Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Meaty Situation

During the working week my alarm sounds at 4:50am and in a bid to wake up I peruse the news bleary eyed. This morning stumbled across this article on News.com.au announcing that Dutch Scientists are less than a year away from beginning the first human trials of beef mince grown from 10,000 cattle stem cells. The product 'Vitro Meat' can be grown in 12 months and is designed to tackle the impending food shortage as the human population swells over the next three decades. Though the product would eliminate the need for animal slaughter, Scientists have admitted the product is not particular appetising as it is grey and has a similar texture to calamari.

So this has brought forth a number of philosophical questions and I would love to know everyone else's thoughts:

  • Should we be eating meat?
    Believe me I love nothing more than a well marbled, rare steak with some creamy mushroom sauce but we're constantly told a number of conflicting things. "Eat more red meat." "Your portion of red meat should only be the size of your palm." Consume red meat three to four times a week." "Consumption of meat is linked to Cancer." "If you skimp on meat you'll miss out on iron, iodine and vitamin B12." The list goes on and add on top of that all the ethical issues like the humane slaughter of animals and the impact on the planet. My view is human beings are designed to be omnivores so if you happy to continue to eat meat e.g. you don't have ethical or dietary dilemmas then you ought to include meat sparingly. I'm sure our starving caveman ancestors would approve.

  • Are we playing God?
    Maybe I've missed something I thought we getting back to basics, you know, brown peasant bread and attaching buzz words like organic to branding. Though I'm not terribly keen on the lifestyle choices of the stereotypical smelly hippy, I do like the idea of keeping poultry, growing an edible garden, recycling and composing. I also don't really like the idea of Vitro meat as I am not sure what kind of nutrition a bunch of stem cells will impart. I've held many corridor discussions over the last week and Carmen of Awesome brought up the point that apart from food tasting really good, we need it to live. If we can't decide what is the optimal diet for humanity, then how can we create Vitro meat? I know we love progress and we need to explore but honestly I'm not comfortable.

  • How old is your meat?
    When you clone an animal, the donor material carries a genetic age. Does this apply with stem cells? How will brand our meat? Will stem cell meat be able to sold as lamb, hogget and mutton?

  • Can we make it tasty?
    The article states, "even if the initial results do not taste quite the same as proper meat, scientists are convinced the public will soon get used to it." Get used it? I'm not really use I want to consume grey beef with the texture of calamari. But as foodies, it is our job to try to think of a way to make this thing palatable. All I could think was to solve the situation by making a pie or coating it in panko and deep frying (my solution to most of the world's problems). I would love to hear your thoughts on Vitro Meat and how you would sell it.

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