A Real Meat (Almost) All Vegetarians Can Eat. Now Animal Free.

Advancements in creating artificial meat raise questions.

Would you eat meat that was grown in a lab? Many millions of dollars have been bet on the idea that you would. Memphis Meats, a company that hopes to produce competitively priced lab grown meat, has recently been given large investments by big names such as Bill Gates and Richard Branson. With the huge impact on our environment that modern animal husbandry can have, the UN estimates producing meat creates more greenhouse gases than all of our gas-powered vehicles combined, many environmentalists are praising the idea of lab-grown meat.

But many of you are wondering, “Is it real meat?”. And if it is, should vegetarians still be concerned?

The meat is grown from the cells of animals encouraged to reproduce without a larger animal attached. So, strictly speaking, yes. It is really animal tissue. It is also, generally, placed in a growth medium that is similar to what animals are exposed to at some point in their lives; the first publicly available lab meat was grown in a culture made with fetal calf serum.

But, is it real enough to mean that vegetarians cannot eat it?

Yes and no, it depends not only on who you ask but on why they choose not to eat meat.

Historically, many vegetarians have been dedicated to the idea of animal rights. Such thinkers as Peter Singer have argued that eating an animal is wrong along lines of feeling compassion for anything sentient or that can feel pain. For these people, eating meat that was never part of a larger living thing might prove more palatable.

More recently, an objection to eating meat has been for the effects on the environment of producing meat. With so much carbon output, degradation of soil, antibiotic use, and destruction of wildlife habitat having livestock production as a root cause, lab grown meat offers an alternative that is much more environmentally friendly.

However, some objections still remain unsolvable. In some Hindu philosophy, any food that came from an animal is viewed negatively. While the cells of a lab grown burger might never have been able to feel pain, their donor animal did. For these vegetarians, no amount of technological mastery will ever grant them a cutlet they can eat.

On an economic note, the high level of technological sophistication required to produce lab-grown meat may increase dependence on large corporations for the maintenance of the food supply. Something that many people find objectionable, and which grants a great deal of power to a small group of people.

 And, of course, many people are still queasy about the idea of artificial meat.

Would you eat a lab grown steak? Fortunes have been bet on the idea that you would. But would you be willing to agree that a major ethical hurdle has been cleared? Perhaps, perhaps not.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Brain study finds circuits that may help you keep your cool

Research by neuroscientists at MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory helps explain how the brain regulates arousal.

Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP/ Getty Images
Mind & Brain

MIT News

The big day has come: You are taking your road test to get your driver's license. As you start your mom's car with a stern-faced evaluator in the passenger seat, you know you'll need to be alert but not so excited that you make mistakes. Even if you are simultaneously sleep-deprived and full of nervous energy, you need your brain to moderate your level of arousal so that you do your best.

Keep reading Show less

34 years ago, a KGB defector chillingly predicted modern America

A disturbing interview given by a KGB defector in 1984 describes America of today and outlines four stages of mass brainwashing used by the KGB.

Politics & Current Affairs
  • Bezmenov described this process as "a great brainwashing" which has four basic stages.
  • The first stage is called "demoralization" which takes from 15 to 20 years to achieve.
  • According to the former KGB agent, that is the minimum number of years it takes to re-educate one generation of students that is normally exposed to the ideology of its country.
Keep reading Show less

How pharmaceutical companies game the patent system

When these companies compete, in the current system, the people lose.

Top Video Splash
  • When a company reaches the top of the ladder, they typically kick it away so that others cannot climb up on it. The aim? So that another company can't compete.
  • When this happens in the pharmaceutical world, companies quickly apply for broad protection of their patents, which can last up to 20 years, and fence off research areas for others. The result of this? They stay at the top of the ladder, at the cost of everyday people benefitting from increased competition.
  • Since companies have worked out how to legally game the system, Amin argues we need to get rid of this "one size fits all" system, which treats product innovation the same as product invention. Companies should still receive an incentive for coming up with new products, he says, but not 20 years if the product is the result of "tweaking" an existing one.