood.org about the status quo of cultured meat research, but also about possibilities to lift vegetarian meat to higher levels of acceptance.