Many people, of course, prefer food in what the vegetarians call ’the secondhand form’, i.e. after it has been digested and converted into meat for us by domestic animals kept for this purpose. In all these processes, however, ninety-nine parts of the solar energy are wasted for every part used. We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium.”
Winston Churchill, 1931
Know what you call a cow with no legs? Ground beef. Know what you call beef with no cow? Me neither. But Winston Churchill once opined that it would be possible to grow meat without needing to tend to an actual animal. This sci-fi concept of Jurassic Park meets Transmetropolitan meets Soylent Green is showing the vat cloning of livestock becoming a reality. Scientists are growing nuggets of meat in laboratories without the ongoing use of animals. In vitro meat production is a specialized form of tissue engineering, a biomedical practice in which scientists try to grow animal tissues like bone, skin, kidneys and hearts. Proponents say it will ultimately be a more efficient way to make animal meat, which would reduce the carbon footprint of meat products. Much of the newest technology was presented at the Norwegian In Vitro Meat Symposium (motto: “Tastes Like Chicken!”).
This process seemingly solves many of the problems with a meat-eating world. Contamination issues could be nearly eliminated. Environmental issues such as the wasting of land, greenhouse gasses and water concerns raised by factory farming would be a thing of the past. And the problems of animal cruelty and barbaric slaughter processes would be non-existant in the laboratory kitchens. Once the animal has been cloned, there really is no further suffering at the cost of producing the meat. It’s like the joke about the lady in the supermarket’s meat section who couldn’t find the larger turkeys. She asks the young clerk:
“Sonny, do these turkeys get any bigger?”
“No, Ma’am. They’re dead.”
Dead is dead and the damage has been done. For PETA, not killing animals is good enough. They have offered $1 million to the first people who produce an in vitro chicken-meat product that has a taste and texture indistinguishable from real chicken flesh to non-meat-eaters and meat-eaters alike. And to the animals, not killing them is the good part. But therein lies the (dry?) rub. The reduction of our planet’s suffering and that of her animals are not really the only problems at hand. The damage to humans from cloned, lab produced meat probably doesn’t occur until the meat is eaten. In case you’ve forgotten, the evidence is very strong that eating animal protein causes cancer. Like an on/off switch. Eat enough of it…you are many times more likely to develop cancer. Eat very little or none of it, you markedly reduce your likelihood of developing many cancers and heart disease.
Whether the animal product is from a test tube or gnawed off the animal itself, I do not think this fact will change. Cloned meat will probably prove to be just as unhealthy, just as dangerous and just as carcinogenic as farmed meat albeit a bit nicer to the donor. Which makes it a slightly better idea than picking up packages of dead animal flesh from your friendly neighborhood grocer as long as you don’t plan to eat it.
Dr. Brett Kinsler writes for RochesterChiro.wordpress.com and doesn’t think lab meat sounds tasty at all.