Is meat the muscle of an animal? Or is it the remains of a living thing?
July 11, 2018 1:46 PM   Subscribe

Is Lab-Grown Meat Really Meat? Cultured-meat manufacturers like Just Inc. and Memphis Meats are hoping to provide consumers with meat that is just like its predecessor, that tastes and looks and feels and smells exactly the same as something you might get in stores today but will be more sustainable. Whether that will turn out to be true won’t be clear for some time. But there’s another, more immediate battle heating up between the cattle industry and these new entrants into the meaty ring. So buckle up and put on your wonkiest hat, because the labeling war is about to begin. [SLSlate] posted by not_the_water (81 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
 
Nope.
posted by parki at 1:50 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


Yep.
posted by saturday_morning at 1:53 PM on July 11 [10 favorites]


Label it, don't label it, I don't care. Give me lab grown meat already. As someone who has really bad psychological problems with fruits and vegetables If I can get fair low carbon footprint meat sign me the hell up.
posted by Definitely Not Sean Spicer at 1:54 PM on July 11 [24 favorites]


What's in a name?
posted by emmet at 1:55 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


Whatever makes livestock-raising go away is what I'm for.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 2:01 PM on July 11 [47 favorites]


i am all for it. i love meat, but hate killing animals for it, and hate destroying the environment for it. also? contamination and disease is a major issue in the meat industry. clean meat? call it anything you like, i'd buy it.
posted by lapolla at 2:01 PM on July 11 [17 favorites]


If it's nutritionally comparable, I don't care what you call it. Honestly, I'm more concerned about labeling standards being relaxed enough that people will sell stuff as lab-grown meat, or heavily imply that it is, but not disclose that it still has a significant percentage of farm-raised meat in it. I'm expecting that lab-grown meat will be more expensive for a while, and I don't trust producers not to cut costs at my expense. All this talk about "consumer choice" is just the cattle farmers protecting their brand, but I actually am concerned about consumer choice.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 2:04 PM on July 11 [12 favorites]


Finally, I can grow whatever animal they use to make Treet....
posted by Nanukthedog at 2:07 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


"Yes, thinking meat! Conscious meat! Loving meat. Dreaming meat. The meat is the whole deal! Are you beginning to get the picture or do I have to start all over?"
posted by the man of twists and turns at 2:17 PM on July 11 [24 favorites]


Reminds me of the same debate around pearls (cultivated vs natural) and precious gems (man-made vs natural) over the past 30 years.


Lab engineers: Hey, we can make diamonds in the lab now!

De Beers diamond flacks: Nope! Can’t call ‘em “diamonds” unless they’re naturally grown.

Engineers: Yeah-huh! It’s chemically identical!

De Beers: Not the same source! Natural is SO much better and totally worth paying the premium!

Engineers: You’re crazy! The only reason you charge a premium for the natural ones is because you have a cartel that artificially restricts supply. You have literally tons of those rocks.

De Beers: Still! *spends lots of money on lobbying for labeling regulation*

Engineers: Okay, we’ll call ours “lab-created diamonds” then, okay?

De Beers: Okay, fine. And we’ll continue to spend millions in marketing to manipulate the public’s emotions to convince them that there’s a meaningful difference justifying the premium for the natural ones.

*ten years later, after realizing this isn’t a trend they can defeat with marketing*

De Beers: Now introducing: “Lightbox Jewelry”, featuring created diamonds!
posted by darkstar at 2:18 PM on July 11 [34 favorites]


Misspell it like they do with Krab: beaf, chikken, porck, etc. Or maybe something along the lines of labRed for beef, labWhite for chicken, and labPink for pork.
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:20 PM on July 11 [4 favorites]


Coming at this from the opposite angle:

My usual burger joint swapped its veggie burger with one of these lab-grown meat burgers without notice and, yeah… As a lifelong vegetarian, not into it. Their justification was expanding meat eaters' options. Behaviorally speaking, it doesn't really. It's more akin to a carbon credit. You're not going to use these as a step toward a mushroom burger.

I don't care what you call it so long as you don't imply its audience is vegetarians.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 2:20 PM on July 11 [8 favorites]


Or Smeat...
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:24 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


I expect GM plants to kill off cultured meat in a decade or so, if you can start integrating more of the meat-like features into a few input GM crop strains. The Impossible Burger could be much cheaper than beef and carbon friendly if they can engineer in coconut oil production into less destructive crop species (perennial meat, mmmm).
posted by benzenedream at 2:26 PM on July 11 [2 favorites]


Is a synthetic diamond a diamond? Yes.

Therefore, yes.

In both cases the only people claiming otherwise are the ones who are economically threatened.
posted by lumpenprole at 2:27 PM on July 11 [8 favorites]


Just waiting for someone to complain that cows and chickens will go extinct because nobody will raise them anymore if lab meat becomes a viable thing....
posted by blaneyphoto at 2:28 PM on July 11 [4 favorites]


Seems like the marketing folks haven’t gotten involved in this conversation yet. The fact that the cultured meat is cruelty-free and better for the environment is the whole selling point, yes? So why would you not want to make a big deal that it’s different from old, busted meat? Embrace the term “cultured meat” and appeal to the kind of people who consider themselves cultured. Putting it on the shelf among the old meat, pretending to be old meat (but less juicy), is a sure way to have no one buy your product.
posted by ejs at 2:29 PM on July 11 [8 favorites]


To correct myself, the burger swap involved one from Beyond Meat, so it was a plant-based mimic (that bled) rather than animal-based.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 2:30 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


My usual burger joint swapped its veggie burger with one of these lab-grown meat burgers without notice
Which one? I didn't think the lab-grown meat was on the market yet.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 2:31 PM on July 11 [3 favorites]


Seems like the marketing folks haven’t gotten involved in this conversation yet. The fact that the cultured meat is cruelty-free and better for the environment is the whole selling point, yes? So why would you not want to make a big deal that it’s different from old, busted meat? Embrace the term “cultured meat” and appeal to the kind of people who consider themselves cultured. Putting it on the shelf among the old meat, pretending to be old meat (but less juicy), is a sure way to have no one buy your product.

That is presupposing a lot of things about cultured meat's eventual quality and price. Will it be a luxury item? Or will it be something on the level of the mystery meat in chicken nuggets? That is going to have a huge effect on whether it will be attempted to be passed off as the real thing.
posted by dilaudid at 2:31 PM on July 11 [3 favorites]


old, busted meat

Hey, I resemble that remark! *hobbles off in a painful huff*
posted by Greg_Ace at 2:32 PM on July 11 [8 favorites]


I'm absolutely convinced that lab-grown will never reach market, especially at scale. It's one of those things that always seems to be just a few years off, year after year. I certainly hope I'm wrong, but I've stopped getting my hopes up.
posted by treepour at 2:54 PM on July 11 [3 favorites]


What about krill? Can we do krill patties? Krill nuggets? They should taste shrimpy, right? Can't see how we're going to do cultured meat if we can't even pull off industrial-scale krill farming.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:00 PM on July 11


They could use foreign spellings, e.g. "boeuf" or something. It even sounds classy.

(Just not German—"rindfleisch" sounds like something you'd find in a serial killer's chest freezer.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:04 PM on July 11 [2 favorites]


"The Impossible Burger could be much cheaper than beef ..."

Impossible burger is amazingly good. I tried to get one at Hopdoddy's in L.A. but every time I went there over the course of a week in May the Impossible Burger was sold out. I finally had one at FatBurger near Seattle and really liked it.

I bought a couple of Beyond Meat patties at Krogers and cooked them at home on the stovetop. Liked those, too, although the cooking smell was strangely reminiscent of the smell of vitamins and lingered for a long time in the house. They weren't quite up to the level of Impossible.

I do think that most people wouldn't think it was a non-meat burger they were eating if they didn't know.
posted by bz at 3:05 PM on July 11


It doesn't matter what you call it. Billions of people want to eat meat. Some sort of fake meat is the only option ethically and environmentally. Call it Meet because it is only meet (fitting, right, just) that people abandon animal farming, and because "meet" sounds sociable, friendly. Probably already some giant corporation's trademark, though.

I just hope the flesh factories turn out to be as ecological as people say they will be. You aren't going to run a Meet factory without materials and energy in and flesh and waste out.

Also, this had better include cheap factory fish (call it some play on -ish, because it's sort of fish), not just meat minus feet, because fish-eaters are depleting the seas. We need to put the factory ships of the world out of business. Leave the actual fish to family-owned, family-scale fishing boats.
posted by pracowity at 3:10 PM on July 11 [7 favorites]


A&W launched the Beyond Burger as their now de facto veggie burger option here in Canada on July 9th and I'm motherfucking here for it. We tried one at a vegan pop up booth a pair of friends ours run at a local artfest and Shepherd and I just sat there looking at each other, unnerved yet pleased at how uncanny it was.

Also, let's have a respectful conversation about this vegan/vegetarian topic. Thanks in advance.
posted by Kitteh at 3:15 PM on July 11 [6 favorites]


Both of the no side groups I'm assuming have no problem with pink slime being classified as meat so they don't really have a rational leg to stand on for this one IMO.
posted by Mitheral at 3:33 PM on July 11 [6 favorites]


I think it should clearly be labeled in a way that distinguishes it from slaughtered meat but ALSO has information on how it's made. For example, from this video explainer it seems stem cells are harvested from a live animal to begin the process. I'm unclear how often that would be required or what the process is. (If anyone has more clear info please link it!)

Therefore I don't know that many vegetarians or vegans would go for it if the process if a live animal is still used in some way for the end product . In addition I would be concerned about marketing that could push it to seem vegan or veg-friendly when it may not be to each person. Therefore it's VERY different than Beyond Meat or other PLANT-based products that resemble meat but require no animals to create (beyond the normal pollination from insects and nature).

But, there are many people who would prefer LESS animal harm and less environmental impact but don't have those choices due to availability, health, or cost with the current meat vs vegan/veg options. If it were to become more popular with less harm and waste then I think it's interesting. Although there is definitely a safety and concern factor with anything lab-created that we ingest, including medications.

I do my best to eat vegan and do cruelty free things when I can. I also recognize that not everyone has the privilege of that choice but would like to reduce harm in their dietary life. I'm just icked out by animal harm and eating dead things. But I also require many medications and treatments that use animal testing, contain gelatin, and don't have the budget for totally cruelty free beauty products in every aspect of my life. I am unsure how I feel about personally consuming a product like this and would need much more information to find my feelings of ethically and safety.
posted by Crystalinne at 3:35 PM on July 11


Warren Love, one of the representatives in Missouri behind the state bill that would ban companies like Just and Memphis Meats from using the term meat, says, “We have no problem with them producing it, manufacturing it, whatever, we just don’t want it to be labeled as, and kind of hijack the name of meat. Meat is from a harvested animal.”

Huh, I guess I never really thought about it, but a brief google image search makes me think that most meat that people buy isn't actually labelled with the word "meat" on the packaging. Which, I mean, why should it, saying that it's "tenderloin steak" or "ground chuck" or what have you implies that it's meat without actually having to use the word "meat" at all. But it's kind of interesting that the meat industry is pushing a "You can't label that stuff as meat!" line when most meat doesn't seem to be labeled with the word "meat".
posted by 23skidoo at 3:37 PM on July 11 [6 favorites]


Is the market for this vegetarians/vegans? I wouldn’t think so.

Rather I would think the market is omnivores who have ethical or environmental issues with factory farming of meat, but haven’t been willing to go vegan/vegetarian for whatever reason.

I fit in this category— when I buy meat I try to choose the most ethical option available, but sometimes there isn’t one or sometimes I am priced out of those options. I would actually be really into trying some of the meat alternatives like the Impossible Burger, but it still has soy protein isolate in it (which I can’t eat). So, I would be thrilled with an option that is identical to meat that I know I digest well, but didn’t involve mass cruelty/environmental destruction/overuse of antibiotics/etc.

And I would be willing to pay a (small) premium for it, if I am told what it is— which is “cultured meat” as far as I would think of it. Or “cultured sirloin” or whatever.

Or maybe we just need a back-formation for traditionally produced meat. Something that says “this came from a living breathing animal”. Skim milk is still milk, just like whole milk.
posted by nat at 3:59 PM on July 11 [7 favorites]


Metafilter: new entrants into the meaty ring.

Agribusiness and their lobbyists are some of the most horrifically shitty entities on earth - even worse than Electronic Arts, if you can imagine! - and I will be perfectly happy when I have more opportunities to say No to them. I don't care what they label the lab-grown stuff, I will be buying it.

Sadly it still has a ways to go. My partner and I tried Impossible Burgers and they were certainly a step up from, like, black bean and lentil patties, they were several steps behind Quorn burgers in terms of texture and taste. But, even if none of them are quite the "real thing" I will continue to support them and seek out new varieties.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:01 PM on July 11 [3 favorites]


I'd totally want it to be labeled as cultured, mostly because I want to find it, try it, and hopefully get a better price on it than dead animal meat.
posted by es_de_bah at 4:03 PM on July 11 [9 favorites]


it seems stem cells are harvested from a live animal to begin the process.

Harvesting stem cells from relatively few animals? As opposed to slaughtering millions and millions of animals? In terms of wrecking the environment and torturing animals, it sounds like harvesting a few cells from live animals and culturing them in a sustainable process would be a huge improvement. I don't want to eat factory meat, but I want it for all those millions of "but bacon!" people who need a bacon substitute.
posted by pracowity at 4:22 PM on July 11 [10 favorites]


Chemically identical to slaughtered-animal meat? This is meat. This is not remotely like the arguments about soymilk or margarine, which are both "looks like something else; can sometimes be used as an edible substitute; is nutritionally not the same food."

There is a question of ethics around the "stem cell harvesting" - how many animals do they harvest from, in order to create how much meat? What happens to those animals? Vegetarians and vegans who avoid meat for ethical reasons may be willing to eat this depending on the answers; those who are avoiding meat for health/nutrition reasons will avoid this as well.

It should be labeled in a way that indicates it's less harmful to the environment and healthier, in the sense of, "there is no chance of mad cow disease in this meat."

Good labels:
* Cultured meat
* Essential meat ("no bones, no tendons, no gristle - guaranteed!")
* Purified meat

Labels to avoid (aka, what the people who dislike it will be using):
* Synthetic meat
* Vat-grown meat
* Meat product

...Hey, does this mean they'll make a ground meat that's 70% beef and 30% pork without me having to measure and mix them myself? I am here for the new CritterFree TruMeat™ Classic Meatloaf Blend!
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 4:41 PM on July 11 [9 favorites]


To be clear, I agree this is a net good and improvement as I said. Less harm is less harm.

However, the "market" depends on how they market it and how clear they are on the process and source. Some vegetarians may be fine eating it depending on how the initial cells are harvested - as many vegetarians just don't want to ingest slaughtered animals. Some may not be.

I think it would be quite easy for consumers in a grocery store without a specific science background or certain education to think that lab-created means made without sources from a live animal. I don't think that's a stretch at all. So labeling it in a way that states it is sourced from animals AND that it is not a killed animal is important in my view.
posted by Crystalinne at 4:41 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


Something not clear from these articles-- is 'cultured meat' actually better for the environment? If it's basically made in a chemical factory, I'd really like to see a comparison.

Also, even if they get the taste right, beef isn't something we should eat every day, IIRC.
posted by zompist at 4:43 PM on July 11 [2 favorites]


Count me as another omnivore who is super excited about the new horizon of created meat products.

Looking forward to this new era when we can enjoy authentic-tasting hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken parm, meatloaf, pork chops, bolognese, etc. without harming animals, without the inefficient biomass conversion, without the stockyard biowaste, without the overuse of antibiotics, without the greenhouse gas, without the saturated fats and cholesterol, and so forth.

I don’t eat a lot of meat as it is, but I’d be very happy to shift what meat consumption I do have to be completely cultured meat if it were comparable to natural sources.
posted by darkstar at 5:01 PM on July 11 [5 favorites]


I like that the article calls out in particular that the old school meat industry is terrified of the term "clean meat". I love it! I plan to call the eventual product "clean meat" colloquially regardless of how it's marketed. Doing my part :D
posted by potrzebie at 5:29 PM on July 11 [9 favorites]


As long as it's compatible with my current diet (which is based on various dietary and digestive needs), I would very gladly make the switch to meat that doesn't involve environmental degradation or cruelty to animals. I'm with pracowity in worrying that large-scale production will have its own major environmental impact, although I can't imagine how much worse it could be than cattle. They really are atrocious for the environment, from the way people clear large swaths of land to make pasture, to the way their waste pollutes waterways; I know someone who deals with river preservation in far-northern California, and cattle ranching has completely and permanently changed the river ecosystem on that particular river. It's hard for me to imagine that a cultured meat factory could have as much of an impact, although I wouldn't put money on it, either.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 5:34 PM on July 11 [4 favorites]


They could use foreign spellings, e.g. "boeuf" or something. It even sounds classy.

Heh. This would present an odd conundrum in Canada where food packaging is printed in English and French.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 5:58 PM on July 11 [2 favorites]


I've been eating a lot of Beyond burgers since last year (their new sausage line is also tasty, especially the spicy Italian), but they've been out of stock pretty much everywhere around me (East coast) since grilling season started this year. I am shocked (shocked!) to find a high tech California startup having trouble scaling its manufacturing to meet demand. I guess Impossible have the same problem; they're only available here as a kind of meatball sandwich thing.

the [Beyond] cooking smell was strangely reminiscent of the smell of vitamins and lingered for a long time in the house
Pretty sure that's the beet juice they fake the blood with. Supposedly Impossible's genetically engineered heme doesn't smell as strong. I quickly learned to have the extractor fan blasting if I'm cooking Beyond burgers indoors.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 5:59 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


But it's kind of interesting that the meat industry is pushing a "You can't label that stuff as meat!" line when most meat doesn't seem to be labeled with the word "meat".

I'm pretty sure they mean you can't call it "chicken" if it's not from a chicken or "beef" if it's not from a cow.
posted by straight at 6:18 PM on July 11


"Meat" and "Slaughter-Meat" works for me.
posted by anonymisc at 7:03 PM on July 11 [8 favorites]




I always ask my friends* who are veg*n or keep kosher their opinions on vat-grown meats. In both cases it's been a pretty split vote -- health veg*ns are against the vats generally; ethical veg*ns are split: if it involves no animal suffering, some say they might like to have bacon on occasion, but others say it's like faux fur in that it encourages real fur. Similarly with kosher folks, some say there's no particular danger of cooking meat in its mothers' milk if it's vat grown and so a kosher cheeseburger becomes possible; others say the group identifiers that forbid it are much more important than the technicalities of the rules.

Me, I will probably eat it. I take vat-grown penicillin, this doesn't seem so different! I don't have an ethical problem with meat-qua-meat (I have many ethical problems with factory-farmed meat), so I can see a world where I buy vat meat for regular cooking and fancy-ass real meat for Sunday dinner where I cook big-deal roasts. Of course I'd like it to be labeled, so I can pick the vat stuff! "Vat-beef" is fine with me.

English already splits the animal (cow, pig, sheep -- Anglo-Saxon) from the meat (beef, pork, mutton -- French) because of the Norman invasion (the English peasants take care of the animals, the French nobles eat them, so they get different words), so I don't think its a huge struggle for English to cope with a vat-beef and vat-pork or "veef" and "vork" or whatever it ends up called!

*Friends = close friends, who know my interest in the ethics of meat and know that I taught on the subject for five years, and who are themselves thoughtful on the ethics of meat and enjoy discussing their thoughts, and who aren't offended by the question. I'm not like springing it on random friendly acquaintances.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:37 PM on July 11 [5 favorites]


I don't know what to expect from lab-grown meat.

Brother: Beats eating dead animals.

Me: That's my question- is this stuff dead?

Brother: Well, after you cook it, it will be.

Me: But is it "dead" when I buy it at the grocery? Is there a process where they stop the "growing" part? Or am I buying live tissue?

Brother: Now you've ruined my appetite.
posted by Miss Cellania at 8:01 PM on July 11 [3 favorites]


> Eyebrows McGee:
"I always ask my friends* who are veg*n or keep kosher their opinions on vat-grown meats."

I'm probably a weird case, because I was raised vegetarian. It's like I'm happily eating Product A for decades, ignoring Product B that holds no appeal and then someone goes:

[For Beyond Meat/Impossible]
"Hey! Eat this Product A, which we've engineered to look, taste, and feel like Product B!"

[For cultured meat]
"Hey! Eat this Product B! It looks, tastes, and feels just like the Product B you know and love, minus all the guilt!"
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 8:14 PM on July 11


Its not a thing which could experience conscious thought so no, its not alive at any point. Its VERY Matrix (get the taste right) but farmed meat material is fine by me. 3D print me a ribeye and its all good.
posted by blaneyphoto at 8:34 PM on July 11 [2 favorites]


q*lady rejected a beyond burger recently for the same reasons, chichlid. She’s been a vegetarian since age 9 because she was radicalized by subversive television. She’s maintained the decision since partially because she has zero desire to eat flesh- doesn’t miss the taste, smell, texture. The recent trend of realistic fake meats is baffling to her.
posted by q*ben at 9:24 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


This post has me thinking about giant industrial vats full to the brim with an ever-growing mass of pulled pork and I am salivating.
posted by schroedinger at 9:53 PM on July 11 [6 favorites]


The thought of a big machine in some factory spittin' out racks of ribs gives me hope for the future.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 10:00 PM on July 11 [3 favorites]


The podcast After On interviewed bioengineer-entrepreneur George Church (PDF transcripts 𝟭, 𝟮, 𝟯) earlier this year and they talked about, like, everything. And he says everything is going to happen in the next five to ten years, of course. But at least he gives detailed predictions and context.

Everything includes vat-grown meat, beginning around 57:35 or the first page of transcript 𝟯.

The thought of a big machine in some factory spittin' out racks of ribs gives me hope for the future.

Underneath the meat the ribs could have messages inscribed in them like fortune cookies: “Help, I'm trapped in a vat-grown meat factory! ...oh wait, if you're reading this I'm probably dead.”
posted by XMLicious at 10:09 PM on July 11 [3 favorites]


Time for my favorite Bob the Angry Flower again.
posted by JoeBlubaugh at 10:14 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


I'm kind of excited for the new packaging options. Imagine a single T-Bone that completely covers your BBQ. Or turkey loaf that isn't pressed together chunks of turkey but actually a solid 4" tube of turkey meat. Or a turducken loaf. Or buffalo wings that are actually buffalo meat on wing bones.

And if someone figures out how to vat grow pickerel so I don't have to fly to Manitoba and fish for a week to catch a few meals I'll be the most loyal customer you have ever seen.
posted by Mitheral at 10:23 PM on July 11 [4 favorites]


A Series of Steaks, the best (well, only) science fiction I've read about artificial meat.
posted by problemspace at 11:11 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


They could use foreign spellings, e.g. "boeuf" or something. It even sounds classy.

Syntho-steak.

Syntho-ribs.

Syntho-chicken.

It sounds like Luxury Gay Space Communism to me!
posted by mikelieman at 11:13 PM on July 11 [3 favorites]


Vat grown food always reminds me of that Arthur C. Clarke shaggy dog story, the punch line of which was "well, your honour, first we must explain the meaning of another old word: cannibalism".
posted by MartinWisse at 11:32 PM on July 11 [4 favorites]


I'm a lifelong vegetarian/mostly vegan and I don't particularly want to eat lab-grown meat. I still desperately want it to be widely available so I can feed it to my cats. I imagine there's a huge market for this. People who love animals really don't like feeding them other animals.
posted by Violet Hour at 11:42 PM on July 11 [10 favorites]


I agree with nat. I don't think the market for this is necessarily vegetarians. So I don't think the question of how to market this for vegetarians is pertinent. They are probably more interested in making customers of the much bigger market of people who eat meat. Marketing to make it appealing to vegetarians could even have the opposite effect on their desired market. I'm guessing the resulting desired marketing is likely to be off putting to vegetarians (and purposely so).

"Tastes like real meat, because it is!" "If you enjoy a nice sirloin burger, you will love our cultured meat."
posted by eye of newt at 12:41 AM on July 12 [4 favorites]


We’ve read science fiction for more than half a century that’s promised us synburgers or their equivalent. It’s a weak consolation for not getting teleporters, replicators (Star Trek, not SG-1 type), or tailor-made replacement bodies into which we can upload our conciousness before we die, but I’ll take it.
posted by darkstar at 1:22 AM on July 12 [2 favorites]


I'm waiting for Electric Meat.
posted by night_train at 1:40 AM on July 12


Obligatory Chicken Little reference from The Space Merchants:
She was a gray-brown, rubbery hemisphere some fifteen yards in diameter. Dozens of pipes ran into her pulsating flesh. You could see that she was alive.

Herrera said to me: “All day I walk around her. I see a part growing fast, it looks good and tender, I slice.” His two-handed blade screamed again.
posted by johnca at 2:21 AM on July 12 [2 favorites]


Looking forward to my State of the Art Richard Nixon burgers.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 2:35 AM on July 12 [1 favorite]


This stuff could be better than regular meat.

You grow it in a sterile environment (no salmonella in your chicken, for starters) and control everything that goes into it. You maybe add stuff to it that maybe wouldn't be possible in a live animal (natural spices? smoked flavor?) while it's still growing. You decide the texture by adjusting the stuff that makes it tough or soft or chewy or gooey or veiny or whatever it is people look for in a "real" cut of beast. Stick it to bones grown in the grown bones department if there's a market for it. Maybe cultured chicken wings with edible bones that come in mild, medium, hot, and "hey, everybody, watch me set my soul on fire!" varieties. Some of it could be cooked and frozen and packaged for you in the factory so you just need to heat it at home. I'm hoping to see this stuff rolling out in endless strips snipped and packed and sold so cheap that the bottom drops out of the slaughtered animal market.

And there's a really low bar for quality. At the very least, I'd bet it replaces all the ground beef currently sold in the world, and that is nearly half the beef market. It only matters that there is a certain amount of beef to hide somewhere between those buns and under all those condiments and toppings.

And chicken? A standard McNugget, for example, is already less than 50 percent chicken parts to begin with, and the actual chicken flesh is just reconstituted animal mush from all the weird bits of chicken they couldn't sell otherwise, so it's already low-grade factory meat and people love it. Cultured factory meat will easily clear that sort of quality hurdle.

When just half of the animals-for-slaughter market vanishes, billions of animals don't die, there's less deforestation, and less waste into the atmosphere and waterways. And as quality improves in the factories, the rest of the animal market slowly vanishes.
posted by pracowity at 3:34 AM on July 12 [9 favorites]


I'm still busy with the eating-spiders-in-your-sleep thing and now wondering if we could solve all dietary dilemmas with engineered foods that crawl into your mouth at night. All the time wasted on prep and presentation could be better spent making money for somebody else!

While you wait for science to catch up to reason I suggest you train now by sleeping with a clothespin on your nose to maximize nocturnal caloric intake.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 4:38 AM on July 12 [3 favorites]


Back in the 1970's there was a worry about population/food. One response was to take a soil fungus and vat grow it. Quorn is the brand.

Notice how often that chicken-nugget like product is used as the choice for getting a szechuan sauce to people's mouths.

The idea this product will sweep aside industrial meat due to the ecological footprint/prevent animal abuse isn't what will make the difference. It will be price. Price is why pink slime and transglutaminase exist in the marketplace. Note here how transglutaminase can be in tofu.

Just waiting for someone to complain that cows and chickens will go extinct because nobody will raise them anymore

Both of these 2 animals can exist as a provider of a consumed product VS being the product. The cow can take grass and convert that into a product (so can a rabbit, a goat or for some reason a person wants sheep) and the chicken will hunt down and consume things like tiger slugs, grasshoppers and crickets. Ducks will help control female blood sucking flying pests with the morning grass rituals.

At least the cow can get sake, beer and a massage on its way to market. And the cow will bring some of the grass back to a central collection point to vacilitate its use in a veggie garden.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:49 AM on July 12


pracowity: "And there's a really low bar for quality. At the very least, I'd bet it replaces all the ground beef currently sold in the world, and that is nearly half the beef market."

It won't replace ground beef because ground beef is made with trimmings and low quality cuts of meat. As long as you have dead animal T-Bones you'll have dead animal ground beef. In fact if cultured meat ends up being cheaper than T-Bone you might see more (and cheaper) ground beef as cheap cuts like blade steak are no longer marketable.
posted by Mitheral at 7:11 AM on July 12 [1 favorite]


I eat meat: I like the high protein content. (I also appreciate superior flavor and texture, but I have a big family so I rarely buy especially-nice stuff.) I've tried tofu a couple of times, and while I am not yet proficient at cooking with it, I can certianly see switching over a lot of my meat consumption to tofu some day.

So I am not anywhere on the veg*n continuum, but I do like The Earth, so I would be willing to switch over to Lab Meat. As I understand the issues, raising animals for their meat takes tons of water, generates tons of waste, involves using tons of antibiotics, and also makes these critters miserable. None of those are things that I like about meat, so I wouldn't oppose a new Meat Delivery System that can avoid them from the get-go.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:50 AM on July 12 [1 favorite]


And chicken? A standard McNugget, for example, is already less than 50 percent chicken parts to begin with, and the actual chicken flesh is just reconstituted animal mush from all the weird bits of chicken they couldn't sell otherwise, so it's already low-grade factory meat and people love it. Cultured factory meat will easily clear that sort of quality hurdle.

Hot dogs are another use case that comes to mind. Also, Spam.

The rise in vegetarian and vegan food options in supermarkets has given us a few more examples of mimics and their labels. Soymilk and almond milk have been a thorn in the side of the dairy lobby for more than 15 years. The Soyfoods Association of America petitioned the FDA back in 1997, asking for permission to call their products “soymilk,” starting a long battle between soy manufacturers and dairy farmers. Dairy farmers object to these beverages being called milk, but thus far the FDA hasn’t done anything to stop brands from using the word.

Yeah, "bean juice" and "nut juice" was going to be a marketing nightmare, so there's an obvious pressure to apply an appealing name to cultured meat out of the gate.

From that interview that XMLicious posted:

Almost all the reasons that you want to be vegan could be addressed, including the zoonotic diseases. This is sometimes called clean meat, not just virtuous, non-cruelty meat. But clean, in that when you streak out on a Petri plate, your best meat from your favorite grocery store, it's just covered with bacteria. But this, you streak it out and there's nothing.

I mean, I think he's overstating the case re: reasons to be vegan, but as a general point, the food safety issues cultured meat addresses for omnivores are a pretty big deal.

Rob Reid: Remind me which synthetic meat company you're involved in.

George Church: Memphis Meats


There's yer name right there. This could be the Memphis-Milano of the protein biz.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 10:26 AM on July 12 [1 favorite]


"I've been eating a lot of Beyond burgers since last year (their new sausage line is also tasty, especially the spicy Italian), but they've been out of stock pretty much everywhere around me (East coast) since grilling season started this year. I am shocked (shocked!) to find a high tech California startup having trouble scaling its manufacturing to meet demand. I guess Impossible have the same problem; they're only available here as a kind of meatball sandwich thing."

I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that apparently Beyond Burgers are about to be in A&W's (in Canada, which is super exciting to me).
posted by el io at 12:06 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]


In the Terra Ignota books (well, in an interview with the author about worldbuilding that didn't make it into the published books), vat-grown hummingbird meat is apparently one of the most delicious foods available.

I have no idea, technologically speaking, how far-out and sci-fi it would be to go from vat-grown beef (which we'll probably have in a few years, right?) to more exotic animals. But I hope it's not much of a leap! I've always wondered what whale meat tastes like but have never tried it, for obvious reasons.
posted by vogon_poet at 3:17 PM on July 12 [1 favorite]


I can see the boutique restaurant, extreme culinary experiences now, all based on created meats from recovered DNA and stem cells.

DinoSteaks. Mammoth Burgers. Spicy DodoWings. Saber-Tooth Tiger Stew. TriloBites. Long Pork Barbecue. Kaiju Loaf.
posted by darkstar at 8:14 PM on July 12 [5 favorites]


Now I want a kitten named Kaiju Loaf whom I promise not to eat
posted by darkstar at 11:41 PM on July 12 [2 favorites]


You need Kit-n, the factory cat, with all of the fur and purr, and none of the poop and scoop.
posted by pracowity at 3:52 AM on July 13 [2 favorites]


What's the ecological footprint of this lab grown meat? What are the complications that it might have?

I worry about things like Mad Cow Disease, that went on for a long time before prions were found to be the culprits. Is there an analog for lab grown meat? Also, how much more cleaner is the operation of a lab than that of a organic pasture operation?

And then there are social components: assuming it is safe, is it going to be the domain of only the wealthy? Or, if it is dangerous, is it going to be the food of the poor?
posted by kadmilos at 5:32 AM on July 14 [1 favorite]


darkstar! i totally thought of replicator food, too! i bet there are a LOT of Star Trek fans who would have no hesitation about lab-grown meat, other than that it is not assembled on-demand from the atomic level, into a single-serve dispenser. i would so much rather have this than a flying car!
posted by lapolla at 6:06 PM on July 14 [2 favorites]


So A&W is replacing their already good vegetarian burger with something that is supposed to mimic meat that closely that I is fake bleeds? I get how it would appeal to p people who like meat but avoid it for health or ethical reasons, but as a long term vegetarian, everything about that puts me off. I want an option that will fill a burger shaped whole in my diet, but the things make those burgers appealing to omnivores are what I don't want.
posted by peppermind at 1:58 AM on July 15 [1 favorite]


"I don't want to eat factory meat, but I want it for all those millions of "but bacon!" people who need a bacon substitute."

You already eat factory meat, we all do*.

*Barring people who have never once eaten meat, meat products, etc.
posted by GoblinHoney at 2:30 PM on July 16 [1 favorite]


I think it would be well nigh impossible to produce anything more horrifying than factory-farmed feedlot meat; the only reason it's not illegal is because the meat industry is so powerful it has achieved almost perfect regulatory capture. That's a home-court advantage that a new industry wouldn't have.

If anything, I am very concerned that the meat industry will use its regulatory capture to try and prevent cruelty-free meat or meat substitutes from succeeding in the marketplace. Though the success of nut "milk" vs. the dairy industry does create some room for hope. (Not that nut milks are without their problems, cf. dairy greenhouse emissions vs. almond farm aquifer water usage. Damned either way.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:04 PM on July 17 [2 favorites]


Surimi isn't crab; it has some similarities, but I find it unpleasant. I'm not sure how lab-grown meat works, but it it made up of animal cells?

The meat industry is nasty and duplicitous and not to be trusted. I have no faith that this product will be grown in a clean environment and be nutritionally adequate and free of carcinogens, hormones, additives. That tube hamburger at Walmart is produced in a filthy filthy slaughterhouse; cook it very thoroughly. I presume lab-grown meat will be similar. The current version may be pretty clean, but Profit Must Be Maximized and shortcuts will be taken.

People are stupid, but marketing is successful. Instead of trying to hide what lab-grown meat really is, make it a selling point. You know, let people choose.
posted by theora55 at 6:57 PM on July 17


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