Politics

Sci Fi Sausage, Beaker Bacon, Vat-Grown Veal, and Test Tube Tuna

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in-meat-ro fertilization?

Some musings on the glorious future of lab-grown meat, from the glorious future-oriented mag, H+:

In-Vitro Meat will be fashioned from any creature, not just domestics that were affordable to farm. Yes, ANY ANIMAL, even rare beasts like snow leopard, or Komodo Dragon. We will want to taste them all. Some researchers believe we will also be able to create IVM using the DNA of extinct beasts—obviously, "DinoBurgers" will be served at every six-year-old boy's birthday party.

Humans are animals, so every hipster will try Cannibalism. Perhaps we'll just eat people we don't like, as author Iain M. Banks predicted in his short story, "The State of the Art" with diners feasting on "Stewed Idi Amin." But I imagine passionate lovers literally eating each other, growing sausages from their co-mingled tissues overnight in tabletop appliances similar to bread-making machines.

The rest of the piece is great, liming the economic turmoil to come in meat-based economies like Argentina and New Zealand, the ultra-urbanization of a non-agricultural America, the insertion of good fish fat in fat steaks, and the acceleration of the expanding circle of humanity.

But here's one place where H+ gets it wrong:

My final prediction is this: In-Vitro Meat relishes success first in Europe, partly because its "greener," but mostly they already eat "yucky" delicacies like snails, smoked eel, blood pudding, pig's head cheese, and haggis (sheep's stomach stuffed with oatmeal). In the USA, IVM will initially invade the market in Spam cans and Hot Dogs, shapes that salivating shoppers are sold on as mysterious & artificial, but edible & absolutely American.

My prediction: Beaker bacon will be seen in Europe as having far more in common with genetically-modified corn than delicious invertebrates. Powerful entrenched dairy and meat interests, plus the other farmers who support their industry (remember those milky protests just a few weeks ago?) will play on the European aversion to food biotech to achieve their own protectionist ends. And they are quite likely to be successful, in the short and mid-term at least.

Farmers are powerful here in America as well, of course, and cultured chicken won't make it onto the menu without a fight. Using Spam as the thin end of the wedge—forgive the mixed meat metaphor—will allow an easier transition here, but will slow the adoption of laboratory lamb on the other side of the Atlantic even more.