Lab GROWN- Vegan Tech triumph or disaster?

labmeatShmeat. Frankenmeat. Some vegans may consider this the holy grail, real cheese and real meat without the animal cruelty. Oddly enough, vegans may be more excited about this than meat eaters,  already having been adjusted to substitutions and mock-meats for decades. Omnivores may have a more difficult time adjusting to the idea of food science (despite having been fed a diet of processed food-like materials for years).

So is frankenmeat the answer, or just another attempt we humans are making to justify our bad drug addictions?

First, lets explore how they are making, and intend to make Shmeat.

The Shmeat is created through a process similar to how we repair, and bulk up, our muscle tissue.  They take muscle tissue core samples from a cow neck (kind of like a syringe biopsy) and then feed it fetal calf serum. Then they starve the cells, causing them to divide and then combine into muscle fibers called myotubes, and then it replicates again and again until they have enough.  See VIDEO about how its made.

They seem to be coming from a good place, these scientists: “What people need to realize is that it will have a positive effect on many things, including animal welfare, because we would need to slaughter fewer animals, our efficiency with certain resources, and the environment,” (Professor Mark Post, Maastricht University).

However, let’s not forget that this is a money-making, and industry connected enterprise.  Much of the conversation is about making this product financially market viable.  This includes dropping the price-per-patty down from the laboratory experiment $300k+ down to what an average burger costs (they are saying around $11 which to me is extreme).  However, making the flavor and cost match consumer/market needs and values for comparable products does not guarantee adoption by the market  (or we would already have a mass exodus from beef to Field Roast--if you have tried it, you understand.)

These processes are also going to be patented, which completely makes sense, they are inventing things…BUT by holding patent/s, this likely will limit the number of industry enterprises that CAN use this harm-reducing method, thus creating another splinter in the “humane” meat production category, and otherwise allowing regular animal agriculture to continue on with yet one more “personal choice” blindspot…or maybe this will lead to small holdings of incredibly tortured cows, who get stripped of muscle sample after sample until they too are discarded.  Will lab-beef be the new grass-fed?  A new excuse to peddle the same cruelty, at a higher price tag, and a pound of soulflesh?

The Dutch lab intends to use 3D printing to make this method resemble steaks and chops to expand from the original burger patty, and an Israeli competitor is set to the task of growing lab chicken.  But in the end it will be meat.  Actual meat.  Identical in material, just not in source, but still animal derived (despite the stated desire to source rigin materials and food/serum from non-animal sources).

Then there is the question: will people eat it?  Some ethical vegans may decide that it is enough removed from the animal, and some likely will conclude that it is meat and is wholly animal derived– I predict this will divide the all too splinter-loving vegan community.  However, what about the mainstream “I’ll never give up my burgers” population?  The group of people who not only don’t care that animals are hurt. killed. exploited, but maybe glorify hunting?  Will they even try it?

Many people feel conflicted about GMOs, and there’s reason to be skeptical here, as with any lab-food, but this might actually be cleaner meat and safer meat since it is less exposed to farm-diseases, antibiotics, and is not mutated or genetically modified, while most farm animals ACTUALLY ARE. Nevertheless, we are still talking about animal fat and protein, which are essentially the building blocks of all modern chronic illnesses ( Choline, Cancer, Cholesterol and Heart Disease If you want more, and in the form of medical studies/data contact me, I’ll be happy to send you some lit reviews 🙂 )  All of the lifestyle illness associated with red meat will still be in this frankenmeat, UNLESS they genetically modify it….so how’s that for a catch-22.

Alternatively, San Francisco startup Impossible Foods aims to combine plant proteins with a concentrated a heme protein – which is typically small in plants and found in larger quantities in normal blood– in order to create a faux meat that is vegan through and through.

With a similar vision, but slightly different approach, the Real Vegan Cheese project is trying to tease genetically engineered yeast to spit out caseins (milk proteins), so far they have been able to synthesize real-milk-cheese by starting with actually cow-derived milk proteins…much like the shmeat above.  Not sure how this vegan company justifies that…but, their goal is to be completely independent of animal products, despite getting there through animal-use.

The annual symposium on cultured meats is later this year in the Nederlands, if anyone wants to go, I’m creeped out AND curious. Here is what they have to say:

“The production of meat through tissue culture could have immense effects in reducing the environmental impact of our agriculture system, minimizing threats to public health, addressing issues of animal welfare, and providing food security.”

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