Vat-Grown Meat: It's What's For Dinner

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As synthetic meat becomes a real possiblity, blogger Antigravitas asks the tough questions: Is vat grown meat OK for vegetarians? Is it OK to eat vat grown meat from endangered species? Is it cannibalism to eat vat-grown human meat?

And my personal favorite: How about celebrity meats?

Read all about it here.

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  1. I’m going for Hufo (TM) instead–human-flavored tofu. Eat Hufu.

  2. One of Iain M. Banks’ stories set in his “Culture” universe featured a scene with the crew of a ship visiting Earth eating a meal of vat-grown meat taken from notorious world leaders.

    I want a nice Mugabe steak and a Hussein Dog. 🙂

  3. No doubt some mystic lifeforce worshipping nozzle-head will claim that clone meats rob essential karma from the world, or mis-align your chakras, or some such rubbish.
    All ethical restrictions become moot if we’re talking about cloned tissue. If anything it will be less offensive that vegetarianism as NO life is being ended to provide food, not even vegetable life.
    Soon Ronco will have a device where you throw gizzards in a sealed chamber on Monday and have a fully cooked clone turkey ready by Thursday.

  4. The full scale production of this type of synthetic meat would be just another success in a long line of successes for technological progress. At the risk of sounding too naively excited, imagine all the starvation that could be eliminated with this. Of course, the left would sound irrational alarms about it and try to stave off its use in the starving parts of the world, thus costing people’s lives, but what else is new?

  5. Might put a lot of farmers out of business. Imagine all the new ag subsidies!

    Not to mention the intellectual property rights issues.

  6. Pure speculation of course, but I bet cloned Dom Deluise smothered in a rich mushroom burgandy would be a big hit.

  7. “Soon Ronco will have a device where you throw gizzards in a sealed chamber on Monday and have a fully cooked clone turkey ready by Thursday.”

    How much would you pay for the Ronco Home Turkey Cloner? $200? That’s too much! $150? No way, Jose! $125 Get out of town! Through this special blog offer right now, you can get the Ronco Home Turkey Cloner for only $109.99! That’s right! $109.99! And if you call in the next half-hour and mention this ad, I’ll tell Shipping to throw in 10,000 turkey stem cells for FREE!

  8. Could you grow a Turduckin whole? Hmm…

  9. Swede,
    I am what you might broadly call “the left”, and I would be a proponent, and my hunch is that someone like Leon Kass, a conservative in my type system, would be the type of person that would be most against.

    This stuff certainly is a little creepy ( I am not against), but I think “The Right” will certainly be the most vocal against when this technology is used in the production of love dolls.

  10. I’ll eat it when it’s out, altho I can’t say I miss meat all that much. But let me know when the cloned lobster hits the shelves.

    I’m somehow sure the causeheads won’t agree.

  11. theCoach,

    Yes, I agree with you. Leon Kass types (and there we might as well include the religious right of all denominations, just for kicks and giggles) would probably object to this as well- against God’s will and all that. Could the center and the libertarian types (along with the market) make something like this a reality? Ah, why not?

  12. You mean I can make jerky out of myself? Cool.
    “You wanna piece of me?”

  13. “Is vat grown meat OK for vegetarians?”

    Depends on whether you’re vegetarian for ethical or health reasons, obviously. I love meat but haven’t eaten it for ~10 years for ethical reasons, so all I can say is ‘fire up the grill!’ If you don’t eat meat because you don’t like the fact that it makes a home in your intestines for years on end, it isn’t going to matter much where it came from.

  14. “Human meat”?!?!??

    Mmmmm, tastes like fish!

  15. Everything I’ve read suggests it tastes like very salty pork.

    Which sounds revolting to me. But I’ll take a cloned lobster any day. Lobster so good but so expensive.

    I wonder if they can clone plant tissue. It offends me that black truffles are as expensive as they are. And saffron.

  16. Imagine the possibilities…

    I had my girlfriend eating herself out yesterday.

  17. I am SO not hungry all of a sudden.

  18. MM! I can’t wait for hippy burgers!

    Out here.

  19. If you don’t eat meat because you don’t like the fact that it makes a home in your intestines for years on end,

    Quiet, you. I’m trying to eat a chicken club here.

    On a different note: what’s all this talk about eating human flesh? This is the kind of crap that really discredits a Libertarian website like Reason. [exasperation] I mean Really, people! [exasperation]

  20. No scraps under the table. They say when dogs get the taste of human flesh…

    I think licensed franchise clone meat has a future. Kentucky Derby and dog show winners leap to mind.

    Did anyone read Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitan? There was a franchise called Long Pig that served human vat-meat.

  21. Mmmmm….flank of Kass….

  22. I asked my vegetarian ex about her feelings about this the other day and I completely stumped her. Her quote, “[I] never thought I’d have to face that little quandary.” And then on how creepy it is. Of course, I understand. It?s kinda creepy to think that your steak was cut off of an evergrowing tumor.

    I look forward to the day when I regale my grandchildren about the good ol? days where we ate meat right off the animal and it tasted better. Vat vs. animal will become the vinyl vs. CD debate of the future.

  23. This is, IMO, an extrememly important subject, although this is the trivial side of it.
    The notion that biological products (increasingly complex) can be manufactured at will, is not a prospect that the majority of people’s ethical systems can deal with at this point.

  24. I like Arbys, so I assumed I was already eating synthetic meat.

  25. Serafina’s Hufu ™ link didn’t work:

    Eat Hufu: It’s the Healthy Human Flesh Alternative!

    http://www.eathufu.com/

    A vegetarian friend of mine (I’m vegetarian, too) said that the opportunity to eat human flesh would be the only reason he would eat meat again.

    My question: if you were to eat a human burger, would you rather eat a friend or a stranger? This assumes that both a friend and stranger will die regardless of your burger choice (so you can’t balance “fewer deaths/less evil” choices).

  26. Synthetic meat (or “brainless beef” as my friends and I have always referred to it) may well sidestep a lot of the health objections to the conventional carnivorous diet as well, as noted here:

    http://www.universetoday.com/am/publish/artificial_meat_grown.html

  27. Wow! Chickiebob!

    When do we get the pigoons?

  28. If they can do this, can Standard Pleasure Models be far behind?

  29. What’s cool is that in the future when my arteries are clogged with synthetic cholesterol from synthetic meat I could have them replaced with synthetic arteries.

  30. It?s kinda creepy to think that your steak was cut off of an evergrowing tumor.

    Vat vs. animal will become the vinyl vs. CD debate of the future.

    Congratulations, Mo! You just typed the two best thoughts of the day. Possibly best of the week.

    I’m with keith, I like Arby’s too, and (ha, ha!)we all know that isn’t real beef.

    I was just thinking, as I ate some fake mozzerella cheese this morning for breakfast, how easy it is to fake people into eating things that they would oppose eating if they knew they were eating it. The cheese I was eating had a label that said something to the effect of “Milk withouth rCGH” (the recombinant bovine growth hormone – can’t remember if that’s the correct abbreviation), preceded by two **’s. Then on the back of the label, it said: “**No significant difference found between milk with rCGH and milk not treated with rCGH.” (or something to that effect). Nowhere did it say “Milk without rCGH (or whatever the recombinant abbreviation is) was not used in this product”. So that leads me to believe that the cheese I was eating did in fact have the hormone, or else why would they insist on pointing out on the label that there is no difference between the chemically altered milk and regular milk?? And I think many organic-food people would buy the product just because it says “Milk Without rCGH” on the front of the label, but what does that mean? Absolutely nothing, legally speaking. It’s not even a sentence. It makes no claims whatsoever, it just uses a buzzword. To make an analogy, I could put the phrase “Unsweetened rice” on the front of a sugar cereal box, and then could have a ton of sugar in the cereal, anyway. Sorry for the rant, but its not entirely off-topic.

    One more rant:

    A vegetarian friend of mine (I’m vegetarian, too) said that the opportunity to eat human flesh would be the only reason he would eat meat again.

    My question: if you were to eat a human burger, would you rather eat a friend or a stranger?

    What the fuck is wrong with you people? Did I wake up on another planet this morning? Since when do people have interest in eating other people’s flesh? Cannibals! I only hope that I don’t personally know anyone interested in this.

    (Did you hear about that guy in Germany a few years ago who hired a guy to come and cook him and eat him? I think the guy who agreed to it actually got in trouble, no less, even though it was a mutual agreement).

  31. Matt: “Pure speculation of course, but I bet cloned Dom Deluise smothered in a rich mushroom burgandy would be a big hit.”

    Hmm. It disturbs me that you felt the need to preface your statement with the qualifier that it’s “pure speculation.”

  32. You mean I can make jerky out of myself? Cool.
    “You wanna piece of me?”

    “Hey — eat me!”

  33. What I’d like to know: If you’re an ethical vegetarian and pro-choice, can you eat animal fetuses?

    (Just thought I’d up the “yuck” factor a little more.)

  34. Even if you cloned yourself the product would not taste like you. Presumably in most cases the actual human product would be stringier and gamier, but more flavorful – since the live human has been walkig around, consuming other animal products, etc. A cloned Dom DeLuise product for example would certainly lack the many subtle flavors of the original, acquired through years of overeating and aging, and would probably taste fairly generic.

  35. “You can’t have your pudding if you don’t eat yourself!”

    One last cannibal joke: This gives new meaning to the phrase “I eat punks like you for breakfast!”

    I’m here all week. Try the veal, it’s cloned from Stevo.

  36. Forgive the unsubtle plug, but I conceived of a Meatubator two years ago for my novel for kids, so maybe I should petition for a share of the proceeds. Or maybe not. Again, forgive me.

  37. “Still no sign of land. How long is it?”
    “Thirty-three days, sir.”
    “Thirty-three days!”
    “We can’t go on much longer, sir. We haven’t eatten since the fifth day!”…
    “How’re you feeling, Captain?”
    ” Not too good. I…I feel so weak… Listen…chaps…there’s still a chance. I’m…done for, I’ve got a gamy leg and I’m going fast; I’ll never make it. But…some of you might. So…you’d better eat me.”
    “Eat you, sir?”
    “Yes. Eat me.”
    “Eeewww! With a gamy leg?”
    “You needn’t eat the leg, Thompson. There’s still plenty of good meat. Look at that arm.”…
    “Yes, that’s true. But to be perfectly frank I…I like my meat a little more lean. I’d rather eat Hodges.”
    “Oh well, all right.”
    “I still prefer Johnson.”
    “I wish you’d all stop bickering and eat me.”
    “Look. I tell you what. Those who want to can eat Johnson. And you, sir, can have my leg. And we make some stock from the Captain, and then we’ll have Johnson cold for supper!”

    — Monty Python, “Lifeboat Sketch,” excerpts

  38. Can we have an opinion from a rabbi? Could cloned pork be kosher?

  39. just for the record, this would only help the poor if it were substantially cheaper to produce than regular animal meat, which isn’t a foregone conclusion.

  40. maybe rabbis will have to start blessing vats.

  41. I just got an idea for a new business!

    Ever wonder what you’d taste like? We’ll clone a piece of you while you wait, then give you a bite.

    For more info, contact:

    MEAT ME IN ST. LOUIS!

  42. Stevo,
    As a naval officer I abhor the implication that the Royal Navy is a haven for cannibalism. It is well known that we now have the problem relatively under control, and that it is the RAF who now suffer the most casualties in this area.

    Yours etc.

    Capt. B.J. Smethwick in a white wine sauce with shallots, mushrooms, and garlic.

  43. Re: MEAT ME IN ST. LOUIS!

    Addendum: I can see it as a cute little place in the food court of one of our big shopping malls, near “Let’s Make a Daiquri!” and “Lettuce Quiche You!”

  44. Hmmm. According to the articles, cultured meat is currently being fed on “the blood of cow fetuses” but they are looking at plant- and mushroom-based feeding for the meat and ways to stretch and exercise the muscle tissue to give it a more meat-like texture. Weird-o-rama.

  45. Ever wonder what you’d taste like? We’ll clone a piece of you while you wait, then give you a bite.

    Why does that seem like the recipe for an autoimmune disease to me?

    I guess the stomach acid would digest a person’s own flesh without bias, in theory.

  46. (Thanks for fixing my link above, Chris.)

  47. Stomach acid is basically just dilute hydrochloric acid, so it has no cellular bias (aside from the lining cells of the stomach, which are resistant to it).

  48. Great. Sounds like they’re on their way to re-inventing Spam.

  49. ugh

    What grossed you out, zach? The fact that there are actually establishements named “Let’s Make a Daiquri!” and “Lettuce Quiche You!”?

    Oh, and “I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurt!”

  50. If you don’t eat meat because you don’t like the fact that it makes a home in your intestines for years on end, it isn’t going to matter much where it came from.

    Not a fact.

  51. If they can pull this off, it will mean lots of “unemployed” cows, pigs, etc, just hanging out, roughing up tourists, tagging, scoring grass.

    Think about it, people!!

  52. Vanya beat me too it. But on the subject of dietary restrictions, could a Jew eat vat meat with milk? I await the Vatican’s ruling for vat meat on Friday.

  53. If anything you eat, meat or otherwise, stays in your intestine for years on end, you have a VERY serious medical condition and you need to talk to your doctor at once, assuming you are not currently dead. Even swallowed chewing gum goes out the other end in a day or two.

  54. Won’t this put Krusty Burger (The official meat-flavored sandwich of the 1984 Olympics!) out of business?

  55. No, The Mad Scientist, it will just give them some friendly competition.

  56. I think vat meat with milk would be allowable. Exodus 23:19 – “Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother’s milk” which is the basis for the Kosher milk/meat separation shouldn’t apply since the vat-meat never had a mother. In any case rabbis are going to have a field day pondering all the implications. Take vat chicken – how do you slaughter this meat in a kosher manner? Is it alive in the first place? Can you just pick it out of the vat and let the blood drain on the ground? Does vat meat have circulating blood before it’s harvested? I assume it must, which raises a bunch of other questions. I assume the more Orthodox are just going to play it safe and say “vat meat is not kosher.”

  57. Can I perpetually eat myself?

  58. Smacky,

    Milk products that want to label themselves as free of Bovine Growth Hormone are “recommended” by the FDA to carry labels stating “No significant difference in milk from cows treated with artificial growth hormones” as part of an agreement between organic farmers and the Monsanto Company, the producer of the most popular brand of BGH. Monsanto has sued several organic dairies claiming that statements eschewing BGH are tantamount to slander against their products. They argue basically that since BGH is legal, it should be illegal for non-BGH users to point out that they don’t use it. In order to avoid costly litigation, most organic dairies that have been threatened have agreed to carry the disclaimer. I wrote about Monsanto’s strongarm tactics about two years ago. It appears that since then, they’ve managed to pressure most of the major organic dairies into going along with their labeling. So my guess is that your cheese was, in fact BGH free.

  59. since BGH is legal, it should be illegal for non-BGH users to point out that they don’t use it

    So when a cheese claims to be oil free, even though oil is legal, are they slandering the other cheeses? This is some major BULLS*

  60. “Monsanto has sued several organic dairies claiming that statements eschewing BGH are tantamount to slander against their products. They argue basically that since BGH is legal, it should be illegal for non-BGH users to point out that they don’t use it.”

    This is some line of reasoning. It should be illegal for companies to give the most accurate information about the production of their products because that would be bad for the business of a competitor. Isn’t their a 1st amendment issue here.

  61. in all seriousness, this might alleviate the problems associated with prion diseases like mad cow, scrapie, etc. that are starting to turn up in human food supply chains

  62. Unfortunately, there are huge technical obstacles to making this anywhere near cost efficient. The main ones I can think of are related to sterilization. First, the production facility needs to be kept rigorously sterile, well beyond even the scope of a meat packing facility, since even the slightest contamination in the early stage of the batch can result in the in a half-bacteria/half-meat end product due to a lack of an immune system. Also, since there’s no liver to metabolize them, the use of drugs will be limited by the extent they will wash out of the tissues based on media circulation. Second, the process requires vast quantities of sterile media, which isn’t cheap to make, even when a suitable media doesn’t require animal tissue to make it. In order to get as good of results as a full animal method, you’d need to artificially simulate hormone production, immune response, circulation, and a bunch of misc metabolic pathways. Altogether, evolution has probably optimized the meat making process pretty well on its own.

  63. And, while thinking of the spiritual implications of this development, Catholics can ponder whether we were are one DNA sample away from making Transubstantiation obsolete?

  64. Reminds of this classic Cheers discussion:

    Norm: Yeah, Cliffy had himself the “Ton O’ T-Bone”. For less than four bucks you get 24 ounces of USDA Choice “bef”.
    Cliff: Bef? No, you mean beef.
    Norm: Beef? Don’t be ridiculous, Cliffy. That stuff is “bef”. You see it’s a Hungry heifer trademark for a processed, synthetic ? what ? meat-like substance.
    Cliff: Ah, no.
    Norm: What do you expect for four bucks? You see me complainin’ about the “loobster”? (Edit)

  65. MattXIV:

    cattle have immune systems and cattle rancher still pump them full of antibiotics

    not saying this is a good thing, but very likely, that’s what would be done if the vat-grown meat thing ever becomes reality

  66. Since I’m a vegetarian mostly to avoid dying from breast cancer like Mom did, or having heart and circulatory problems like Dad does, I’m not too interested in where the meat came from, or how it was produced.

  67. biologist,

    Yeah – I was trying to point out that even the techniques we use now on top of inbuilt immune system would run into problems when used on tissues disjoined from the rest of the animal. The dose could probably be tappered off as the meat batch gets closer to market-ready on the other hand. I assume (hope) the cow gets a little detox time afte it was last dosed before it is slaughtered.

  68. One last though – the vat meat could probably be genetically engineered to produce a variety of flavoring molecules within the tissue itself, providing a level of flavor-penentration unavailable in conventional marinating or smoking.

  69. I only eat what I kill.

  70. Hmmmm… We’ve been through over 70 posts and no one has made the obvious quipp about the prospect of eating human meat, cloned or otherwise. Oh well, I might as well say it…

    SOYLENT GREEN IS MADE FROM PEOPLE!!!

  71. kwais,

    Spent a lot of time in your MRE blind, I guess.

  72. SOYLENT GREEN IS MADE FROM PEOPLE!!!

    Yeah, but now people won’t have to die so that you can have soylent green. What will Charlton Heston rant about now??

  73. Oh, wait, he can still rant about apes and guns…

  74. Get your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty meat-in-a-vat-grower!

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