Remember Wendy’s popular commercial of “Where’s the beef?” Soon, people could be asking a different question.
Willem van Eelen is considered to be the godfather of in-vitro meat. As a teenager of Dutch descent living in Indonesia, van Eelen fought the Japanese in WWII. His comment about his experience in prison camps shows how hungry they were, “If one of the stray dogs was stupid enough to go over the wire, the prisoners would jump on it, tear it apart and eat it raw. If you looked at my stomach then, you saw my spine. I was already dead.” 1 Now van Eelen and other scientists are growing in-vitro meat in the lab.
Yes. It can be done. Scientist take stem cells from a pig, cow or chicken and place them in bioreactors. The cells divide and the technicians instruct the cells to differentiate into muscle cells. Over time, the muscle cells bulk up and get harvested. Keep in mind, growing muscle cells outside the body is extremely difficult. It might cost $50,000 to produce 1 pound of meat. But the fact remains that it can be done.
I had the same reaction. But consider the ‘The Jungle’ environment of a slaughterhouse, and the diseases that spawn from them. As for the taste, I don’t know how they make a chicken nugget taste like chicken, but they do.
People are hungry! The demand for meat is increasing. The global livestock industry is responsible for nearly 20% our greenhouse gas emissions. Water is becoming more of a precious commodity and cattle consumer nearly 10% of the planets fresh water. This last stat is crazy! 80% of farmland is devoted to the production of meat.2
So as absurd as in-vitro meat sounds, I want to point out that in the future, it might become a reality, whether we like it or not. How do you feel about eating meat grown in a lab? Do you foresee this becoming part of humans’ diet? Is there a parallel to GMOs? I would love to hear your comments.