Thursday, January 17, 2008

Of course, it could mean more fat people...

So recently the FDA approved cloned meat, and there has been talk of growing meat in labs for years. This has got me thinking about the future of human food production.

I think that we are very close to mass-produced meats that were never attached to animals. And I think that's a good thing for us. Yeah, I'm mostly vegetarian so I think there's a lot of value in meats that did not involve an animal dying, but more than that. Think about it. Factory farming is very cruel but it's currently the only way to efficiently produce food for a large population. Yet with every generation there are more people that object to it and more laws regulating how animals can be treated. Eventually the restrictions will make factory farming nonviable and meat prices will skyrocket to the point where we will be paying $25 for a single chicken breast. That will mean the lower class will not have protein. Lab meat would solve that problem, because it would not have such animal welfare restrictions.

Then there is the sheer burden of all farming. Livestock eat TONS of food. That's land that could be used for growing crops for human consumption, or that could be used for development; or maybe just turned into a nature reserve. Plus they produce methane gas (not the primary cause of global warming but still significant) and tons of waste, only some of which can be recycled as fertilizer. You stop farming livestock for food on the current scale and the environment will be much better off. Plus this could be used for fish as well, helping alleviate the terrible impact fishing has on the oceans.

Our population is still growing; lab-grown meat could be produced on a scale large enough to feed the masses. Plus vegans would stop protesting at KFC, and everyone wants that.

Of course, there will always be traditional animal farming. In areas where there is still subsistence-farming, for example. Or in Europe, where they are rabidly against using science on their food for some unfathomable reason. Animal farming will become a niche outside Europe, though, sort of like organic farming is now. Much smaller scale, much more expensive. Much easier on the environment (and the meat would be safer too, less illness).

But for the most part people will eat safer, cheaper, better-tasting meats (and cheeses and milks, though maybe not eggs, dunno how that would work) made in a lab. That's one future prediction I don't think is unrealistic or naive to make.

And yes, I would eat a hamburger made in a laboratory. I might even add laboratory bacon.

15 comments:

Lexcen said...

I wouldn't get carried away with the promises made by scientists. The reality never meets the expectations of what is promised. When you consider how different meat can taste depending on the factors influencing the environment of the animals farmed for meat, you realize how complex a process is involved. Maybe scientists can create protein in the lab and call it "meat" but what will it taste like? Will it taste like anything or will it be like the vegetables that scientists have gotten their hands on and resulting for example in tasteless tomatoes?

Ian Thomas Healy said...

Given enough time, I'm sure we can expect to see companies like Hormel, Oscar Mayer, McDonalds, and Taco Bell replacing herds with big mountains of cloned tissue instead that they regularly cut slabs from. If they don't have bones or organs or nerves, it will be tough for Animal Rights activists to sell people on cruelty, as the mountains won't really be alive.

But there are always Luddites who fear science and will panic at the slightest change to the status quo, and unfortunately our government consists mostly of them.

Ian

Basiorana said...

The FDA approved it, so the government can't be too against it.

Also, lexcen, cloned meat apparently tastes exactly like conventional meat.

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