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Orwellian Carnivore
July 2, 2006 11:29 AM   Subscribe

“You know, I don’t think there’s a single piece of meat in this stew. Looks like meat. Tastes like meat. It isn’t meat at all. Doubleplus good!” ~ George Orwell: 1984
posted by augustweed (54 comments total)

 
Is that ham?
posted by sourwookie at 11:56 AM on July 2, 2006


It's an interesting article (that you linked to twice) but what the hell does it have to do with 1984?
posted by octothorpe at 12:05 PM on July 2, 2006


It's a little creepy, but I'm not sure how cultured meat is Orwellian. It's certainly less cruel than factory farming.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:08 PM on July 2, 2006


More Soylent Green than 1984.

Especially if sales of artificial long pig take off....
posted by itsjustanalias at 12:10 PM on July 2, 2006


More Soylent Green than 1984.

This reminds me more of the breast-only-pseudo-chicken-things in "Oryx and Crake" than either "1984" or "Solyent Green"
posted by hwestiii at 12:19 PM on July 2, 2006


What octothorpe said.
posted by nonmerci at 12:24 PM on July 2, 2006


It's an interesting article (that you linked to twice) but what the hell does it have to do with 1984?
Google suggests it's a quote from 1984, the movie.
posted by kickingtheground at 12:26 PM on July 2, 2006


I will happily eat this. But then, the "chicken little" sequence in The Space Merchants already makes me hungry.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 12:39 PM on July 2, 2006


Google suggests it's a quote from 1984, the movie.

But not from the book, so it's somewhat more Radfordian than Orwellian.
posted by octothorpe at 12:55 PM on July 2, 2006


I can't wait to get me a bucket o' nubbins. Oryx and Crake pretty much turned me off KFC, and I L O V E me some KFC.
posted by furtive at 1:32 PM on July 2, 2006


heh... meet sheets.
posted by Robot Johnny at 1:37 PM on July 2, 2006


...meat even.
posted by Robot Johnny at 1:37 PM on July 2, 2006


There is such a thing as salesmanship, and if they expect it to sell they'd better drop the term "bioreactor" like a glowing ingot of subcritical plutonium.

This reminds me more of the breast-only-pseudo-chicken-things in "Oryx and Crake"

The chickens they bring to market now more than halfway there already by conventional breeding alone. And if you're squeamish, you probably don't want to know anything about chicken (or pork, or beef) raising and slaughtering practices as it is. By comparison this is almost wholesome.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:39 PM on July 2, 2006


Meet meat sheets!
posted by nonmerci at 1:48 PM on July 2, 2006


Sounds yummy. I'll be an early adapter.
posted by bingo at 2:15 PM on July 2, 2006


Meet meat sheets!

Shmeet!™ - now in Chik-N®, Beaf®, Poark®, and new tasty Laaahm® flavours.
Does not contain real flavours. Or meat.
posted by hangashore at 2:23 PM on July 2, 2006


Given the wanton cruelty and environmental pollution of our current system of factory farms, this seems like a very good thing.
posted by LarryC at 2:34 PM on July 2, 2006


Have any of you tried quorn? I did, and found it completely inedible. I mean, I'll gladly eat a grilled portobello, or nearly any other edible fungus, but I thought this stuff was completely nasty.
posted by crunchland at 2:37 PM on July 2, 2006


Ok . . . ok . . . It is more Brave New Worlds than it is 1984. You guys have always been a tough crowd. I assumed more of you had seen the movie as well, and yes I know what happens when I ass-u-me. :) BTW . . . soylent green is people!!!!!!!
posted by augustweed at 2:38 PM on July 2, 2006


And I didn't mean to type Brave New Worlds. I'm gonna hear it now!
posted by augustweed at 2:40 PM on July 2, 2006


And if you're squeamish, you probably don't want to know anything about chicken (or pork, or beef) raising and slaughtering practices as it is.

Yeah. Bismarck said that laws were like sausages in that people who like them probably shouldn't watch them being made.

More Soylent Green than 1984.

Especially if sales of artificial long pig take off....


Could they actually produce sheets of human meat through this process? I know it would be completely repulsive either way but would the law actually allow them to do this?

On a more serious note, would people who opt for vegetarianism because of their moral objections to the cruelty involved in rearing and slaughtering be able to eat this product?
posted by jason's_planet at 3:00 PM on July 2, 2006


Given the wanton cruelty and environmental pollution of our current system of factory farms, this seems like a very good thing.

This recovering carnivore fully agrees, but it might be a tough battle. From the article:
Matheny believes in vitro meat can compete with conventional meat by using nutrients from plant or fungal sources, which could bring the cost down to about $1 per pound.
Even at that (probably wildly optimistic) price it'd have a hard time beating the snouts-beaks-n-bungs mixture that becomes today's hamburger, wieners, and chicken nuggets. Worth the effort, though, and despite the above facetious riffing, I'd have to give it a try (if I can put aside my now well-developed meat-aversion).
posted by hangashore at 3:03 PM on July 2, 2006


Henk Haagsman, a professor of meat sciences at Utrecht University

You can get your degree in meat sciences?!

I want to major in Sirloin!
posted by papakwanz at 3:13 PM on July 2, 2006


On a more serious note, would people who opt for vegetarianism because of their moral objections to the cruelty involved in rearing and slaughtering be able to eat this product?

I am a vegetarian as described and am looking forward to eating a lovely tank-grown ham at Xmas dinner 2011.
posted by jtron at 3:33 PM on July 2, 2006


I like steak from local ranches, and wild-caught fish and venison and other such things that are far too complex to be cooking in the vat anytime soon. (I also try to avoid any industrial-agriculture meat, although that's not always an option.)

But the majority of American beef consumed is in the form of the humble hamburger or ground chuck. If this sort of ground beef can be easily & cheaply manufactured, you could conceivably shut down most of the agribusiness cattle yards and free-range welfare cattle that continue to trample and shit all over public lands in the western U.S.

This is from some hippie anti-meat site, so it's not exactly objective, but it has some interesting history & trivia on the beef industry.

The lab-grown meat would also have the benefit of whatever healthy stuff (Omega 3, for example) you grow into it, and all the foul stuff (e. coli, BSE, etc.) you never introduce into the supply.

What would really be nice is if Americans demanded delicious food. Turns out delicious food takes careful farming and "happy cows," among other qualities, and is much healthier as a result. I got to hang out with a French agriculture professor in the Dordogne last month and questioned him on yield, techniques, etc.

As we sat outside drinking local wine and eating a buffet of local sausage, cheese, produce and poultry, I asked him how everything was so delicious while coming from such gorgeous farmland -- rich green pastures with a handful of handsome cattle grazing beneath old trees, etc. He said you can't separate the two, and that some 80% of French agriculture was still produced by individual family farms. The average cattle rancher has less than 100 head ... think about that the next time you drive past the stinking horror of Harris Ranch on the 5.

The result is leaf lettuce from the local supermarket or green grocer that tastes like butter, better than anything you'd pay a premium for in a NYC or LA farmer's market. The steak is outrageous, not to mention the foie gras, pâté, bread, butter, etc.
posted by kenlayne at 3:44 PM on July 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


Turns out delicious food takes careful farming and "happy cows," among other qualities, and is much healthier as a result.

See also: Argentina On Two Steaks A Day.
posted by hangashore at 3:54 PM on July 2, 2006


"Henk Haagsman, a professor of meat sciences..."

Professor of what??

I'm actually a little (lot...) grossed out by this and I'm not sure why: either because I haven't eaten meat in years, or because I just had dinner, OR because I culture cells in petri dishes daily and they are certainly not for eating... But my house plants are not for eating either and I eat other plants. Hmm. Maybe I could get used to it. Morally, I'd eat it, but the picture of the petri dish with the pink medium just looks WAY too much like something non-edible...
posted by easternblot at 3:57 PM on July 2, 2006


creepy
posted by c:\awesome at 4:11 PM on July 2, 2006


free-range welfare cattle

Wow.
posted by papakwanz at 4:16 PM on July 2, 2006


Doubleplusyummy!
posted by blucevalo at 4:23 PM on July 2, 2006


The exact quote in the FPP isn't in the book, but the general idea is:

They threaded their way across the crowded room and unpacked their trays on to the metal-topped table, on one corner of which someone had left a pool of stew, a filthy liquid mess that had the appearance of vomit. Winston took up his mug of gin, paused for an instant to collect his nerve, and gulped the oily-tasting stuff down. When he had winked the tears out of his eyes he suddenly discovered that he was hungry. He began swallowing spoonfuls of the stew, which, in among its general sloppiness, had cubes of spongy pinkish stuff which was probably a preparation of meat. [Orwell, 1984, Part 1, Chapter 5]
posted by blucevalo at 4:27 PM on July 2, 2006


Papakwanz: The favored term is "welfare ranchers," but it's hard to feel friendly toward the filthy animals when they've ruined yet another mountain stream with their cowpies, or you find a favorite hot spring in the desert has been rendered unusable due to the ton of cow shit they left behind during the few minutes it took them to figure out a sulfur hot spring isn't drinking water.

Mind you, these are public lands opened to western welfare ranchers and their scrawny-assed cattle, who proceed to destroy everything.

Some relevant links.
posted by kenlayne at 4:46 PM on July 2, 2006


Have they actually considered if anyone would eat lab-produced meat? I'm vegetarian, and I wouldn't touch it with a bargepole. Meat is still meat, and I'd be sick if I tried to eat it, these days. Give me Quorn any day.
posted by salmacis at 4:48 PM on July 2, 2006


"'To produce the meat we eat now, 75 (percent) to 95 percent of what we feed an animal is lost because of metabolism and inedible structures like skeleton or neurological tissue,' says Matheny"

American palates don't eat a lot of the cow anyway. I used to eat brains (with eggs, yum) and tongue, all sorts of cow bits that are perfectly edible, not just the NY strip portion.

But, y'know, it'd be insane to change our dietary habits.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:56 PM on July 2, 2006


mmmm meat.
posted by blacklite at 5:44 PM on July 2, 2006


I love a good steak, and I know there's no replacement for it, but I would have absolutely no objection if the "beef" in my next Big Mac or Crunch-Wrap Supreme came from a vat instead of an animal. Bring on the meat cells!
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:25 PM on July 2, 2006


One of the practical problems to be overcome is that, unlike a functioning animal, meat sheets would not likely present behavioral or dysfunctional symptoms of disease causing proteins like prions. So, it is possible that meat sheet culture, absent the developmental and ecological pressures of producing a complete functioning organism with a robust immune system and a full complement of instinctual and avoidance behaviors, could instead provide a nearly perfect vector for disease, that would be difficult to detect or prevent in short turn production setups. Not that I'm against GM, per se, but it is easier to keep tabs on problems, if the vectors to which GM products are constrained walk and squawk like real ducks.
posted by paulsc at 8:06 PM on July 2, 2006


Interestingly enough (or not) I heard today that Bud Lite saluted Mr. Boneless Buffalo Wing Inventor as yet another Real Man of Genius.

"Hope I'm not eating rear end!"
posted by yhbc at 8:12 PM on July 2, 2006


paulsc:

Have prions ever been found in non-neuronal tissue? I know the mad cow prion is a neurological protein, which means that vat-grown meat (which is nerveless) is permanently safe from it, but I suppose it's conceivable that other prions could develop in it. I don't know if muscle and support tissue has proteins capable of that sort of conformation.

I'd be more worried about viruses and bacteria, but I don't think it'd be nearly as large of a problem as you think. Unlike animals, sterile culture procedures could be observed. Also, infection without any immune system to slow it down would probably destroy the tissue in a pretty obvious way.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:55 PM on July 2, 2006


Count me in as a vegetarian for ethical reasons who'd gladly eat this - no suffering or death in this equation.
posted by abcde at 11:30 PM on July 2, 2006


Mitrovarr, this Wikipedia article describes PrP (prion related protein) as being found throughout the body of healthy people and animals, although the sub-forms that are associated with BSE and scrapies are typically found only in neuronal tissues. There are also fungal prions, and I suspect, as research continues, we'll discover additional non-neuronal prions that can or do act as disease agents -- it's just too simple and effective a disease mechanism not to have a broad biological base, but we've only begun to look for such things, and the finite funding currently available is understandably mainly devoted to study of BSE type prions.

As for viral and bacteria infections and control in meat sheet culture, one of the mechanisms of healthy immune systems are the abilities of the immune system to pre-maturely kill off infected but functional body cells, to limit reproduction of a virus. I suspect that many viruses are going to see meat sheets, where cellular reproduction is encouraged and no functioning immune system is present, as Heaven.
posted by paulsc at 1:17 AM on July 3, 2006


paulsc:

Well, the finding that PrP is found throughout the body is new to me, but it's worth noting that nerve cells are found throughout the body in greater or lessar quantities as well. I'd be more interested to know whether PrP is found in non-neuronal cells. I think the danger of prions in vat-grown meat could be minimized by not growing in overly large single lots, and not feeding the meat with meat proteins (at least not without breaking them down.) Really, I think it'd be a lot safer in this regard; it'd be under much greater control than an animal, the diet would be much simpler, and they would not need to grow for as long. Meat animals don't live for long enough for prion diseases to show anyway.

I checked up on some Fungal Prion articles after you mentioned them. I was surprised that I hadn't heard of them after taking mycology and various biochem/micro courses. It's quite interesting. I can see how, in the linked cells that make up fungal hyphae, such a thing could propegate better than in other multicellular forms.

With regard to infectious organisms, I can see your point... but I think we're better at clean culturing techniques than you think. We can grow large quantities of yeast and bacteria without major contamination right now. Also, I'm not sure if the bacteria and viruses that would destroy undefended meat in a vat would be the sort of thing that would necessarily survive cooking and the human stomach. I think we're talking decomposers here rather than pathogens.

Also, it's not as if current meat is totally safe against microbes. There's E. Coli, Salmonella, all the various food poisoning bugs... you name it.
posted by Mitrovarr at 2:49 AM on July 3, 2006


Count me in as a vegetarian for ethical reasons who'd gladly eat this - no suffering or death in this equation.

Add my name to the list of vegetarians salivating in anticipation...
posted by saulgoodman at 7:04 AM on July 3, 2006


I'm another vegetarian that is sooo ready to eat this vat grown meat that I've opened that link to that very wired article five or six times on several sites in the last year in hopes that the some new story has emerged . I really thought I had hit pay dirt the first link I clicked in the post was that same darn article, I thought-wow, finally something new has to be in the second link- and then I cried as it was the same article. so cruel.
posted by donabean at 8:35 AM on July 3, 2006



omg

I recently watched The Yes Men documentary and laughed out loud at the part about how McDonalds had figured out a way to "solve world hunger by increasing the efficiency of food production ... "

... McDonald's hamburgers are passed out, and the students chow down as the fake speaker laments the fact that the human body is inefficient in processing food. In fact, 90 percent of all the calories we eat are eliminated by the body. The challenge, they're told, "is to recycle post-consumer waste into fast food. A single hamburger can be eaten 10 times!"

Life reflects art?
posted by Surfurrus at 11:38 AM on July 3, 2006


or you find a favorite hot spring in the desert

Sometimes people say things I genuinely do not understand. Hot sulpher springs are a desired target in the desert?

As for meat-in-a-vat... I honestly don't know what I think about it yet. I like the idea, and I think it is fantastic for other people, meaning everyone in the entire world except for me.

For me, I'm a picky eater already... I don't know if this would be a deal breaker for me or not. It sounds squicky. I guess I would have to see/smell/carefully taste the actual product first.
posted by Ynoxas at 12:16 PM on July 3, 2006


Sometimes people say things I genuinely do not understand. Hot sulpher springs are a desired target in the desert?

Yes.

posted by vorfeed at 12:31 PM on July 3, 2006


Could they actually produce sheets of human meat through this process? I know it would be completely repulsive either way but would the law actually allow them to do this?

There was a great part in the classic sci-fi book Stars in my Pocket Like Grains of Sand where a person has a sample of his flesh taken by a stranger because he is a celebrity. Cloned celebrity meat is a big deal on this planet. That always tickled me.

Though you can count me out for the 'Flank of Paris Hilton' dinner special. Stringy.
posted by lumpenprole at 12:31 PM on July 3, 2006


Vat-grown meat isn't interesting to me. If they could turn a cucumber into a sentient being that had to be hunted -- not that would be interesting!
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:28 PM on July 3, 2006


Now that, rather.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:29 PM on July 3, 2006


Previously discussed.

Although this is mildly gross, I've suggested more disgusting possibilities. So sign me up for vat meat as well. And while I'm at it, I'm going to buy some quorn this week.

I just read a book by Victor Milan where the protagonist is stuck on a planet with all left-hand proteins, and he has to use a medical regeneration vat to create human parts for his own consumption.
posted by BrotherCaine at 3:28 PM on July 3, 2006


/Hot springs might be worth something on the front page vorfeed. Certainly piqued my interest. It’d be nice after a long bike ride to hit one of these.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:57 PM on July 3, 2006


This is wrong on so many levels.
posted by ArunK at 8:34 PM on July 3, 2006


I'm a vegetarian, and certainly wouldn't eat the meat sheets, synthesised bioreactor meat, or whatever you wish to call it.

Though there is no actual death involved in the process, animals will still be imprisoned for the purposes of cell extraction. And in the process of creating this synthetic substitute, the scientists are using cell extraction from live animals, which are disposed of when no longer useful.

As for those people who eat a vegetarian diet and are actually looking forward to this, it's very simple: If you want to eat meat, then do so! The horrific suffering of animals is only circumvented a tiny amount if all you do is abstain from eating meat rather than taking action against it.
posted by malusmoriendumest at 3:50 AM on July 4, 2006


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