Would You Eat Test Tube Meat?

Posted on May 31st, 2012 by in Nutrition

It’s coming.

No matter which side of the go-vegetarian debate you’re on, there’s no arguing that the current methods of animal farming are wholly unsustainable. Animal farming currently takes up nearly a third of the earth’s land mass, the widespread mistreatment of animals has been widely reported, and meat production is extremely inefficient. Meanwhile, researchers predict that demand for meat will double over the next 40 years. We want burgers—currently to the tune of $74 billion a year.

Which is why a group of Dutch scientists has spent years developing lab-grown meat, which they recently announced will be ready for an initial taste test by the end of the year. Using bovine fetal cells cultured like bacteria, grown in a vat, and mixed with lab-grown animal fat, the scientists are working to create test tube burgers, sausages, and more, with plans to expand to dairy and other animal products later. Though the associated costs are currently high, the hope is that eventually the technology will feed more people more efficiently—while also reducing environmental, cruelty, and illness issues related to farming—and it’s so far gotten support from several avenues, including private donors and PETA. But do we really want to eat test tube meat?

“It’s a bizarre idea,” says John Bagnulo, PhD, MPH, who teaches nutrition in Kripalu Healthy Living programs. “It makes me wonder where the world’s agricultural leaders and investors are actually looking for solutions.” Though lab-grown, because it’s derived from actual cow stem cells with no change to DNA, in vitro meat isn’t the same as genetically modified foods (GMO)—yet. But John says that it’s only a matter of time before artificial meat turns GMO. Not that we’ll necessarily know it. “The major agriculture brands—Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer—own rights to research conducted with their seeds, and argue that it jeopardizes their ‘special genetic formula’ to have that research published,” he says. “This, of course, is ridiculous.”

And no—we probably don’t want to eat it. John argues that artificial meat doesn’t make sense at the human health level, non-GMO or not. “It’s still animal/mammal protein and as such will be inherently pro-inflammatory,” he says. “The only aspect of test tube meat that could be argued as positive is the decrease in animal suffering. But I’m not sure if we can assess the life form of test tube meat. Maybe it’s actually suffering the whole time?”

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  • Kimberlyaperez

    I’m beside myself with disgust and fear…and uncertainty.

    • Micahm

      This meat will be genetically modified and include potentially human genetic materials as well.  It will be very difficult to determine exactly what it is we are eating.  It will be marketted to the earthy crunchy crowd as environmentally friendly.  I don’t believe it for a second! I’ll keep my locally raised, no anti-biotic meat thank you.  As an omnivore who enjoys meat as part of a healthy balanced diet, I reject this further move toward franken-meat and centralized control of the food supply. 

  • KripaluEditor

    Thanks for commenting, Kimberly. This topic is fascinating, indeed. 
    ~Kim from Kripalu

  • Kj

    Absolutely no way!  I am concerned that they are doing such a thing!

  • Christine Eubanks

    “But John says that it’s only a matter of time before artificial meat
    turns GMO. Not that we’ll necessarily know it. “The major agriculture
    brands—Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer—own rights to research conducted with
    their seeds”

    Yes, we all know the dangers of GMO in human nature so we must be more strict with this. I heard that Monsanto company was the worst company in 2011, isn’t it?