Cowless beef

Although not currently available to consumers, the theoretical idea that beef can be grown in a lab from a single bovine cell is capturing mainstream attention. Most often sneered at or satirized (recently the sitcom Better off Ted did a brilliant job of the latter), supporters of this idea (including PETA) do exist.

Their argument is that lab-grown (officially called in vitro meat) beef and pork shows potential for being more environmentally friendly than farm raised meat. There are also arguments that because such proteins are produced under controlled conditions, they will be safer food sources, more nutritious and more humane than conventional meat.

Sound like science fiction? Guess again. Apparently small amounts of edible fish can already be produced in a lab environment.

How do you feel about this idea? Does it freak you out or inspire you? If in vitro meat became our only meat supply would you become a vegetarian? I think I would.


15 Responses to Cowless beef

  1. I’d go vegetarian if this were the only alternative. We just don’t know enough about biology to do this in a way that makes me comfortable. Western science likes to compartmentalized things (meat as opposed to the whole cow, vitamin C as opposed to the whole orange) and lose sight of the bigger picture.

    It’s like those greenhouse veggies. Better grown in soil than in pots. Sticking close to nature is usually best, so lab beef is not going to make it to my table.

  2. Natashya says:

    I think I saw an episode of this in Eureka. I forget what the side effects were. 🙂
    I’d try it, why not?

  3. Barb says:

    Beacuse of the way animals are treated I sometimes wish I was vegetarian now. This idea intrigues me. Having not heard of it before I’m going to ponder it for a while. On the surface it seems clean and pure but people work in labs and they make mistakes (some evil minded movie maker could probably come up with all kinds of intentional “mistakes” to sabotage certain batches! Better leave that idea alone)

  4. Markus Saers says:

    I think we really need to coin the term “in meatro” rather than “in vitro meat”… 🙂

  5. Cheryl says:

    I swear, my husband has been talking about this for years, and I can’t believe he was really onto something. Dana, now I have to eat (in vitro) crow!

  6. danamccauley says:

    Markus, like your idea!

    Cheryl, like your humour!

    Barb, share your intrigue.

    Charmian, will follow your good thinking.

    Thanks for your comments folks.

  7. Amy says:

    I have no idea what to think of this…Interesting yes. Would I try it?…Sure…Would this make me go vegan? Heck no….

  8. Diva says:

    I dunno, I’m a skeptic, so I’m not sure I would trust it to be truly safe and healthy. On the one hand, if it really is environmentally sound and safe to consume, it could be a good thing. On the other hand, it also seems weird and gross. Since I don’t eat much beef, though, I suppose I’d give it a shot. Fascinating post, Dana, I knew nothing about this!

  9. Cheryl A says:

    Uh no, not for me. Just like we are raising the kids to know that meat doesn’t come from a styrofoam tray, I don’t want them to think any food comes from a test tube. I’m pretty sure Armageddon won’t come while I’m alive, so I can’t see this being a necessity.

  10. Are they growing actual meat or just proteins? If grass fed beef tastes better because of what it eats, will in meatro meat taste like a petri dish? What wine would you serve? Zinfanfake? Cabernet Sauvignphony?
    Are we talking meat with fat or bone?
    Stop me now… my imagination has gone berserk.

  11. danamccauley says:

    Judith, I hate to stop you! You are on such a roll! Good ones.

    The way I understand it, this is meat tissue that is grown from bovine cells. From the way the science read to me, it should be just tissue, no bone, connective tissue, etc. They’ll have to find a way to stimulate the tissue so that these lab grown muscles move enough to develop flavor and that is apparently where the hold up is at this point.

    As for wine, I think I’ll just have mine with whine!

  12. Anne says:

    I loved the Better of Ted clip, Dana. Interesting “food” for thought!

    I’ve been a vegetarian about a decade now and I have no desire to eat meat. I don’t think this would convince me to revert to being an omnivore, even if this would ease the concerns many vegetarians have about the ethical treatment of animals.

    As I see it, if the meat was grown from bovine cells, it is still meat. While there are numerous studies that indicate a largely vegetarian diet would benefit most North Americans, I don’t see that happening anytime soon. Better for people to understand where their food is coming from and to occassionally eat high quality, ethically sourced meat than focus on growing it in a test-tube. I don’t think my opinion is representative of most vegetarians, but there’s my two cents.

  13. lyndsay says:

    completely freaky. eeks.

  14. Interesting health information, definitely something I can use. Thanks.

  15. danamccauley says:

    Turns out the pursuit of a cowless steak is looming closer to the finish line:

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