Gone are the days when a meat lover, who was paradoxically also an animal lover, had to feel guilty after devouring an extra-rare steak. We are standing at the edge of a technological revolution in the food industry — laboratory-grown meat. Meat will soon be grown without harming any animals in the process. And that’s not even the best part. This synthetic meat, or “shmeat,” will taste just as good and authentic as the meat procured from animals. Doesn’t that sound as good as a juicy cheeseburger right now?
Memphis Meats, a San Francisco-based startup, aims to bring laboratory-grown meat to the
American dining table by 2020. This meat will be grown using animal cells that will be controlled and manipulated in steel tanks for nine to 21 days before it is ready for consumption. Not only will this reduce emissions from animals themselves, but it will also reduce emissions from the feeding and transportation process that goes into meat farming. Science truly is impressive.
As a dedicated carnivore and a heartfelt pet lover myself, I have to say this news is music to my ears. It is like having your cake and eating it too. I wonder, however, if this is too good to be true. How likely is it that something so morally satisfying would taste as good? In 2013, as part of a project funded by Google co-founder Sergey Brin, a burger was curated in a laboratory and the patty received mixed reviews. In other words, it wasn’t necessarily delectable. How then, can the company directors be confident about the public’s reactions to their “shmeat?”
Another concern the company should bear in mind is that not everyone will be open to experimenting with unnaturally curated meats. I, too, had reservations the first time I read up on this invention. It is human nature to look at anything scientific with a critical eye. After all, it is technology, and technology can backfire.
The end goal behind this invention is to reinvent modern animal agriculture, which as of now takes up one-third of the world’s grains and a quarter of the land for grazing. Growing meat with cells and bioreactors in testing rooms not only consumes much less of the earth’s resources, but generates less waste and eradicates the need for additives or antibiotics in meat production.
A more direct benefit to consumers is that since this meat is controlled directly by the tissue engineers, it will be healthier than natural meat. The fat content and hormones, among many other things, can be manipulated to provide consumers with the dream meat. Besides, scientists estimate this meat to be cheaper as well.
In theory, this idea is definitely idealistic in more ways than one. But who is to say that all things shiny are diamonds? Let’s wait and see if this shot in the sky actually manages to reach its aim.