Higher Steaks
January 11, 2019 11:42 PM   Subscribe

Will 2019 be the year of lab-grown meat? - "After years in the lab, will meats derived from animal cells finally break into the mainstream consumer market? The products could have huge implications for the planet, human health and animal welfare."

Tasting the World's First Test-Tube Steak - "The race is on to create lab-grown meat products. Still, little is known about their safety and potential impact. In this episode of Moving Upstream, WSJ's Jason Bellini visits entrepreneurs, scientists, and ranchers to understand how it's made, and gets a first taste of steak grown from cultured cells."

also btw...
-Can the new vegan Impossible Burger fool meat lovers?
-Greggs struggles to keep up with demand for vegan sausage rolls
-Costco sells out of 26 lb. mac & cheese tub with 20-year shelf life
-Would you eat insects to help save the planet? These companies are betting yes.
posted by kliuless (86 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
 
If we got the lab meat thing going well -- let's say cheap, tasty, and indistinguishable from the real thing -- I wonder what would become of the food breeds. I'm sure there would be a boutique market for real meat so they wouldn't be completely snuffed out, but I don't think cows and pigs that have been bred for meat can really be turned loose to nature.

I suppose it's the same thing we've done with dogs, creating breeds that wouldn't survive without us. The big difference being that you don't see many people taking meat animals as pets.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:29 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]


I have some hard thinking to do about my vegetarianism. I struggle to see how different this is than my impossible burger or Just Mayo that was lab-crafted. I didn’t stop eating meat because I didn’t like it, just all the other reasons - many of which this solves. But it’s been 17-ish years and it would be weird as heck being a meat-eater again.
posted by greermahoney at 12:35 AM on January 12 [6 favorites]


Lab-Grown Meat Prompts Rabbis to Consider the Impossible: Kosher Bacon - "Lab-grown meat is becoming a reality, and raising new questions for religious leaders. WSJ's Jason Bellini met with a rabbi in Israel to discuss how meat grown from animal cells in a petri dish will fit into the kosher tradition."
posted by kliuless at 12:41 AM on January 12 [14 favorites]


You have no idea how quickly I clicked favourite on that kosher bacon news
posted by cendawanita at 12:44 AM on January 12 [8 favorites]


They've got this idea totally backwards. Huge economies are in place to support the raising of livestock. There's almost no chance that lab grown meat displaces even a tiny percentage of that industry in my lifetime. It'll be nothing more than a curiosity if it works at all. What they should really do is make meat of rare or endangered species to ease pressure on those species who are being eaten to extinction.
posted by runcibleshaw at 12:46 AM on January 12 [13 favorites]


Huge economies are in place to support the raising of livestock. There's almost no chance that lab grown meat displaces even a tiny percentage of that industry in my lifetime. It'll be nothing more than a curiosity if it works at all.

The massive contribution of meat production to anthropogenic climate change doesn't give us an option. We cannot sustain our global level of meat consumption without destroying our civilisation.

It is possible that our rulers will continue to be as wilfully blinkered to the existential civilisational threat we face as they have been for decades, and that we just drive off this cliff; but whatever happens, I can confidently assert that the huge economies devoted to the raising of livestock will be gone by the end of the century. The only question is whether that will be a choice, or just the result of a massive population and economic decline brought about by natural disaster, starvation and war.
posted by howfar at 1:14 AM on January 12 [50 favorites]


I wonder what would become of the food breeds.

They can't live comfortably and happily. Slaughter the last generations of them and be done with it.
posted by pracowity at 1:51 AM on January 12 [9 favorites]


I've said it before and I'll say it again: there's a huge market for this for pet food. I'm vegan and really dislike other animals being killed to feed my animals. As soon as there's an alternative I'll buy it, no question.
posted by Violet Hour at 2:02 AM on January 12 [37 favorites]


The only thing that will make ranching and farming irrelevant is if lab-grown meat is cheaper to produce than livestock. That’s it. This is an industry that has completely disregarded animal welfare and physiology in order to maximize productivity to an absurd degree. The only thing that will get farmers to give it up is if they’re forced out by a far cheaper alternative.

I hardly eat any meat these days (it’s nutritionally still kind of hard for me to avoid completely), and I’m much happier the less of it I eat. I was given a book on heritage livestock breeding (no, this was not a gift I was expecting), and it’s very interesting to see a different perspective on farming. It really highlighted how horrible modern industrial farming is — the focus is entirely on yield, to the detriment of all else, especially environmental impact (raising breeds that need huge amounts of water in desert areas, for example).

I would like to see some breeds preserved as culturally significant, which sounds absurd unless you consider the actual needs of the communities involved (like the Navajo sheep that are very important in tapestry production and religious ceremonies). But those kinds of animals are far more suited to their environments, and are by necessity farmed on a much smaller scale. They represent a tiny, tiny fraction of livestock.

I would love to see all factory farms shut down for good. How do we make sure lab-grown meat becomes cheap enough for that to happen?
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 2:03 AM on January 12 [23 favorites]


How do we make sure lab-grown meat becomes cheap enough for that to happen?

Buy it at the early part of the adoption curve. These are tech startups, and will either scale or get beaten out of the market by a current-Big-Ag buyout and mass adoption. Unusually, either works.
posted by jaduncan at 2:59 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]


I was thinking about this the other day. I wondered if there'd ever be a machine laid egg. Will lab meat ever be grown as a muscle? Will these muscles need exercise?

How do we make sure lab-grown meat becomes cheap enough for that to happen?

China.
posted by popcassady at 3:17 AM on January 12 [2 favorites]


Won't it become like eggs? The expensive eggs are the ones you raise yourself, followed by the ones from the neighbourhood organic farm that delivers, followed by organic eggs, then cage-free etc. So you'll get expensive heritage free-range "happy" organic meat with lab meat in various forms down below. It'll be super hip to buy real meat, but only if it's organic and super well-raised.

Sheep wool is awesome so I can see mutton and lamb and sheep leather hanging on a lot longer as sustainable heritage breeds.

I wish they would come up with really great lab milk though. Milk production has calf/veal and waste-water impacts and the milk alternatives all have some serious flaws. I'd trade steak for BUTTER any day.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 3:23 AM on January 12 [8 favorites]


Sheep wool is awesome so I can see mutton and lamb and sheep leather hanging on a lot longer as sustainable heritage breeds.

Unfortunately, only if wool buyers and consumers are willing to pay a whole lot more for wool. In the UK anyway, raising sheep for the wool is basically a non-starter because you get so little for it, wool is more like a small bonus to raising sheep for meat.

I agree that lab created milk would be brilliant and would make me feel so, so much better about my diet. Also cat food, I feel like a total hypocrite not eating meat and then buying cat food.
posted by stillnocturnal at 3:41 AM on January 12 [6 favorites]


I've said it before and I'll say it again: there's a huge market for this for pet food. I'm vegan and really dislike other animals being killed to feed my animals. As soon as there's an alternative I'll buy it, no question.

Better yet we could culture human tissue and put that in pet food and livestock feed, surreptitiously developing a taste for human flesh in chihuahuas and Himalayan punting cats and wagyu steers, then a touch of Jurassic Park genetic engineering makes every domesticated animal part velociraptor, and when unleased in one fine Hungry Hungry Hippogeddon Day every problem caused by excessive human population density from climate change to expensive parking in Manhattan is solved.
posted by XMLicious at 4:18 AM on January 12 [55 favorites]


There would probably be restrictions on growing human lab meat, at some point. But more than likely some would break that law/rule and hello, there's a new problem to add to the list.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:47 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]


There would probably be restrictions on growing human lab meat, at some point. But more than likely some would break that law/rule and hello, there's a new problem to add to the list.

Or opportunity, depending on what your bucket list looks like.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:34 AM on January 12 [6 favorites]


Actually FWIW beef cows can live quite happily without human intervention, and in Orkney they’ve been doing it for forty years.
posted by Segundus at 5:41 AM on January 12 [17 favorites]


Won't it become like eggs? The expensive eggs are the ones you raise yourself, followed by the ones from the neighbourhood organic farm that delivers, followed by organic eggs, then cage-free etc.

In my experience, this isn't quite so: it's very easy to reduce your costs by raising your own, but very difficult to make money that way. (For example, a large part of our chicken's food is household food waste, which is free: it'd just have been thrown out otherwise. Similarly, our coop was made out of scrap wood, and we don't need to devote much labor to the chickens since there aren't many of them to look after. But all of these things only work at a household scale!)

Industrial eggs are, by far, cheaper than raising yourself; but raising yourself is cheaper than organic/cage-free/local-farm eggs.

That said, regardless of whether industrial farming is displaced by household farming or lab meat, it can't die a fast enough death.
posted by ragtag at 5:49 AM on January 12 [7 favorites]


Huge economies are in place to support the raising of livestock. There's almost no chance that lab grown meat displaces even a tiny percentage of that industry in my lifetime.

I don't disagree that there are structural barriers that mean that simply the availability of the product and consumer interest in it may not be sufficient conditions for a large market shift, but it seems like a decade or two ago you could have easily said the same about the dairy industry. And now when I look at the nut milk section of pretty much every grocery store I go in these days, it usually rivals the dairy milk section for size and selection. Dairy to non-dairy cheese, on the other hand, that's still not a horse race at all. So I guess what I'm saying is I don't think we've got enough info to make this sort of sweeping pronouncement, one way or the other.

Anyway, I'm glad I caught this thread just to see XMLicious's progression to comic book villain in real-time.
posted by solotoro at 6:04 AM on January 12 [11 favorites]


"Huge economies are in place to support the raising of livestock. There's almost no chance that lab grown meat displaces even a tiny percentage of that industry in my lifetime. It'll be nothing more than a curiosity if it works at all."

I'm willing to bet money that fast food companies such as McDonalds would love nothing more than a reliable supply of lab grown meat that conforms to their spec and has little, if any, variance, ever.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 6:42 AM on January 12 [18 favorites]


I'm thinking Betteridge's Law probably applies here. It'll be the Year of Lab-Grown meat when I can go to Market Basket and buy some at reasonable prices. Also, the fact that it's still referred to as "lab-grown" makes it pretty clear that they haven't fully worked out how to scale this up to industrial production levels, which is a baseline requirement.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:49 AM on January 12 [7 favorites]


Yeah it won't be the "year of" at least until they've punched up the marketing. "Lab-grown" is a non-starter. I'm thinking something closer to "heirloom artisanal bio-nurtured".
posted by glonous keming at 7:02 AM on January 12 [9 favorites]


I've tried going vegetarian several times and always end up caving back to meat, either because I am not getting enough protein/feeling weak, or just crave it too badly. I would definitely buy this product and I think there would be a really large market for it. It will be interesting to see what happens to the farming industry, though I'm sure that a lot of people are too disgusted/uncomfortable by the idea of lab grown meat that they would still buy the real deal.
posted by oracleia at 7:06 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]


Or opportunity, depending on what your bucket list looks like.

sbirros.com is still available.
posted by flabdablet at 7:06 AM on January 12


Actually FWIW beef cows can live quite happily without human intervention, and in Orkney they’ve been doing it for forty years.
posted by Segundus at 5:41 AM on January 12 [2 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]


That is fascinating! Thanks.

My neighbor has beef cows that live just fine with minimal human intervention, they are great landscapers. I've seen cows calving in the wild twice. It's lovely to experience. But of course it's like each cow/bull has about an acre of land, no feedlots. This is not your supermarket meat.

Personally, I'd rather not eat lab-grown meat, it spooks me out completely. And I like vegan food, so if my only choice was lab-grown, I'd go all vegan. For now, we have cut down animal protein by something like 80% because of the climate, and we because buy the sustainably farmed stuff, there is also an economic limit to how much we can afford. A sustainable, local leg of lamb costs 7 times as much as a frozen New Zealand leg of lamb.
posted by mumimor at 7:09 AM on January 12


Personally, I'd rather not eat lab-grown meat, it spooks me out completely.

This strikes me as a very common perspective, and one that will probably need to be overcome if lab-grown meat is going to become default meat. Assuming for a moment that that's a desirable goal (not a given, I know) can you think if there's any condition under which artificial meat would stop feeling spooky to you?
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:28 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]


Like, would the branding matter? What if it was called "cultured meat" or "animal-free meat" or something? Would it be easier to countenance if it came in processed form, like a sausage, rather than as a glistening slab of muscle fibers? If there were big ad campaigns and positive opinion pieces written by famous food bloggers and if it had a spot in the supermarket right next to the regular meat, maybe with some "gourmet" packaging like what chicken sausages come in, would that feel any different?

I'm not trying to convince you that you should be into this stuff, I'm just curious about your perspective.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:38 AM on January 12 [3 favorites]


Assuming for a moment that that's a desirable goal (not a given, I know) can you think if there's any condition under which artificial meat would stop feeling spooky to you?

Not really. But maybe the thing is that I don't ever miss meat that much. I like meat and other animal proteins like cheese and fish, but I can easily manage without if I have to. And because of an allergy I once had, that I've grown out of, I hate the tastes of factory processed food. So all in all, maybe I'm not the consumer you need to convince?
posted by mumimor at 7:52 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]


Just call it NKM (no kill meat-substitute) or MASP ( Meat adjacent structured protein) or some other nice neutral euphamistic acronym that consumers will recognize and not get to squeamish about.
posted by Chrischris at 8:04 AM on January 12 [4 favorites]


I want there to be some marketing thing like Tom’s shoes has. Like, for every fakesteak you buy, they free a cow or something.
posted by greermahoney at 8:14 AM on January 12 [5 favorites]


Here's the deal with insects in food: all these nice 'would you eat insects?' articles and lovely fried crickets video segments are a precursor to allowing insect proteins into the food chain. Then we can have industrial meat mix, which contains a certain amount of insect protein.

We don't raise industrial amounts of eating insects in the west, so when we do start doing that, get prepared for some new funky insect diseases, as trillions of bugs all squished up against each other are gonna be gross, and industrial farming has certainly not learned anything about handling disease from the outbreaks of the 1990s.

The problem about looking at where your food comes from is that all the answers are bad, to a value of 'oh god I wish I didn't know that'
posted by The River Ivel at 8:22 AM on January 12 [8 favorites]


What squicks me out is that the production process of these nu meats are going to be totally secret. Couple that with the enormous market potential and you are likely to have a whole slew of Theranoses. To put it another way: capitalism will ruin this.
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:37 AM on January 12 [4 favorites]


The massive contribution of meat production to anthropogenic climate change doesn't give us an option. We cannot sustain our global level of meat consumption without destroying our civilisation.

It is possible that our rulers will continue to be as wilfully blinkered to the existential civilisational threat we face as they have been for decades, and that we just drive off this cliff; but whatever happens, I can confidently assert that the huge economies devoted to the raising of livestock will be gone by the end of the century. The only question is whether that will be a choice, or just the result of a massive population and economic decline brought about by natural disaster, starvation and war.


This seems like a weird Malthusian argument. Making the assumption that what is being done now will be the way things are done 100 years from now is not a reliable way to read the future. No farming technique survives forever unmodified. Farming techniques of the 200 years ago would strain to have fed the world of 100 years ago, let alone today. The question of choice here is a strange one. You could raise livestock inefficiently by choice all the way into bankruptcy. Or you can be "forced" by modern practices to run the enterprise efficiently and profitably. The example above with chickens applies. Raising some chickens for their eggs for our family may be a simple endeavor. Scaling it up to make it economically worthwhile even of you just want to break even will likely demand changes. Even the concept of "sustainability" changes. What is sustainable now may be disastrous 100 years from now.
posted by 2N2222 at 8:57 AM on January 12


I want there to be some marketing thing like Tom’s shoes has. Like, for every fakesteak you buy, they free a cow or something.

This would be such a debacle I kind of want them to go ahead and actually do it.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 9:03 AM on January 12 [3 favorites]


I have the feeling dairy products (milk, butter, and cheese) and eggs (scrambled eggs and omelets) and fast food meat (burgers, fish, chicken) would go over easiest with the public, assuming the producers can match the prices of standard factory farming products. It would be easier to make stuff that tastes and smells and feels at least as good as the standard product if the standard product was a McNugget. Build an industry and a brand from there.

Start with one thing, like low-priced actual-but-not-actual milk for people who want to use milk but don't like the fact that animals suffer to produce that milk. "Not only do we harm zero animals, but this delicious Asterisk MuTM has never even been near manure. No BS." And if it's real enough, they should be able to turn that stuff into cheese and other dairy products.

For eggs: "Not only do we harm zero animals, but these delicious Asterisk ScramblesTM have never even been near chicken shit, not unless you're the chickenshit who's afraid to try them."

But what I really want is lab-grown plants. Endless lengths of artificial celery. Perfect tubes of carrot. Trillions and trillions of little artificial rice pellets coming out of a giant rice factory. Tofuture made without growing soy beans. Vegan products that are maximally environmentally friendly. And cheap. Also, artificially grown wood. Endless lengths of good wood. I want to know that no asshole is out there chopping down forests to grow my soybeans or wood or whatever.
posted by pracowity at 9:05 AM on January 12 [12 favorites]


Endless lengths of good wood

Being able to structure wood "growth" for optimal characteristics would probably lead to a revolution in construction technologies. Between that and acetylation, wood could go almost anywhere (not everywhere, just anywhere, if that makes sense).
posted by aramaic at 9:55 AM on January 12 [4 favorites]


Perfect tubes of carrot

Sockpuppet name up for grabs!
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:56 AM on January 12 [6 favorites]


"What squicks me out is that the production process of these nu meats are going to be totally secret. Couple that with the enormous market potential and you are likely to have a whole slew of Theranoses. To put it another way: capitalism will ruin this."

The WSJ video showed their lab, they talked about their processes to quite a degree. I imagine they'll want to be relatively transparent about how this works in order to gain acceptance. They'll still have patents on key stuff and won't show us *every* step of the way, but we don't need that in say, our breakfast cereal.

Don't get me wrong, capitalism could absolutely ruin this. The WSJ video (which was pretty good) also showed a representative from the meat industry discussing how they were lobbying to prevent these folks from even using the word 'meat'. Personally I think it should be called meat (with some prefix of some sort to avoid confusion), but countless millions of lobbying dollars could prove me wrong. And that won't be the only lobbying fight they'll have to engage in. Entrenched financial interests will fight this like their livelihoods depend it's failure (which they do).

This is the same industry that got states to pass laws that violated the 1st amendment merely so they could prevent folks from knowing how meat is currently being produced (indeed 'capitalism ruins this' has already happened to store bought meat).

With billions of dollars at stake (heh), you can bet that the torture meat industry will fight using every tool at their disposal, not merely lobbying interests, but PR interests, fake grass-roots campaigns, armies of bots tweeting nonsense, private spooks disrupting the new industry (as they do with animal activists), etc... They will see this as war and as a fight for their literal survival (which it is).
posted by el io at 10:04 AM on January 12 [3 favorites]


The WSJ video showed their lab, they talked about their processes to quite a degree. I imagine they'll want to be relatively transparent about how this works in order to gain acceptance. They'll still have patents on key stuff and won't show us *every* step of the way, but we don't need that in say, our breakfast cereal.

Oh you see, there you have it. My opinion is that you should be worried about what's in your breakfast cereal. Seriously.
posted by mumimor at 10:13 AM on January 12 [2 favorites]


We eat meat, and I would love to reduce the environmental impact by switching to cultured protein. Shit, what’s the difference between stands of this stuff, and boneless skinless chicken breast??

(Yes I have tried tofu and didn’t love it, but will doubtless try it again.)
posted by wenestvedt at 10:14 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]


Livestock production may have a bigger impact on the planet than anything else. A new study shows how the effects vary from country to country — and points the way toward a more sustainable future (Bryan Walsh for Time Magazine, Dec. 16, 2013)
You may think you live on a planet, but really you live on a gigantic farm, one occasionally broken up by cities, forests and the oceans. Some 40% of the world’s land surface is used for the purposes of keeping all 7 billion of us fed — albeit some of us, of course, more than others. And the vast majority of that land — about 30% of the word’s total ice-free surface — is used not to raise grains, fruits and vegetables that are directly fed to human beings, but to support the chickens, pigs and cattle that we eventually eat.
mumimor: My neighbor has beef cows that live just fine with minimal human intervention, they are great landscapers.

As long as they have enough food, and keep them away from natural riparian areas.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:14 AM on January 12 [2 favorites]


Oh, and to answer the question posed: "Will 2019 be the year of lab-grown meat?"

No, no it will not. It *might* be the year of lab-grown meat hype. But I'd bet a dollar that no one that reads this thread will have even the opportunity to eat such meat, so absolutely not.

That being said, it might be the year of the impossible burger. It might be the year that meat-lovers think there might be a reasonable replacement for some of their meat.

The Beyond Burger sold out at Canada A&W, so there is pent up demand for good fake meat. The Impossible Burger 2.0 has gotten incredible reviews (it won 3 CES awards from engaget this year; and they *hated* Impossible Burger 1.0, which other critics have said was quite good).

I expect this year both Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat will have difficulty meeting (heh) demand, even as their production ramps up considerably.

If they can move their costs down to be significantly cheaper than real meat (which they won't be incentivized to do while demands outpaces supply), they'll start to cut into real meat's market. And that is their stated goal, so they must know they need to drop costs; I expect that will take another year or two. Until then the demand from vegetarians (and others wishing to reduce their meat intake) will be phenomenal.

If it's not true already, I imagine more competitors will start trying to enter this space, as they see the demand growing.
posted by el io at 10:14 AM on January 12 [2 favorites]


As long as they have enough food, and keep them away from natural riparian areas.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:14 AM on January 12 [1 favorite +] [!]


It's a long story, but we are in a EU habitat area, and obligated to have big grazers. I borrow some Icelandic horses. My neighbor takes some hay for winter and/or draught fodder from the wetland part of his land, the cattle don't go there. We are all carefully monitored by habitat inspectors every year, and they also control that we don't have more animals than what is sustainable. The guy I borrow the horses from has hogs. His neighbor had a dairy farm, but that isn't sustainable anymore so now he just rents out the land to sustainable farming. Everyone has outside work because the economy is very bad here, but for the last few years, big city chefs have been buying up everything because it is so pure, and the tide is turning. These chefs don't serve 300 grams of beef, they serve 50 grams, and they use the whole animal. It's an entirely different approach from before.
posted by mumimor at 10:38 AM on January 12 [4 favorites]


American export of beef and pork muscle ran a little over ten billion last year from January through October. (Brazil is nearly on par with the US, beef-wise.)

That's not even in the top ten of US export revenue.

Also interesting - beef consumption per capita by country. Even more interesting, pork consumption per capita by country.

Just some food for thought.
posted by BWA at 10:42 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]


BWA: "Also interesting - beef consumption per capita by country. Even more interesting, pork consumption per capita by country. "

Interesting lists, but neither one has a single EU country -- which makes me skeptical they're accurate. They're both derived from FAS/USDA data, which makes lumps together the EU into a single market?
posted by crazy with stars at 11:37 AM on January 12 [1 favorite]


Will 2019 be the year of lab-grown meat?

you mean chicken?
posted by eustatic at 12:17 PM on January 12 [4 favorites]


Interesting lists, but neither one has a single EU country -- which makes me skeptical they're accurate.

Wikipedia:
List of countries by meat consumption
List of countries by meat consumption per capita
posted by pracowity at 12:27 PM on January 12 [2 favorites]


I've seen this episode of Better of Ted!
posted by Seamus at 12:34 PM on January 12 [2 favorites]


This is lab-grown meat the same way the original DOS Castle Wolfenstein was virtual reality or Super VHS was high def. Eventually there will be the technology to grow actual meat with any characteristics you want, but this isn’t it.
posted by w0mbat at 1:18 PM on January 12 [4 favorites]


My neighbor has beef cows that live just fine with minimal human intervention, they are great landscapers.

Here I am reminded that a primary cause of the near extinction of Galapagos tortoises was the faster and hungrier goats that were let loose on their islands…
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:27 PM on January 12


Here I am reminded that a primary cause of the near extinction of Galapagos tortoises was the faster and hungrier goats that were let loose on their islands…
Please don't imagine you have any idea of the the situation here where I live, which is monitored by scientists and also thriving for the first time in literally centuries after an environmental catastrophe in the early 1700's
posted by mumimor at 1:39 PM on January 12 [2 favorites]


[One deleted; surely we can deal with the idea that situations can differ, and loose grazing in one situation might not be the same as loose grazing in another, without getting snippy with each other over it.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 1:56 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]


I am down with plausible but fake meat substitutes, but like others here I am squicked out by the idea of lab meat. OK, that is just knee-jerk but...

Will it really be less resource-intensive and environmentally damaging? Probably, but it will have inputs and outputs. There is no free lunch(meat).

The very idea of growing tissue in a nutrient bath is scary. It will need, basically, an immune system to keep things from going very very wrong.

Surely growth hormones must be involved?

Anyway, for this article, Betteridge's Law definitely applies.
posted by sjswitzer at 2:02 PM on January 12 [2 favorites]


Tell Me No Lies The last time the dairy milk price had a 'correction' here in NZ I did a tour of a local abattoir and they were killing (perfectly healthy) dairy cows as fast as they could.

runcibleshaw
I've been to several farm industry workshops in the last year and the whole industry here is worried - and busily taking defensive and offensive positions. Environmental law is now such (at least in EU and NZ) that farming animals on some land types is becoming too expensive - I know one farmer who considers he'll be cropping in 10 years rather than growing meat.

Also re huge economies - yes but also huge debt currently nz$70B, and if someone offers an open-minded farmer a lower debt option they will take it. I know many farmers who owe nz$5M or more and were effectively pushed into it by the banks. Capitalism depends on debt.

Additionally NZ foreign earnings from milk production is about nz$16B which is about what it is costing in terms of water pollution - main info in first paragraphs.

Meanwhile the average age of farmers rises yearly as young people choose not to farm due to the industry's apparent lack of care for the environment.
'
posted by unearthed at 2:11 PM on January 12 [3 favorites]


squicked

Ever tried Patagonian Toothfish (Chilean Sea Bass) or Kobe Beef (almost certainly not kobe)? The food industry will have no problem inventing dramatically alluring terms for the modern discerning palate and incorporating it into existing processes the moment the taste, texture and value proposition arrives.

(was going to include food processing links but squirked myself rather quickly, omg those tasty mcnuggets)
posted by sammyo at 2:33 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]


If I tried lab grown meat, and it was tasty, heck yeah I'd eat it.

As for worrying if it's safe, well, I still eat Cheetos now and then, is it really going to be worse than that?
posted by emjaybee at 2:40 PM on January 12 [5 favorites]


It kinda seems like, objectively, eating something prepared by science would be a less squicky idea than eating the corpse of a creature you could have looked in the eye.

I think it mostly feels weird because it's new, that won't be true forever.
posted by VTX at 2:47 PM on January 12 [11 favorites]


It kinda seems like, objectively, eating something prepared by science would be a less squicky idea than eating the corpse of a creature you could have looked in the eye.
I think those of us who grew up looking cows and sheep and pigs and ducks and chickens and geese and pigeons and frogs and snails and all fish and shellfish, and well a lot of different animals, in the eye and knowing they were food also grew up knowing that was life. It's hard to explain to someone who was in a completely different world, but there was a clear sense of what was good and bad. And for instance one neighbor who didn't treat his pigs right was ostracized from the community, and still is, 50 years later.
On the other hand, once my cousin tried to upset me by serving me a burger made of horse-meat, but it had no effect, both because we were already giving the dogs horse-meat, and because I knew from my friends that the market for horse meat was the one thing keeping some of our beloved breeds alive. A few of the horses and ponies I grew up with have been slaughtered, because they were unsafe. In theory, I could have saved them, but then some magical fund would have payed me to do it.
I guess what I am saying is that from a farmers perspective, this is complicated, even when you 100% agree that modern agriculture is a major source of global warming and also that the way industrial agriculture treats animals is a disgrace.
I will eat animals without shame. But I am ashamed of the way we treat farm animals today. And I am proud of the way we treat animals in our valley.
posted by mumimor at 3:23 PM on January 12 [12 favorites]


OK, but what they do in Moomin Valley may not apply to the outside world.
posted by pracowity at 3:33 PM on January 12 [7 favorites]


I already enthusiastically consume science-food grown in a vat (Quorn), so sign me up for lab-grown meat. I'm generally pretty happy with my pescatarian diet (of which the pesca part is a tiny amount because I don't actually like much fish) but I've been veg for so long (nearly 30 years) that there's a ton of food stuffs I've never even tried once. There's a few things on a potential bucket list that I could scratch off with lab meat.
posted by soren_lorensen at 3:58 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]


Not-meat will be a niche product until suddenly it isn’t, which will cause catastrophic changes among meat producers.

Because that is how market disruption works.

My guess is farmers will go bankrupt en masse while the factories will simply convert from processing to producing. Sanitary conditions will not improve with the changeover.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 4:55 PM on January 12 [2 favorites]


Marketing term promoted by the lab-grown companies is “clean meat”. Vehemently opposed by animal meat producers for obvious reasons so probably won’t be used on labeling. I expect it will catch on, though.
posted by vogon_poet at 5:30 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]


Has the trademark on “Animal 57” expired yet?
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:34 PM on January 12 [2 favorites]


It's a long story, but we are in a EU habitat area, and obligated to have big grazers.

I would be interested to hear this long story.
posted by medusa at 6:08 PM on January 12 [3 favorites]


In the dystopian comic Transmetropolitan, cloning technology is used to make humans with no brain to be served as “ethical” cannibal meat.. The biggest chain of restaurants is “Long Pig”.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 6:32 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]


The only memorable part of 1987's Masters of the Universe live-action He-Man film with Dolph Lundgren, in which the characters from a highly technologically advanced and ethical civilization have inadvertently been transported to 1980s Earth:
Teela, in mid bite of chicken wing, asks an honest question. “I wonder why they put the food on these little white sticks?” To which, her father, Man-at-Arms, responds, “those are rib bones.” She goes pale. Can’t eat anymore. She is disgusted. And flatly says, “what a barbaric world.”
(Of course "chicken wing" and "rib bone" don't match... you can see why, for me at least, the rest of the movie might not have been so memorable. If I'm recalling correctly, Lundgren's character He-Man is also revolted to realize he's eating parts of animal carcases.)
posted by XMLicious at 7:24 PM on January 12 [2 favorites]


I think those of us who grew up looking cows and sheep and pigs and ducks and chickens and geese and pigeons and frogs and snails and all fish and shellfish, and well a lot of different animals, in the eye and knowing they were food also grew up knowing that was life.

I grew up this way too, and as I have gotten older it's only gotten harder for me to eat animals I can look in the eye. I know some farmers who talk about "One Bad Day" - meaning the animals live an excellent life until the day it ends. But I still feel sad that a curious pig and her lovely nose are gone forever.

Then again I remember various roadkill I saw this summer and still feel sad about them, so I am not very representative probably.
posted by Emmy Rae at 7:29 PM on January 12 [1 favorite]


They've got this idea totally backwards. Huge economies are in place to support the raising of livestock. There's almost no chance that lab grown meat displaces even a tiny percentage of that industry in my lifetime. It'll be nothing more than a curiosity if it works at all

Lab-grown meat has one thing that the real thing doesn't: it's copyrightable. If you think Monsanto is bad, wait until capitalism gets its hand on the rest of humanity's food. My dystopian nightmare is one where we shortsightedly ban real meat consumption because the complexity of livestock management is reduced to a soundbite and then our protein consumption suddenly controlled by whatever large firm owns the property rights.
posted by mountainherder at 8:25 PM on January 12 [5 favorites]


I would love to see all factory farms shut down for good. How do we make sure lab-grown meat becomes cheap enough for that to happen?

It really shows how locked into the standard free-market thinking we all remain that the obvious answer to this isn't just, "have the government pay people to eat lab meat." We (the government) have directly paid hundreds of thousands of people $7500 to buy an electric car, as direct tax rebates (ie, a check in the mail; I've gotten one). Why not do the same for meat? I mean, I know the answer is that the industry will fight it tooth and claw and pro-vegetarianism is even more fringe than pro-EV was a decade ago, but what's more interesting is how that type of solution is barely even thought of in these discussions. Just pass a bill and pay out a few billion dollars to get the industry off the ground.
posted by chortly at 10:03 PM on January 12 [5 favorites]


There are few things I find more amusing than people* who romanticize some pseudo-historical ideal of "using the whole animal" while disdaining mechanically separated chicken as unwholesome and gross.

* this is an observation, not a callout: no one in this thread is actually doing this
posted by 7segment at 10:34 PM on January 12 [3 favorites]


Wasn't there a short story (Asimov?) about someone testifying in front of a government committee and:
1. First has to explain to the members that yes, once people commonly ate other creatures (they paused why some committee members vomited).
2. Why their new competitors in the lab grown meat business with the wildly popular new product line had to be restrained.

The story ended with the testifying person saying something like "Now I would like to explain another historical term, c-a-n-n-i-b...
posted by aleph at 10:58 PM on January 12


"Lab-grown meat has one thing that the real thing doesn't: it's copyrightable."

No, it's not. The processes are patented. Big difference. A patent lasts 17 years. A copyright lasts 70 years after the death of the creator*. I'm happy to give the companies that are investing millions of dollars on this tech 17 years with the technology before it goes into the public domain. Public acceptance will take a long time, so will making the process efficient. They and their investors are taking serious risks that this will work and the public will accept it. They'll spend a lot of money not only creating the tech, but also convincing the public to use it. That goodwill will be used by the next folks that come along with a better process or use the expired patents of these companies.

Please note I'm not a huge fan of the current state of intellectual property law, or even patent law as it now stands. Patent law is abused *all* the time, is absurdly used to patent software algorithms that aren't that novel, and entire books are written about how broken the system is.

*IANAL. More than that, I'm not an IP lawyer. Copyright law is *super* complicated, and my statement was a vast oversimplification of an area of law that makes tax law look straightforward.
posted by el io at 11:57 PM on January 12 [8 favorites]


I would be interested to hear this long story.
Well, a lot of our land is protected under the Habitats Directive. This works by protecting very specific species of flora and/or fauna or specific landscape types. We have several overlapping protections. The one for which we are politely asked to use big grazers (at a very specific ratio pr hectare) is for a butterfly species that is dependent on one specific wildflower which again does best on meadows that are extensively grazed. The protected status mentioned in the story about those wild Orkney cows could very well be something similar.
For our efforts and for maintenance of fences etc., we get a small sum every year. And there are controllers who arrive unannounced every now and then and look how things are going.
posted by mumimor at 1:19 AM on January 13 [3 favorites]


pracowity: "Also, artificially grown wood. Endless lengths of good wood. "

Oh god. Finally being able to afford (or even procure) wood that mimics 500 year old, old growth trees *drool*. 5m long boards, perfectly clear, tiny little ring spacing. Actual Mahogany *swoon*. I'd buy lots.
posted by Mitheral at 3:06 AM on January 13 [8 favorites]


Lab-grown meat is becoming a reality, and raising new questions for religious leaders. WSJ's Jason Bellini met with a rabbi in Israel to discuss how meat grown from animal cells in a petri dish will fit into the kosher tradition."

This seems like it would be a short conversation? A pulsating vat of pork-derived Animal 57 has no hooves to be split or mouth or digestive system to chew the cud. Ergo, not kosher.

until they engineer one that sprouts an outer membrane of split hooves and endlessly gnawing mouths that lead to dead-end rumens
posted by murphy slaw at 11:20 AM on January 13 [5 favorites]


Metafilter: Endless lengths of good wood.
posted by otherchaz at 11:09 PM on January 13


Better than ChickieNobs!
posted by emirenic at 7:25 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


No, it's not. The processes are patented. Big difference. A patent lasts 17 years. A copyright lasts 70 years after the death of the creator*. I'm happy to give the companies that are investing millions of dollars on this tech 17 years with the technology before it goes into the public domain. Public acceptance will take a long time, so will making the process efficient. They and their investors are taking serious risks that this will work and the public will accept it. They'll spend a lot of money not only creating the tech, but also convincing the public to use it. That goodwill will be used by the next folks that come along with a better process or use the expired patents of these companies.

Point taken on the distinction, my mistake. That being said, you could say the same of the pharmaceutical industry, but it frequently doesn't play out to be particularly consumer friendly.

Needless to say, cows are very good at turning non-arable land into protein, and I'm still very skeptical that cultured meat will achieve the same efficiencies without a whole lot of waste product that's as bad or worse for the environment.
posted by mountainherder at 6:28 PM on January 14


Cows are pretty terrible in terms of, especially, water pollution. Here in California, that pollution has had a devastating effect on our rivers. Not only because it renders them undrinkable, but because it also leads to major algae blooms that have permanently altered those river ecosystems. I have to imagine that cultured meat would have less of an impact in that regard. But yeah, I do wonder what the power consumption and stuff like that would be. And I do wonder how much water and other resources is required -- "cultured" and "lab-grown" come across as these very clean-sounding processes, but I honestly have no idea what they actually require, especially on an industrial scale.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 6:40 PM on January 14 [1 favorite]


True, but California's agricultural sector uses significantly more water resources than is sustainable because they grow crops suited for wet, humid regions (like the Northeast US and Northwest Europe.) Sarah Taber (a crop scientist) has a great thread here on twitter about why cows are better suited for certain regions than say, growing vegetable matter: https://twitter.com/SarahTaber_bww/status/1006363772838170629

The tl;dr is that if you graze cattle in unirrigated arid scrubland, you'd need 67000 gallons of water to maintain 10 cattle. You'd need 79 million gallons of water to grow wheat or soy on that same land. That's a mind-boggling difference. Of course, where our ag system is broken is because we use some of our best vegetable/plant growing land to grow animal feed for animals which are amazing at converting undigestible grasses into usable protein.

Anyway, I remain skeptical about lab-grown meat for a number of reasons, and firmly believe that most of the problems we attribute to livestock agriculture are in fact due to the perverse economic incentives/rent-seeking that lead to bad use of our land. And it's for that exact same set of reasons that I don't see lab-grown meat ever being a panacea.
posted by mountainherder at 6:55 PM on January 15 [2 favorites]


Lab grown meat, if it could be scaled down, would seem to be wizard for space travel.
posted by Mitheral at 8:11 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]


mountainherder, I don’t disagree at all. It’s part of why I’ve been so interested in this textbook on heritage breeds. Modern farmers use the same breed of cattle everywhere, when there are animals far better suited for their environments.

I’m also not unconvinced that lab-grown meat could be a better solution, and I do think we’re over reliant on meat in the first place. It’s still interesting to consider which aspects of the modern environmental crisis in farming is inherent to raising animals, and which aspects are due to the way animals are raised and the monoculture the modern industry prefers.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 9:15 PM on January 15 [2 favorites]


The Insect Apocalypse Is Here
Just a follow up to my previous comment on being part of an EU habitat area. It gives an explanation to why the EU might use money on preserving/saving a single species of butterfly. And numerous other species of insects.
posted by mumimor at 2:02 AM on January 16


A pulsating vat of pork-derived Animal 57 has no hooves to be split or mouth or digestive system to chew the cud. Ergo, not kosher.

Neither does a carrot. Correct slaughter would only be a problem if it were an animal. There are other problems, though. The proportion of any remaining pug tissue must be minute, but is the vat of tissue effectively something flavoured by pork? Was the original tissue extracted from a living animal? There's a separate prohibition on eating flesh from a living animal, although I don't know if this tissue would have the same status. But there are certainly ways around these problems - using beef cells extracted from a freshly-slaughtered animal, for instance.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:38 AM on January 16 [1 favorite]


This seems like it would be a short conversation?

Or not.
posted by solotoro at 4:51 AM on January 16


The proportion of any remaining pug tissue must be minute

I really really hope that's a typo...
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:43 AM on January 16 [1 favorite]


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