Join 3,440 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


No brain! No suffering!
August 5, 2013 9:34 AM   Subscribe

First lab-grown beef burger cooked, eaten. Science triumphs again!
posted by 256 (175 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
I am for this 100% and really really hope that the process becomes economically viable to support mass distribution, and I will be first in line once it's available. That said. that raw patty in the petri dish is looks like a million worms squeezed together and is quite puketastic.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 9:41 AM on August 5, 2013 [12 favorites]


In Paris, you can buy a beer with that.
posted by popcassady at 9:42 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


From TFA: "Taste is the least (important) problem since this could be controlled by letting some of the stem cells develop into fat cells," said Stig Omholt, director of biotechnology at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences

We made a burger, but taste is the least important problem. I know he's thinking -- whatever -- science thoughts, but if you say flavor's Problem Number Who Cares, you're losing heart and minds and stomachs.


I'm also a little curious to know how this would look presented as a steak or similar.
posted by boo_radley at 9:42 AM on August 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


According to the National post (the newspaper that hates Canada), the burger cost $332,000 to produce. I wonder how much the diner tipped ?!
posted by GhostRider at 9:44 AM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Typical unimaginative scientists skeuomorphically imitating burgers and steaks when we could be eating perfect meat gems, beefy reproductions of the Julia set, porkogons
posted by theodolite at 9:45 AM on August 5, 2013 [85 favorites]


Cat Pie Hurts: "I am for this 100% and really really hope that the process becomes economically viable to support mass distribution, and I will be first in line once it's available. That said. that raw patty in the petri dish is looks like a million worms squeezed together and is quite puketastic."

You have seen ground beef being made, right?
posted by Splunge at 9:46 AM on August 5, 2013 [27 favorites]


that raw patty in the petri dish is looks like a million worms squeezed together and is quite puketastic.

I pretty much agree, but I would also caution you, if you do currently eat beef and continue to do so, not to look at raw ground beef very carefully with this same image in mind because... yeah, it pretty much looks like raw ground beef in a petri dish to me.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:46 AM on August 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


Great minds get grossed out alike.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:46 AM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


How much energy/water does it take to grow beef in a vat vs in a field? Because the latter is already super-terrible...
posted by DU at 9:47 AM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


that raw patty in the petri dish is looks like a million worms squeezed together and is quite puketastic

Rest assured, fast food marketers understand those sentiments. That is what breadcrumbs are for.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:47 AM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


How much energy/water does it take to grow beef in a vat vs in a field? Because the latter is already super-terrible...

Well, right now, a lot - but we're still at the "hand-built prototype" stage, not the "mass production" stage. By the time we get to the latter, it's going to be enormously more efficient to vat-grow meat that doesn't have to also be an entire cow.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:48 AM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


DU: "How much energy/water does it take to grow beef in a vat vs in a field? Because the latter is already super-terrible..."

I've gotta think it's less resource intensive (or is on track to be) -- you don't have all that non-beef stuff to support in the vat. No hide, bones, cartilage, etc.
posted by boo_radley at 9:49 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Beef? Call me when they're people burgers. Talk about a missed opportunity.
posted by dortmunder at 9:49 AM on August 5, 2013 [16 favorites]


We made a burger, but taste is the least important problem. I know he's thinking -- whatever -- science thoughts, but if you say flavor's Problem Number Who Cares, you're losing heart and minds and stomachs.

It's why we invented ketchup.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:49 AM on August 5, 2013


"I'm a vegetarian, but I would be first in line to try this," said Jonathan Garlick, a stem cell researcher at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in Boston. He has used similar techniques to make human skin but wasn't involved in the burger research.
I'm envisioning the grossest lab mix-up ever now.

Also, "Garlick," LOL. Epony-gastro-sterical.
posted by Panjandrum at 9:50 AM on August 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Well, I'm sure once they figure out how to replace the stem cells that form into sweat glands with burger cells, we'll be all set.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:50 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


How much energy/water does it take to grow beef in a vat vs in a field? Because the latter is already super-terrible...

An article I saw this morning and can't find again at work pegged the energy cost of a synthetic burger at ~60% of a real one, but the greenhouse gas impacts and land use as a tiny fraction, bordering on 1%.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:51 AM on August 5, 2013 [12 favorites]


Scientist who created the meat hopes it will help feed the world and fight climate change

So, really what we are going to see, is real meat (tm) for the rich and vat meat for all the rest (unless you grow your own). which I guess is a better point we are at then now.

But, fwiw, I think it is quite likely we can feel the world right now, I've understood hunger tends to be a bigger political/distribution problem then a purely resource problem.
posted by edgeways at 9:54 AM on August 5, 2013 [10 favorites]


At some point, we're just going to have to face facts: The future of human protein consumption is bugs.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:54 AM on August 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


This seems appropriate. (SLYT)
posted by like_a_friend at 9:55 AM on August 5, 2013


Rarely do I get to repeat a comment twice in one day
posted by The Whelk at 9:57 AM on August 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


But, fwiw, I think it is quite likely we can feel the world right now, I've understood hunger tends to be a bigger political/distribution problem then a purely resource problem.

Maybe at the moment. But the expected increase in population globally will not bear that out for long. There's only so much arable land.
posted by Kitteh at 9:58 AM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wake me when they figure out what animal hot dogs come from, and then grow them (dogs) in a vat. Also, hey England, barbecue that thing!
posted by Mister_A at 10:00 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


An article I saw this morning and can't find again at work pegged the energy cost of a synthetic burger at ~60% of a real one, but the greenhouse gas impacts and land use as a tiny fraction, bordering on 1%.


That's in line with the infographics in this BBC article
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 10:01 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'll gladly eat synth meat if we can perfect the tech and bring down the price. Designer meats could eventually be so much better and higher quality than so much of the fatty, gristly crap people choke down now. It'd be more efficient, more environmentally-friendly and killing-free. The cost to produce this one, as a proof of concept, was less than a million--that's incredibly cheap, really, for tech this new and ambitious.

Someone should announce a high stakes competition now (like the whole X-prize thing or something) open to all the labs to see who can produce the first, really tasty, gourmet synth-burger.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:02 AM on August 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Pogo_Fuzzybutt: It's why we invented ketchup.

Actually, the Chinese invented it as a fermented fish sauce, but given that the condiment was taken by sailors as a long-lasting source of flavor, they might have used it to flavor some unappealing foods.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:03 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


saulgoodman: " Designer meats could eventually be so much better and higher quality than so much of the fatty, gristly crap people choke down now. "

Counterpoint: synthmeat will destroy phở. That fatty gristly crap comes alive in soup.
posted by boo_radley at 10:03 AM on August 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


Making The Space Merchants into a documentary. Next up, the pedicab.

Best part: it's Dutch ingenuity at its best.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:05 AM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


I thought Dutch ingenuity had hit its peak with the Ajax teams of the '70s but this vat-grown burger is pretty damn cool.
posted by Mister_A at 10:10 AM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


But the expected increase in population globally will not bear that out for long.

I see somebody hasn't been paying attention to the demographic reality. Growth has been slowing globally and will continue to do almost everywhere (PDF).
posted by MartinWisse at 10:11 AM on August 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


real meat (tm) for the rich and vat meat for all the rest (unless you grow your own). which I guess is a better point we are at then now.

But I think we're already there, and lab-created meat isn't going to really change anything.

I mean, there's a HUGE difference between the burger patty you get at McDonald's or in a school cafeteria and what you get even a step up the chain, at a sit down restaurant with table service. (Even a mid-range one.)

If anything, the prole burgers are going to be better, because they won't be whatever bottom of the barrel 40% soy "what's the worst meat we can get away with" anymore, they'll be 100% real* beef.

Oh, man, imagine what this is going to do to Taco Bell's business model...
posted by Sara C. at 10:19 AM on August 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh! I didn't realize people were going to stop having babies!
posted by Kitteh at 10:20 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I see somebody hasn't been paying attention to the demographic reality. Growth has been slowing globally and will continue to do almost everywhere (PDF).

Are you an economist? A decline in growth is not the same as an actual decline.

I'm just ribbing you, but even the low projection in the PDF you link doesn't show an actual global population decline until 2100.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:20 AM on August 5, 2013


Is it vegetarian, in a Level 5 Vegan kind of way? What's the "nutrient solution" made from?
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:21 AM on August 5, 2013


I am going to stop having babies. And no, this is not vegetarian.
posted by Mister_A at 10:22 AM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


The corpse in the library, I think it's still made from cow cells. But if the future includes vat-grown meat for folks instead of slaughterhouses, sign this vegan up.
posted by Kitteh at 10:22 AM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


We made a burger, but taste is the least important problem. I know he's thinking -- whatever -- science thoughts, but if you say flavor's Problem Number Who Cares, you're losing heart and minds and stomachs.

It's not just Science Thoughts, he's saying they can add fat relatively easily, which was the main complaint of the reviewers. So taste isn't important in terms of whether this is ultimately worth pursuing or not, because they can more or less make it taste identical to a fatty burger with a little tweaking.
posted by naju at 10:23 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I see somebody hasn't been paying attention to the demographic reality. Growth has been slowing globally and will continue to do almost everywhere (PDF).

...for as long as we can turn oil into wealth. Once that stops, we'll go back to poverty demographics.
posted by DU at 10:27 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, taste isn't so much unimportant as it is solved. If the complaint was "this tastes like toxic waste," instead of "this tastes like overly lean beef," that would be a somewhat larger problem. Not much larger, given the range of flavoring agents available. But somewhat.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:29 AM on August 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


I hope the companies that are champing at the bit to start selling something like this for real have the wisdom to wait until the product is ready. Seems like waiting a few years to work out the kinks could make the difference between, well, Tofurkey and Field Roast. If it's all Tofurkey for the first five years, that could kill the market before it ever gets good.
posted by gurple at 10:29 AM on August 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah, taste isn't so much unimportant as it is solved.

You've never eaten a garden tomato, I see.
posted by DU at 10:29 AM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Solved as much as they care to solve it, I mean.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:30 AM on August 5, 2013


Seems like waiting a few years to work out the kinks could make the difference between, well, Tofurkey and Field Roast. If it's all Tofurkey for the first five years, that could kill the market before it ever gets good.

I (not a vegetarian) love the Tofurkey sausages I get at Trader Joe's. I have never even heard of Field Roast. Weird.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:36 AM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Field Roast is delicious. (sorry for the derail)
posted by Kitteh at 10:38 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I (not a vegetarian) love the Tofurkey sausages I get at Trader Joe's. I have never even heard of Field Roast. Weird.

Fair point. Taste is in the eye of the beholder to some extent. But didn't Tofurkey (and everything else at the time) spend some number of years being so absolutely bad that no one could even pretend they liked it? I feel like fake meat's been trying to overcome that for a long time.
posted by gurple at 10:39 AM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]



Counterpoint: synthmeat will destroy phở. That fatty gristly crap comes alive in soup.


Or, that fatty gristly crap will become the artisanal-sourced trend. Or the cost if real meat will be affected (I admit I don't know enough about economics to predict whether it would rise or fall, though).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:44 AM on August 5, 2013


Is nobody eating Quorn anymore? I still see it in the freezer case at the grocery store.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:46 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I certainly remember the "dark years" of soy meat products. It's unbelievable how much the taste and consistency have been improved. But I don't think this is the same thing. All of the hundreds of thousands of hours of food science involved in making a soy product taste like 100% beef won't be necessary, because this is already 100% beef. The reviewers said that the consistency and taste are those of what a non-fat beef patty would be. Certainly there is some improvement needed (fat cells), but it sounds like it could go to market tasting indistinguishable from (or better than!) what you're getting at your grocery.
posted by naju at 10:47 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


didn't Tofurkey (and everything else at the time) spend some number of years being so absolutely bad that no one could even pretend they liked it?

No clue. The only reason I even tried them is because my girlfriend decided to be a vegetarian, so we started buying non-meat products. If what you say is true, I salute their food scientists, as they've clearly come a long way.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:47 AM on August 5, 2013


Is nobody eating Quorn anymore?

*puts down The Sorcerer's House, blinks*
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:49 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Eeew! Yuck!
posted by crazy_yeti at 10:50 AM on August 5, 2013


Watching some vox pops on Sky News where they interview random people about whether they would eat vat-grown beef, they all describe it as "creepy" and suggest they wouldn't eat it. I don't think any of these people can possibly have seen a factory farm, a slaughterhouse or a processing plant. It is almost impossible to imagine an industrial process as disgusting as any stage of that. Just the scavenging of remnant meat off of the bone is enough to put you off meat forever, and that part isn't Shit City.

The squick factor is nothing -- with vat-grown meat you can control for bacterial and viral contamination the way you can't dream of doing with meat on the hoof.

As for taste, that's governed by breed, diet and raising practices. Rather than dicking around with additives, I suspect they can control it more "realistically" through the nutrient medium.

I'd rather a thousand times eat vat-grown meat than almost any conventional industrial meat.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:50 AM on August 5, 2013 [23 favorites]


I'd rather a thousand times eat vat-grown meat than almost any conventional industrial meat.
That's a false dichotomy.
posted by crazy_yeti at 10:53 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's a false dichotomy.

How so?
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:54 AM on August 5, 2013


How so?
I just meant that those aren't the only two choices. I wouldn't touch either industrial meat or vat-grown meat (which to me seems like it is still going to be another industrialized, highly processed food product). I'll choose for either farm-raised, organic, humanely slaughtered meat, or else just some nice vegetables.
posted by crazy_yeti at 10:56 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


interview random people about whether they would eat vat-grown beef, they all describe it as "creepy" and suggest they wouldn't eat it. I don't think any of these people can possibly have seen a factory farm...

On the other hand, let's be real. Put those petri-dish sized patties in a package with a bunch of farm looking graphics on it, and a bunch of slick marketing copy, and all those randoms will clamor to buy it.

People will buy fucking ANY food that the media tells them is good, or that is presented attractively enough.

I mean, people eat chia seeds. On purpose. People who are probably smarter and better informed about food than the average rando in a Man On The Street news segment.
posted by Sara C. at 10:59 AM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I just meant that those aren't the only two choices. I wouldn't touch either industrial meat or vat-grown meat

That's fine, and I agree with you. If I had access to hand-reared, pastured beef that was slaughtered under clean conditions and hand butchered by a responsible business with some pride in its work, I would choose that. It would cost 4x as much as conventional beef but that's fine because I eat beef a fraction as often as most people. As it is I do buy only meat that is not feedlot raised, but they still have to use the same slaughterhouses everyone else uses, so it's still pretty gross.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:59 AM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


"No brain! No suffering!"

I immediately thought of this

posted by mmrtnt at 11:01 AM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


(I also buy from a store that does its own butchering of sides and never mixes batches... And I'm grateful to live in a city and an era in which that's possible. Oh, and it's a lot less than 4x as much... more like 2x.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:01 AM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


As for taste, that's governed by breed, diet and raising practices. Rather than dicking around with additives, I suspect they can control it more "realistically" through the nutrient medium.

Well, there's not going to be any "terroir" factor to any of this. That said, the average person driving through at In N Out isn't going there for the unique terroir of a particular breed of cattle raised on a particular parcel of land, fed by indigenous grasses, etc. They just want something cheap and tasty and slathered with special sauce.

I don't think the lab-grown meat will ever make it in fine dining, though, where people do care about such things.

But the slider sampler app at TGI Friday's? Yeah, that's going to be vat beef and nobody's going to know the difference.
posted by Sara C. at 11:02 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


The layout for this article fills me with hate. Why are you the way you are, usa today. Why are you so horrible.
posted by elizardbits at 11:03 AM on August 5, 2013 [9 favorites]


Yeah, that's going to be vat beef and nobody's going to know the difference.

By the time mass production of this is cheap enough to replace poorly-monitored Big Agro beef in something as inexpensive as chain restaurant food, we will already be eating the poor.
posted by elizardbits at 11:07 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well obviously it's because the site was designed in a vat. Readability is not a concern right now. We'll add it later.
posted by notyou at 11:09 AM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Thank god now we can kill all the cows because we don't need them anymore

Wait no-
posted by windykites at 11:09 AM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


No but seriously, how is this going to impact domestic cattle, who only live because we use them? Any vat dairy in the making? I love cows. I want there to still be some in a hundred years.
posted by windykites at 11:11 AM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


SERIOUSLY THO why does that prominent right arrow go to the next article and not the next section in the first part of the open article? Why does that little x close the entire article and take you to the home page instead of closing the photo gallery part of the article and lead to a text-only version? I AM SO FULL OF HATE RIGHT NOW.
posted by elizardbits at 11:12 AM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


No but seriously, how is this going to impact domestic cattle, who only live because we use them? Any vat dairy in the making? I love cows. I want there to still be some in a hundred years.

The ones that remain will probably have far better conditions -- basically this will replace factory farms, which are just centers of animal misery and filth production. Also, think of all the rangeland we'll be able to reclaim. My god, we could reintroduce the buffalo! Paging Allan Savory...
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:14 AM on August 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


I was going to chime in with what George_Spiggott said, with the addition that the dairy industry will probably be unchanged.

Question, though. Is this going to destroy the ranching industry, and oy vey, do we actually have to fucking sit through that snoozefest?
posted by Sara C. at 11:17 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I will not be happy until science makes me a burger that upon the first bite whispers gratefully, in the tiniest voice:

"Thank you...I am glad"
posted by menialjoy at 11:22 AM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is it vegetarian, in a Level 5 Vegan kind of way? What's the "nutrient solution" made from?

The precise method of growing the lab meat in a commercial context will be crucial in deciding whether this can be classified as the first vegetarian friendly meat. Original researchers took cells from the necks of dead cows and grew them in foetal bovine serum, taken from slaughtered pregnant cattle. It is hoped that an alternative growth solution can be found, while it is already possible to harvest muscle cells without harming the cow.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:23 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can't see US agribusiness letting this kind of thing happen for reals. Why on earth would they?
posted by elizardbits at 11:23 AM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


windykites: No but seriously, how is this going to impact domestic cattle, who only live because we use them? Any vat dairy in the making? I love cows. I want there to still be some in a hundred years.

There will probably be a few around, but honestly, I hope the vast majority are gone. Cows absolutely ruin the environment. One of the most destructive animals I can think of, even if kept in sane population densities.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:23 AM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Does anyone know if Peter Singer has written or said anything on how this possibility of lab meat affects his ideas on the ethics of food consumption and animal treatment?
posted by Sangermaine at 11:25 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


On the one hand: Yay! Cruelty-free meat!
On the other: The what-will-happen-to-all-those-jobs-oh-god alarm goes off in my head.

Does anybody have insight about the economic nuances? Or am I terribly deluded? Maybe factory farms now are more "efficient" than I thought, and massive layoffs are not impending?
posted by idealist at 11:29 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I mentioned Allan Savory above... he's an ecologist whose thesis is that the natural grazing patterns of ruminants is vital to healthy soils and preventing desertification. There's been some pushback on this, but a lot of the dispute seems to be apples-and-oranges: there's no question that the Plains States of the US owed their magnificent condition and fertility (which in the space of a hundred years we utterly ruined) to the incredibly vast numbers of bison who roamed the country before we exterminated them and carved up the country with barbed wire.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:30 AM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


metafilter: we could be eating perfect meat gems, beefy reproductions of the Julia set, porkogons
posted by whyareyouatriangle at 11:31 AM on August 5, 2013


No but seriously, how is this going to impact domestic cattle, who only live because we use them?

My hypothesis is that beef cattle populations will get a lot smaller but you'll see some serious breeding programs. Instead of trying to select for fast growth and large yield, they'll only select for taste. The goal being to develop the cow (or mix of cows) that produces the best seed sample of stem cells with which to grow beef. I imagine that they'll be small, very specialized operations and the cows will live pretty awesome cow lives.

The Angus beef of the future will be called Angus beef because the cow they took the cells from to grow the beef is named Angus. Which means that you'll be able to eat an Angus beef burger in front of Angus. You'd also be able to make Angus eat an Angus beef burger...
posted by VTX at 11:35 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


The ones that remain will probably have far better conditions -- basically this will replace factory farms, which are just centers of animal misery and filth production. Also, think of all the rangeland we'll be able to reclaim. My god, we could reintroduce the buffalo! Paging Allan Savory...


The secondary effects are going to be huge. A truly large, monumental amount of the rangeland in the western us is heavily overgrazed (meaning too many cattle are run on a given area of land) and this has helped lead to overgrowth conditions of inedible stuff that catches fire, a loss of habitat for native species like elk (who used to be a rangeland species before cattle pushed them into the high country), pronghorn and too some extent stuff like prairie dogs and all their attendant species. Wolf packs won't be the problem they are now and will lack a lot of the controversy around their restoration.

It will mean the loss of a large part of the ranching heritage/lifestyle, However I won't really shed a tear for this, as most of it is in fact heavily subsidized and ranches are usually not great land stewards and a lot of public lands is de facto owned and controlled by a few ranching families.

A great deal of this could go to the south african 'safari' model for eco tourism and hunting and the public land could revert back to a more sustainable state.
posted by bartonlong at 11:38 AM on August 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Ars has a good gloss on this:
Brin says he was motivated by concerns for animal welfare based on what he knows about factory farming. Although those concerns are probably quite reasonable, the project he's backing as an alternative currently suffers from many of the same ones. As we pointed out when the idea first surfaced, the muscle cells used to make the burger were grown in media that contains a large dose of antibiotics and a key component (serum from calfs) that comes from the slaughter of actual cows. And there's currently no indication that the requirement for these materials is going to go away anytime soon. In other words, it's hard to see this as a technology "on the cusp of viability," as Brin described it.
posted by danny the boy at 11:46 AM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


there will probably be a few around, but honestly, I hope the vast majority are gone. cows humans absolutely ruin the environment. One of the most destructive animals I can think of, even if kept in sane population densities.

FTFY
posted by windykites at 11:47 AM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


whyareyouatriangle: "metafilter: we could be eating perfect meat gems, beefy reproductions of the Julia set, porkogons"

Oh, I totally want a Beefy Menger Sponge!!!!
posted by symbioid at 11:52 AM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


So, really what we are going to see, is real meat (tm) for the rich and vat meat for all the rest (unless you grow your own).

There might be a another option for those who can't afford any of those choices, though.

What ever happened to the story about a Japanese scientist making meat from sewage a couple years ago? I found a couple articles that raised some serious questions about whether or not the story was a hoax or not, but I didn't find any follow-up.
posted by chambers at 11:53 AM on August 5, 2013


It tastes familiar.
Beef?
No.
Chicken? We'll take chicken.
What does it taste like?
Despair.
Is it possible it just needs salt?
posted by Thorzdad at 11:57 AM on August 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


I can't see US agribusiness letting this kind of thing happen for reals. Why on earth would they?

If this can be made into a palatable product, I could see them investing in transitioning to this as quickly as possible. The energy and materials costs are such that they could make many more billions selling this, than growing animals for slaughter.

If it can be made into a product that the public will buy, however. But then that's easy for agribusiness to do, since they already more or less control consumer prices for food they currently make. Just slap the word "organic" or some similar luxury branding on whatever they make now (standards are pretty lax) and double the price, while offering this new mystery meat at the old prices. The demand will shift accordingly.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:09 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is great, and it's the future. I expect this technology will make it to early commercialisation in 5 years, and full commercialisation in 15-20 years (McLab Special).

A friend thinks that it will never happen, that steaks are too beautiful and people enjoy eating them too much to switch to McLab Specials. I agreed, to a point. There will always be steaks and burgers from animals, but they will become the luxury they should be.

Lab-grown meats do not have to emulate their living progenitors, as long as they are roughly approximate. When this hits scale, the cost will be so low, that many people will happily accept it – especially considering how much meat is super-flavoured when consumed.

It's similar to photography. Chemical photography exists and may always be superior. There is a nice niche market it for it. The rest of the world is greedily happy with digital, for the chief concern for them is not the quality first and foremost, but the ability to take endless pictures and share them. It's going to be the same with meat. Some people will pay a crazy premium for real meat, whilst most people are happy eating lab meat, for their looking for nutrition and 'eatibility'. Given what actually goes into some of the meat produces out there (vaporised brain and all that), I wouldn't be surprised if most people started to prefer a McLab Special.

This also is going to rewrite the rules of vegetarianism, which could be the first target market and propel the product quite nicely into the mainstream.

Win for everyone. Especially the animals.
posted by nickrussell at 12:15 PM on August 5, 2013


elizardbits: "I can't see US agribusiness letting this kind of thing happen for reals. Why on earth would they?"

40% material reductions? Feed prices are unpredictable and have been high enough that some ranches/ finishing lots were feeding their animals weed/waste silage until the demand for it put the price near parity for norm.
posted by boo_radley at 12:16 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is how they make the $20 hamburger look reasonable.

And yeah, agri-business will get behind whatever they can sell. Plus you're going to need to feed those muscle cells protein and sugars, so surely someone will still need to grow the base materials for those.
posted by maryr at 12:27 PM on August 5, 2013


Basically we are never going to find a cheaper energy source than the sun.
posted by maryr at 12:27 PM on August 5, 2013


Please tell me that the focus of this research is for physical rehabilitation for those that need it, because this seems almost unbearably decadent to me.
posted by addled_b at 12:29 PM on August 5, 2013


If this can be made into a palatable product, I could see them investing in transitioning to this as quickly as possible. The energy and materials costs are such that they could make many more billions selling this, than growing animals for slaughter.

If it can be made into a product that the public will buy, however. But then that's easy for agribusiness to do, since they already more or less control consumer prices for food they currently make. Just slap the word "organic" or some similar luxury branding on whatever they make now (standards are pretty lax) and double the price, while offering this new mystery meat at the old prices. The demand will shift accordingly.


And

40% material reductions? Feed prices are unpredictable and have been high enough that some ranches/ finishing lots were feeding their animals weed/waste silage until the demand for it put the price near parity for norm.

All their capital is invested in the Old Ways of Doing Business. To switch over, they'd have to direct new investment into these new ways of doing business (with uncertain results), and, if they are successful, write-off the capital they've sunk into the Old Ways.

For a dramatic example, look at the big energy crowd and their reluctance to invest in green energy. Energy is energy, right? Wrong. Existing Big Energy is Carbon Energy and their business really boils down to collecting and trading carbon. An oil industry exec explained it thus, IIRC (and poorly, probably): "We're not in the energy business; we're in the mining business."
posted by notyou at 12:30 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


because this seems almost unbearably decadent to me.

I suppose housing and slaughtering living things for luxury foods seems just fine by comparison?

So, is ortolan not decadent enough to be disgusting?

I really don't see what makes this particularly decadent. The 300,000+ price tag just reflects the newness of the tech--it's not deliberately priced to appeal to luxury markets.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:34 PM on August 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


Please tell me that the focus of this research is for physical rehabilitation for those that need it, because this seems almost unbearably decadent to me.

That is a really great point and I'm amazed I haven't seen it in the coverage so far. Well, okay, not amazed given the style of journalism involved, but still, cultured muscle tissue technology does seem on the face of it like it has therapeutic potential. I suspect that the techniques are not compatible as such, though: what you really need is the ability to clone an entire muscle, including blood vessels and nerves and so forth, probably from stem cells. I don't think this is much of a step on the way to that, chances are we'll be using host animals -- which for me has, unlike the vat grown meat debate, a huge ethical and squick factor -- for stuff like that for a long time.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:35 PM on August 5, 2013


I'll choose for either farm-raised, organic, humanely slaughtered meat, or else just some nice vegetables.

"Right then. I'll just nip off to the kitchen and shoot meself."
posted by octobersurprise at 12:42 PM on August 5, 2013 [5 favorites]




So, is ortolan not decadent enough to be disgusting?

I really don't see what makes this particularly decadent. The 300,000+ price tag just reflects the newness of the tech--it's not deliberately priced to appeal to luxury markets.


Using the current state of the art tissue engineering technology to assuage the tummy guilt of squeamish upper middle class folks instead of channeling this to rehab does seems pretty decadent to me, yes

And livestock could be handled much more humanely than they currently are, but isn't that best addressed by working to improve the conditions that livestock live under and reducing the dietary emphasis on meat?
posted by addled_b at 12:49 PM on August 5, 2013


I don't think the lab-grown meat will ever make it in fine dining, though, where people do care about such things.

You're not thinking big enough. You could grow meats with certain flavors, maybe? Beef that's already BBQ flavored, or garlic-flavored, or what have you.

Or grow them with some sort of artisanal truffle infusion for the richies. Grown in a lab in Switzerland, managed by science nuns, or whatever justification you need to charge lots of money for a steak.
posted by emjaybee at 12:52 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Please tell me that the focus of this research is for physical rehabilitation for those that need it, because this seems almost unbearably decadent to me.

That is a really great point and I'm amazed I haven't seen it in the coverage so far. Well, okay, not amazed given the style of journalism involved, but still, cultured muscle tissue technology does seem on the face of it like it has therapeutic potential.


Vat-meat is really just follow-on research based on a massive body of work in tissue engineering that's been building for the past decade or so. These guys are using tools and techniques that have been developed by the tissue engineers for therapeutic applications. I don't think they're adding much new to the science, though, and cows aren't very good model animals for human therapeutics.



Using the current state of the art tissue engineering technology to assuage the tummy guilt of squeamish upper middle class folks instead of channeling this to rehab does seems pretty decadent to me, yes

There are many people in the world, and they do many things.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:54 PM on August 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


addled_b: Please tell me that the focus of this research is for physical rehabilitation for those that need it, because this seems almost unbearably decadent to me.

This is quite a slippery slope, unless you spend every day (no weekends!) in the non-decadent practice of working to improve the lives of the poor and sick. Improving the lives of animals and humans' enjoyment of food seems to me a noble endeavor.
posted by fader at 12:57 PM on August 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think this is really interesting, and as a vegetarian, I would totally try lab-grown meat, if they can start growing some bacon.

One thing I am wondering though, would this lead to everyone eating meat that was basically genetically identical? Would this be an issue?
posted by inertia at 12:58 PM on August 5, 2013


Using the current state of the art tissue engineering technology to assuage the tummy guilt of squeamish upper middle class folks instead of channeling this to rehab does seems pretty decadent to me, yes

It's not about "tummy-guilt"; it's about using resources more wisely and not torturing and killing animals if we don't have to. That's more like being ascetic--using restraint--than being decadent.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:00 PM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Decadent?

Mass-produced vat-grown meat of reasonable quality could solve so many otherwise basically intractable global problems - ethical, environmental, nutritional and otherwise - I can't see how it's in any way decadent.

This isn't about upper middle class tummy guilt. It's about the fact that it's manifestly not practically possible for All The Livestock to be raised and slaughtered ethically in such a way as to feed everyone who eats meat. It's about affordable, ethical, environmentally sound meat for everyone on the planet who wants to be an omnivore.

Also, could someone explain the squick factor? I don't get the squick factor. I also don't buy the idea that the squick factor is widespread, especially given the amount of completely made-up crappy pseudofood that people do eat with gusto. In a world where things like Wotsits, string cheese or spray-on cream a) exist, and b) are actually eaten by anyone at all ever let alone successfully mass-marketed, I really can't see what the problem with vat-grown meat will be.

Yeah, it'll be cheaper than real meat. Good.
posted by motty at 1:02 PM on August 5, 2013 [16 favorites]


Kinda like Chicken Little from The Space Merchants.
posted by Pudhoho at 1:07 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


elizardbits: "I can't see US agribusiness letting this kind of thing happen for reals. Why on earth would they?"

If it can be made massively cheaper than Real Beef, they'll switch in a heartbeat.

Farming cattle is expensive as hell: if you can get the same amount of beef from 1/10th of the space with 1/10th of the costs and 1/10th of the headaches (vat beef doesn't need antibiotics or waste management or vets or, or, or) and possibly even charge slightly more for it (with some elegant marketing), that's like orgasm-in-a-can for the accountants.
posted by scrump at 1:07 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


And livestock could be handled much more humanely than they currently are, but isn't that best addressed by working to improve the conditions that livestock live under and reducing the dietary emphasis on meat?

These things you have written are not for lack of trying on many people's parts, but it seems like vat-grown meat could make the difference a Meatless Monday campaign may not be able to.
posted by Kitteh at 1:08 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


All I know is that I look forward to opening a chain of fast food restaurants based on 'Forbidden Meats'

Menu would include cultured versions of:
Black Rhino
Blue Whale
Human 'Long Pig'
Manatee
Tasmanian Tiger
Mastodon
Pyrenean Ibex
Saber Toothed Tiger
Passenger Pigeon
posted by addled_b at 1:09 PM on August 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


If this does become widespread, I wonder how or if it could be certified as halal or kosher.

I'd be willing to eat the vat-meat, though I have to admit the possibility of horror movie-style outlandish and horrific consequences would linger in my head.
posted by yasaman at 1:12 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Re: addled_b:

You basically just described the food economy of Transmetropolitan, except without baby seal eyes (the snack of kings!).

Also, the environmental impacts alone of being able to vat-grow beef would be enormous. The amount of water pollution created by cow shit is astronomical and their farts are a more potent greenhouse gas than car exhaust.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:16 PM on August 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


You're not thinking big enough. You could grow meats with certain flavors, maybe? Beef that's already BBQ flavored, or garlic-flavored, or what have you.

I think that would go over great at the supermarket, and at midrange fast-casual places. I mean, can you imagine the ability to create beef that is pre-infused with a smoky flavor? I can already see "smokehouse angus burger" on the menu at Chili's.

But for fine dining? No. The emphasis has been on terroir and artisanal and Alice Waters and Michael Pollan for too long, now. You're absolutely not going to be able to market a "flavored" lab created beef product in that type of setting.

I do love the idea of Science Nuns, though.
posted by Sara C. at 1:22 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


One thing I am wondering though, would this lead to everyone eating meat that was basically genetically identical? Would this be an issue?

I don't see how it would be, on a genetic level and a micro individual consumption level.

I do see two issues, though.

Firstly, you'd definitely want to have some kind of genetic library at the manufacturing level so that, if something happens and we irreversibly bork Bessie's genome, there's plenty of genetic material to go back to the drawing board with. You'd want an array of individual cattle genes from as many breeds as you can get, from all over the world. You don't want to create some kind of bizarre hyper-monoculture where one disaster would mean the technology goes the way of greek fire.

Secondly, I'm wondering what the burgeoning science of gut flora has to say about this. I mean, industrial meat is covered in bacteria, and I think we all agree that most of that bacteria is bad. But is lab meat sterile? And if so, what effect would that have on the average joe who eats it 2 or 3 meals a day? How does eating sterile food influence our immune systems and digestion?
posted by Sara C. at 1:29 PM on August 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


I just came up with the perfect marketing slogan for this: "Now you can finally have your cow and eat it, too."
posted by saulgoodman at 1:32 PM on August 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


For one thing, Sara C., it won't be sterile by the time it makes it to your gut. For another, you'll pick up tons of yummy bacteria from everything else you eat, so no worries. People in India go their whole lives without eating a beef and they're OK!
posted by Mister_A at 1:33 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


You (Sara C.) are talking, with your genomic library, about a distant future where there are few living cows to donate muscle tissue, yes?
posted by Mister_A at 1:35 PM on August 5, 2013


I heard one of the developers when asked what they will be calling it said "meat". As someone who desperately wants to see this succeed, I can't accept that that's going to work. It will need to be somethingmeat, but what sounds honest and yet isn't "lab"?
posted by welovelife at 1:45 PM on August 5, 2013


iMeat ?
posted by Pendragon at 1:48 PM on August 5, 2013


Welovelife, if GMO foods don't have to be labeled, by do you think lab-grown meats will have to be labeled?
posted by jsturgill at 1:48 PM on August 5, 2013


People will eat this no problem. I mean, good god, they already go ga-ga over McRib and KFC boneless chicken. The main challenge will all be marketing. I'm sure the late shows are already incorporating this into their monologues.

Here is something not completely dissimilar, all those luxury homes featuring "cultured marble" and "cultured granite" which is really just polyester or acrylic resin. We'll just get used to seeing Real™ Beef, FancyFish™ or Chickinoobs.
posted by misterpatrick at 1:49 PM on August 5, 2013


Soylent Green ?
posted by Pendragon at 1:51 PM on August 5, 2013


I could get behind Chickenorbs.
...
We can now have our spherical cow [meat]. This is brilliant.

Have the Platonic ideal of beef.
posted by CrystalDave at 1:52 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Another secondary effect that is going to be huge just occured to me-most of the cultivated acreage in this country (the US) is dedicated to either corn or soybeans and used for feed. To use the low end of the efficiency mentioned of say 60% (think that is the number) we need 60% less farmed acreage and the attendant reduction in nutrient runoff and soil erosion is going to completely change the water quality, not to mention the fossil fuel requirement for tilling, fertilizing, harvesting and transporting that feed. Just think of the amount of round-up use reduction that would be.

This is a game changer, in so many ways and will have follow on effects like the car and computer have had.
posted by bartonlong at 1:57 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


YOU GUYS STOP EVERYTHING

We just realized there are plant stem cells!!! You can culture up AN ENTIRE MEATLOAF IN ONE VAT. Onion stem cells mixed in with carrot stem cells and bovine stem cells.
posted by boo_radley at 2:04 PM on August 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


People in India go their whole lives without eating a beef and they're OK!

I know that, but I'd assume those people substitute the lack of cow bacteria in their gut flora with other stuff.

What happens to the 10 year old kid living in a housing project in Brownsville, Brooklyn, who eats a McDonald's happy meal every day which constitutes a significant portion of his caloric intake? Are the fries, pickle, cheetos he has for dinner, etc. enough to keep his gut flora functioning normally?
posted by Sara C. at 2:15 PM on August 5, 2013


You (Sara C.) are talking, with your genomic library, about a distant future where there are few living cows to donate muscle tissue, yes?

Yes. You don't want to wait a hundred years to stockpile usable genetic material, at which time there are only two or three breeds of beef cattle, which are raised in miniscule populations in far-flung parts of the world. You'd want to start now, when beef cattle are ubiquitous, and have a diverse selection of resources to choose from.

It's sort of like how we've lost all these heritage/heirloom varieties of livestock and produce to monoculture. Except even worse, because you could potentially just keep cloning muscle tissue of that one cow, forever.
posted by Sara C. at 2:19 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


We should be sampling all the animals on Earth - cows, frogs, seals, everything, and preserving as much of their genetic diversity as we can in archives against the day when we can finally clone them.

As to this synthetic meat technology, the potential is very exciting, but it's still early days yet. Those paddies are like the first transistors in 1947. There's a long way to go still, in terms of synthesising the nutrient medium and figuring out how to make meat on an industrial scale. The technology could have a transformative effect on our society and lessen the heavy footprint we leave on the Earth, supplying the rising demand for beef worldwide. It's also bad news for the cattle industry.

But the abomination I'd really like to see destroyed is the fishing industry. In the article it says that fish and chicken might be easier to synthesize than beef.

Imagine a world where cheap, synthetic, mercury-free fish completely eliminates the need for a commercial fishery. No more bottom trawling! No more hunting bluefuin tuna or sharks to extinction! No more accidental killing of dolphins. The Japanese could eat whale every day for dinner and not hurt the actual whales. No more fish farms, with their concentrated parasites and pollutants. You could order expensive fish at a restaurant and know that's exactly what you're getting. From the lab to the kitchen to your plate.
posted by Kevin Street at 2:21 PM on August 5, 2013 [11 favorites]


early indications suggest that cultured meat could reduce the need for land and water by as much as 90% and overall energy use by up to 70%. It looks like worms pressed together because the muscle fibers were "painstakingly pressed together to form the hamburger". Also this was backed by Sergey Brin.
posted by thetruthisjustalie at 2:21 PM on August 5, 2013


We're going to have to rethink cities.
posted by spudsilo at 2:27 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


...you could potentially just keep cloning muscle tissue of that one cow, forever.

I propose that we name this cow Henrietta Lacks.
posted by VTX at 2:32 PM on August 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


I propose that we name this cow Henrietta Lacks.

Speaking of HeLa, I wonder if we need to worry about cell line contamination and so forth. Cue the sci-fi dystopian scenarios where diseases spread that make Mad Cow Disease look like a minor cold.
posted by naju at 2:37 PM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


People thinking existing feedstock chain members will just buy into this are wrong, I think. Big Meat should be very worried indeed because they have almost no relevant skills or expertise; they're "good" at managing land for corn growing and associated logistics, feedlot management, industrial slaughterhouse and carcass processing, and linking to supermarket supply chains. Only the latter is of any use when you can grow chunks of meat to form, and they don't exactly have a monopoly on that expertise. Sure, they could try and buy their way in but their money is only as good as the next venture capitalist. To run these new factories it will be tissue culture expertise that counts more than anything else. Maybe even the brewers and dairy product groups will get a look in. But making cows out of corn, not much. That's like asking how many heavy horse stud farmers went on to make cars, because they had the expertise in pulling stuff. Blacksmiths did OK though, at least to start with.

Big changes.
posted by cromagnon at 2:43 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


You can culture up AN ENTIRE MEATLOAF IN ONE VAT. Onion stem cells mixed in with carrot stem cells and bovine stem cells.

It always goes wrong when we come to the dessert. Always.
posted by achrise at 2:56 PM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


I definitely want to try this someday.
posted by homunculus at 2:59 PM on August 5, 2013


thetruthisjustalie: " It looks like worms pressed together because the muscle fibers were "painstakingly pressed together to form the hamburger". Also this was backed by Sergey Brin."

Soon Google campuses get a different kind of Slurpee machine.
posted by boo_radley at 3:02 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


BTW folks... If you can find a copy of Tuf Voyaging by George R R Martin, please do so. Meatbeasts and all that.
posted by Splunge at 3:32 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


> Soon Google campuses get a different kind of Slurpee machine.

One strawberry Kobe beefshake please.
posted by thetruthisjustalie at 3:41 PM on August 5, 2013


I cannot wait for this to be commercial, though I understand that realistically it will still take a long time. Getting larger, more linear chunks of muscle and running fat through would be nice in terms of making things other than lean mince. I bet we'll be 3D printing arterial scaffolds before long though, and I can imagine someone like Heston Blumenthal commissioning steaks in the shape of his face.

Also, I make this joke every time vat meat comes up (and I'm sure I stole it from another mefite), but the industrial accidents are going to be weird - "We've got a flex in vat 8! Repeat, a flex in vat 8!"
posted by lucidium at 3:41 PM on August 5, 2013


What about the nutrients that an animal would store within its cells and other tissues? What things are present in meat that should be there that we aren't even aware of? Are we sure we can make a fully nutritious meat or just a blob of protein that tastes pretty good? Given that this might ultimately make up a significant portion of people's diets, it makes sense to proceed with some caution around careful reproduction of nutritional benefits.

The source of these problems could be that we're not growing all the tissues that completely make up the meat, or because the nutrients that we're feeding the tissues are incomplete vis-a-vis an actual animal in the wild, or both.

Though perhaps one upshot is if you are growing the meat in a lab, you are at least starting with tightly controlled samples. Maybe the food scientists can compare the vat-meat against several samples of wild meat and do some kind of very thorough nutritional comparison and try to make the meat more and more like the wild variety.
posted by delicious-luncheon at 3:43 PM on August 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


This seems conceptually interesting to me. But part of me thinks this is going to end up dangerous. Like, if you eat it long enough you end up getting toe cancer or autism or something. Or worse, it gives you the shits like Olestra did.
posted by dios at 4:13 PM on August 5, 2013


I'm not a biologist but my basic understanding is that to have this petri-beef you have to have at least all of the basic amino acids in any meat. Someone else correct me if I'm wrong here. As far as lipids, well I just don't know.
posted by Splunge at 4:27 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I like this idea, but only if it tastes as good or better than a normal burger.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 4:33 PM on August 5, 2013


Is it vegetarian, in a Level 5 Vegan kind of way? What's the "nutrient solution" made from?
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:21 AM on August 5 [+] [!]

What in GOD'S NAME is a LEVEL 5 Vegan?
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 5:21 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Lipstick Thespian: "Is it vegetarian, in a Level 5 Vegan kind of way? What's the "nutrient solution" made from?
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:21 AM on August 5 [+] [!]

What in GOD'S NAME is a LEVEL 5 Vegan?
"

That means you're CLEAR. And can teach other Vegans.
posted by Splunge at 5:26 PM on August 5, 2013


Charlemagne In Sweatpants: "I like this idea, but only if it tastes as good or better than a normal burger."

Define "normal" burger.
posted by Splunge at 5:28 PM on August 5, 2013


You also get telekensis and sonic boom powers.
posted by The Whelk at 5:28 PM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]



Define "normal" burger.


Big, thick, meaty beef burger. Or ostrich, or emu, or lamb, or whatever meat its simulating.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:30 PM on August 5, 2013


I'm pretty sure a level 5 vegan won't eat anything that casts a shadow.
posted by delicious-luncheon at 6:01 PM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Even plankton casts a shadow. So you're saying level 5 Vegans live on sunlight?
posted by Splunge at 6:03 PM on August 5, 2013


That fatty gristly crap comes alive in soup.
Taste is in the eye of the beholder to some extent.
prole burgers


You people aren't listening to yourselves while you write, are you?
posted by gingerest at 6:06 PM on August 5, 2013


can we engineeer this vat-meat to contain vitamins and other nuterients so I can continue eating nothing but meat? and then i can be healthy and shut up my vegan friends?
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 6:10 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


The emphasis has been on terroir and artisanal and Alice Waters and Michael Pollan for too long, now.

Two words: molecular gastronomy.
posted by KathrynT at 6:23 PM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


SCENE: Star Chamber located in the basement of Vegan food restaurant, downtown NYC:

ELDER SPLUNGE: "Acolyte, come forward...."

ACOLYTE: "Wait, man, I'm centering myself. Just chill..."

ELDER SPLUNGE: "Acolyte.....COME....FORWARD-ARD-RD!" (Star Chamber starts to rumble.)

ACOLYTE: "Dude, I'm just checking my e-mail. No problem."

E.S.: "Your time has come, Searcher. Now I will transmit the final Art. You will forever be a Sun Eater now..."

ACOLYTE: "No WAY, man! I'm totes going to the Beach House show tonight - tickets, yo!"

E.S: (drops cloak, sighs...) "That's it. I'm done. I....he...this, there aren't words. You need me - I'm at Arby's."
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 6:51 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can't see US agribusiness letting this kind of thing happen for reals. Why on earth would they?
University of Maastricht
posted by fullerine at 7:42 PM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


gingerest: "That fatty gristly crap comes alive in soup.
Taste is in the eye of the beholder to some extent.
prole burgers


You people aren't listening to yourselves while you write, are you?
"

Of course I am, but I'm not mumbling what I write, so it's fine.
posted by boo_radley at 8:46 PM on August 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, could someone explain the squick factor? I don't get the squick factor.

Yeah, not to be a buzzkill, but y'all realize that regular meat is corpse pieces, right?

Not really sure how that could get much squickier itself. Maybe if it had poop in it. Oh wait, commercial meat has that too.
posted by threeants at 8:59 PM on August 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


And plants are grown from poop. There's no escape!
posted by Kevin Street at 9:08 PM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


And no matter what you eat, it will eventually turn into poop.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:24 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


ok just to be clear I am less bothered by poop in the world than poop in my mouth
posted by threeants at 9:38 PM on August 5, 2013


Frankly, my gut has shit for brains.
posted by maryr at 9:39 PM on August 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


A level 5 vegan. (For some reason, the only high quality YouTube clip that comes up is in Spanish.)
posted by maryr at 9:46 PM on August 5, 2013


My mom (a vegetarian since birth) saw this on the news and found it creepy and disgusting, and the idea of vegetarians eating it totally laughable. "It's like a cow without a brain," she said. I explained and told her that nothing was actually alive, but she insisted that it's like "eating a baby" (?) So I guess some people are just going to be instinctively grossed out and don't want to even understand the concept.
posted by naju at 9:55 PM on August 5, 2013



My mom (a vegetarian since birth) saw this on the news and found it creepy and disgusting, and the idea of vegetarians eating it totally laughable. "It's like a cow without a brain," she said. I explained and told her that nothing was actually alive, but she insisted that it's like "eating a baby" (?) So I guess some people are just going to be instinctively grossed out and don't want to even understand the concept.


I've already seen one person talk about this in terms of a 'dystopian future'. I think they already suspect that this is being done by Evil Agribusiness. But if you remove animal suffering from the equation, what's wrong with eating meat beyond knee-jerk Ludditism?
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 9:57 PM on August 5, 2013


I have to admit, the idea of ground beef being grown in a petri dish is somewhat amusing since I generally use them to grow E. coli. Heh.
posted by maryr at 10:02 PM on August 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think lab-grown meat sounds like a good proposition because the labs will (presumably) not be reservoirs for disease the way that slaughterhouses and concentrated animal feeding operations are. (Plus, they'd be cruelty-free and more resource-efficient).

However, I think most people in this thread are underestimating the extent of the general population's fears of "unnatural" food. When Kentucky Fried Chicken changed its name to just KFC, rumors sprang up that the company had changed its name to drop the word "chicken" because it had begun using "mutant animals" instead of real chickens.

The average person will express a preference for "natural" meat, without realizing that the meat they're used to is frequently very unnatural, and the way the meat's produced is almost always very unnatural.
posted by Sleeper at 1:20 AM on August 6, 2013


That is to say, there's a powerful fear of unnatural or adulterated food, although those fears are frequently misplaced.
posted by Sleeper at 1:22 AM on August 6, 2013


Thanks Sara C.! Creating a monoculture where one disaster could wipe out the whole operation was basically was I was wondering about.

I know meat is not sterile, but isn't it often cooked at a high enough temperature to destroy bacteria? I admit I'm pretty clueless about cooking meat, I've been a pescatarian since I was 11 years old, and have never really cooked it.
posted by inertia at 6:45 AM on August 6, 2013


Sleeper, people have been claiming Kentucky Fried Chicken was cat or rat or pigeon since long before the KFC name change. I don't know that that example is a fear or unnatural meat so much as a general "Well, it's breaded and delicious, but what am I actually eating?"
posted by maryr at 7:24 AM on August 6, 2013


Yeah, I work with people (in high-ranking positions no less) who very seriously believe that KFC maintains secret underground laboratories in which hideous deformed beasts are grown that have 20 wings on either side, so that they can sell chicken wings cheaper, or that have dozens of drumsticks all over their monstrous chicken bodies.

america: we'll always be #1 in stupids
posted by elizardbits at 8:48 AM on August 6, 2013


When Kentucky Fried Chicken changed its name to just KFC, rumors sprang up that the company had changed its name to drop the word "chicken" because it had begun using "mutant animals" instead of real chickens.

Those rumors were just as often discussed with a bucket of chicken in one hand.

I think that when this hits the wider market there will be talk, and rumor, and eeewwww science foooood and all that.

I just think that people will be their normal stupid selves about it. They'll zero in on things that aren't relevant and happily buy the lab grown meat without even really thinking about it.
posted by Sara C. at 9:04 AM on August 6, 2013


My wife and I were talking about the fact that the scientist said that other meats (fish, chicken, etc.) could be grown too. The conversation continued like this:

Me: "Wow, we could get cell cultures taken from ourselves and make burgers! We could EAT EACH OTHER! It'd be the ultimate in couples closeness!"

Her: "What is WRONG with you?"

In all seriousness though, at least 2/3 of our meals are meat-free and we try to get locally sourced meat the rest of the time. For me the squick factor goes in this order:

1) Grossest: Factory farmed meat with all the hormones and chemical baths, plus the cruelty.

2) Less gross: Local cow lives a nice life and is then slaughtered.

3) Least gross: Vat meat, but only if it's an open process not controlled by the big food corporations. In one of the interviews I heard the scientist was envisioning the ability to use off-the-shelf equipment to make it yourself - similar to brewing your own beer (and similarly taking a few weeks or so to go through the process). That seems really cool to me.
posted by freecellwizard at 10:36 AM on August 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Growing the Future of Meat
posted by homunculus at 11:30 AM on August 6, 2013


freecellwizard: "use off-the-shelf equipment to make it yourself - similar to brewing your own beer"

I can just picture a hundred beer nerds sitting around a biomeat forge bickering about how hoppy it should be.
posted by boo_radley at 12:13 PM on August 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


this local comedy show did a bit on vat grown meat (skip to 6:00) and raised a point as a joke that I think is a good one: why not vat-grow exotic meat, like human flesh or endangered animals?
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 5:22 PM on August 6, 2013


If you let them get a taste for human flesh they will revert to a feral state and turn against you.
posted by windykites at 7:28 PM on August 6, 2013


I know meat is not sterile, but isn't it often cooked at a high enough temperature to destroy bacteria?

That's the idea, yes, but the fact that 1 in 6 Americans is sickened by a foodborne illness every year pretty much tells you that the food-handling steps the end consumer can take to kill pathogens (including viruses, also a problem in cell culture) either aren't taken as seriously as they should be or aren't that effective. My guess is that the proportion of meat-eaters who've consumed undercooked meat at some point bumps right up against 100%.
posted by gingerest at 7:43 PM on August 6, 2013


I was actually a macrobiotic vegetarian for a while. Maybe 2 years. It was fun for a while. But it gets old. YMMV.
posted by Splunge at 4:59 PM on August 7, 2013


Can Vegetarians Eat In-Vitro Meat? The Debate Rages. So…if a piece of beef is grown in a lab, without killing the cow, can vegetarians eat it? Some say no. Others say they must.
posted by homunculus at 11:55 AM on August 8, 2013


Your meat addiction is destroying the planet (but we can fix it)
posted by homunculus at 12:43 PM on August 13, 2013


Virtual reality cow aims to teach about empathy towards animals
posted by homunculus at 10:08 AM on August 15, 2013


« Older A Water Storage Nightmare:...  |  Remembering the Apple Newton’s... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments