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From Mystery Meat To Faux Fowl

Forget pink slime.

Here at Via Meadia we’ve been following another meat story: the underfunded effort of scientists around the world to save the planet and feed the world by generating tasty cuts of meat from stem cells in labs. Governments aren’t helping — probably because the ag lobby doesn’t want cows made obsolete and in any case Solyndra and the ethanol pirates have better Washington connections — but this research would potentially do more for the environment than the entire environmental movement to date has managed to accomplish.

The energy savings from shifting to field raise to lab grown meat for at least some of the world’s food supply are huge; the health benefits are substantial. The rain forests would flourish unharmed, methane from vast herds of meat cows would no longer be emitted into the atmosphere by flatulent bovines, and, no small consideration in our view, the cruelty of industrialized agriculture and slaughterhouses would become largely a thing of the past.

PETA gets it, and is funding experiments to produce lab grown, cruelty-free meat. One hopes a smart government without a strong ag lobby (are you reading me Singapore? UAE?) will step into the picture and help build a biological industry that could change the world and bring both food security and lots of patent rights to the jurisdiction that makes the right investments on the right scale.

The FT has an update on the slow but continuing progress and the obstacles that remain. The world’s first shamburger, made entirely of vat-grown meat, is going to be costly: something like €250,000 — if the euro is still with us when that first, delectable shamburger comes out of the lab.

We hope you get a side of fries with that, but seriously, this is exactly the kind of innovation that ensures that the 21st century provides more innovation and change than any time period since human life began. The synthesis of the farm, factory and the lab into new systems of production is going to play a growing role in economic and social life growing forward. Hacking the genetic code could well turn out to be the most consequential development since the domestication of fire; brace yourselves for big changes, and get ready for tasty, nutritious and cruelty-free faux fowl, fakon and shamburgers to appear on menus and grocery shelves all over the world.

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  • Kenny

    Just don’t follow BHO’s lead and start in on cats and dogs.

  • Lyle Smith

    This science could also fail, I guess.

  • a nissen

    But will it solve or compound the mystery of Obesity in the U.SD. now that we know that Food Deserts are most likely just blue dreams? And what are the Vegans to do?

    Keep parsing please, this reads like you have taken Adrian Bejan too literally.

  • Jim.

    I remember going to a Freeman Dyson lecture in college where he talked about how a combination of the Internet and genetic engineering would lead to amazing leaps and bounds in agricultural productivity, even in third-world countries. Let’s see if I can find any traces of that on the web, you’d probably like it…

  • a nissen

    Sorry, that should have read “in the U.S.”

  • Jim.

    It wasn’t so hard to find after all.,_the_Genome_and_the_Internet

    I didn’t recall the unicorns in the title, a pity about that. The book’s probably a generation or two ahead of its time.

  • Jacksonian Libertarian

    “The world’s first shamburger, made entirely of vat-grown meat, is going to be costly: something like €250,000 — if the euro is still with us when that first, delectable shamburger comes out of the lab.”

    Unless it can be made profitable, it’s a stupid waste of money. I sure hope the Taxpayer isn’t paying for this PETA boondoggle, seeing as we are already paying for the Alcohol Pirates, Solar Scammers, Wind Wasters, and Global Warming Hoaxters.

  • vanderleun

    “PETA gets it, and is funding experiments to produce lab grown, cruelty-free meat.”

    You will want to assign a student to take a very close look at this one.

  • thibaud

    Makes one’s head spin. One WRM blog entry sneers at the author’s opponents for “chasing unicorns,” and another blog entry touts genetically engineered SPAM.

    Is my calendar wrong? Is today April 1?

    This blog’s love of hack futurism leads its author down some very weird, embarrassing paths.

    If conservatism means anything, surely it means respect for the food chain and an unwillingness to compound the many errors our food industry has made that have caused us to be the most obese people outside of Tonga?

  • thibaud

    Perhaps “governments aren’t helping” because they know that food produced in laboratories stands a non-trivial chance of creating all kinds of unintended side effects such as cancer and [even higher rates of] obesity. Just a thought.

  • bob

    The best single indicator of adverse environmental impact is cost. Cost represents the totality of resources expended on a project. By this measure labl grown meat is an environmental disaster.

  • Mike Anderson

    Oh goody! Now there’s no reason not to hunt every flatulent ruminant, from cattle to bison to elk, completely into extinction. Save the Planet!

  • a nissen

    Great point. Bob. And WRM, you are veering more and more in the direction of an Unscrupulous Optimist. Spending too much time with impressional youth can do that to you, along with its positive aspects.

    At any rate you need to take more care to set a good example and remain a Scrupulous Optimist. The reason, I would venture, that most of us stick around and comment.

    Better to be a Pessimist of any variety than an Unscrupulous Optimist—for the reasons why and a whole lot more see “The Uses of Pessimism,” Roger Scruton, 2010.

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