Monday, February 27, 2012

Artificial Meat

The Economist has an interesting article about how a researcher is set to make a hamburger patty out of artificially grown meat - that is, the meat was grown in a petri dish from cells taken from cattle.

I'm doubling down on two of my earlier predictions, and revising one:

-Eventually all meat will be grown artificially

-When the process of eating meat is separated from the process of killing animals, within two generations the average person will be revulsed at the thought of killing a cow to eat it.

The one I'm revising is the headline of the earlier post - I now do expect to see this happening in my lifetime.

Within 50 years, I'm guessing artificial meat will become at least the 'free range eggs' equivalent for cruelty free meat, even if it doesn't replace meat completely due to cost.

And when this becomes widespread, the contradictions of our system of animal ethics will be harder to reconcile - it will be harder, in other words, to forget how the sausage is made.


  1. A cow has a lot of built-in quality control for free that would be incredibly hard to replicate on an industrial scale. Many more poor people interested in cheap protein rather than misguided attempts to produce 'cruelty free' meat.

  2. Right now? Absolutely. But the question is what happens in 100 years when society is a lot richer and artificial meat has been around for a long time.

    Gladiatorial fights to the death were once popular, and now they're inconceivable. Vivisection was once common, now it's unheard of. Even bullfighting is losing it's appeal, and I'd guess it's slowly on the way out. Take this quote from wikipedia:

    A 2002 Gallup poll found that 68.8% of Spaniards express "no interest" in bullfighting while 20.6% expressed "some interest" and 10.4% "a lot of interest". The poll also found significant generational variety, with 51% of those 65 and older expressing interest, compared with 23% of those between 25 and 34 years of age.

    As a betting man, I'd wager that that trend will continue as well.

    My guess is that if people get used to the idea that meat doesn't have to involve a dead cow, they may wind up significantly less comfortable with the idea of killing cows. We definitely think about a lot of ethical things quite differently from how people 100 years ago did - the question is what changes will the future have relative to today.