No dead cows, just real, sustainable beef, made with nothing but yummy stem cells and a touch of magic! All yours for a sizzling €250,000 each. And they’ll get cheaper and cheaper with every passing year (can we call that Moo’s law?)
If your spirit is willing but your (susceptibility to the irresistible aromatic temptations of barbecued) flesh is weak, don’t despair, you can still have your (beef)cake and eat it with a clear(ish) conscience, long before Moo’s law has rendered man-made meat affordable. How?
Well, you could consider practicing semi-vegetarianism (and while you’re at it, why not save the world at the same time?)
That was then, what does he talk about today?
The research for this was done at Maastricht, considered by many to be the birthplace of the Euro, which may alert us to the fact that we probably shouldn’t be too hasty about adding synthetic dairy-free versions of that famous Dutch regional delicacy Edam in order to create comprehensively compassionate cheeseburgers, just in case the whole thing suddenly becomes unstable and decides to melt down unexpectedly.
On a decidedly more serious note, Ars Technica‘s John Timmer just put together an article which adds quite a bit more perspective on the ‘level of difficulty’ involved in addressing the ‘cultured meat problem’.
Yes, we can now build tissue using stem cells, but if the structure and configuration of that tissue is going to need to fulfil extremely demanding criteria, such as the realistic matching of whatever it is about the taste and texture of meat that makes its consumers prefer it to (mostly cheaper) alternatives, we are going to need to ‘get lucky’.
Simply because at this stage, despite the important advances we’ve made, we don’t really have much more than a relatively superficial understanding of many of the underlying phenomena involved in making something that will deceive (or at least satisfy) the exacting demands of a discerning carnivorous person.
Unless we achieve impressive (i.e., gastronomically commendable and affordable) results in a reasonably short time-frame, all but the most implacable optimists will be convinced that it may not be soon enough to enable the arrival of economically viable livestock-free meat to have a decisive impact on such things as anticipated food supply shortfalls.
Man-made meat, welcome to the race against time.
Some might claim that there is no rush, others that it is a distraction from more pressing, productive and achievable options, but for every meat lover with a conscience (a category which I feel certain also includes a significant proportion of strict vegetarians) the tantalising prospect of that first succulent but guilt-free meaty mouthful is a dream which should not be treated with contempt, especially when, faced with the choice between abandoning meat and what may turn out to be prima-facie evidence of serious consequences for humanity if we don’t, most of the meat-eating population would probably still only be persuaded after it was too late, if at all.