Meat cultures gets US approval as food

Brian G Turner

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#1
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Authorities in the US have approved a system for regulating the sale of meat cultures - ie, meat grown from cells for consumption, instead of from slaughtered animals: US paves way to get 'lab meat' on plates

This has long been a staple of sci-fi, and in theory offers a lot of benefits - land currently turned over for the grazing and feeding of herds might be turned over to other uses, and therefore help improve feeding the world's growing population.

However, is it possible that instead of seeing animals grazing, those seems fields might end up filled with meat-culture vats?

Btw, this isn't an invitation to discuss vegetarianism or veganism, as much as consider how this new food source might impact and change the future. Specifically, is it really ever going to be viable? Or has Nature already found the most efficient and least expensive way of producing meat, for those who want to consume it?
 
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#2
Though I suspect rarely discussed, good or bad subjective, if/once it happens, you can expect a whole host of species to become extinct. Their cost will become so excessive that only the most wealthy will be able to afford 'natural meats/fish/fowl,' and I suspect you'll even see wild species perish few seeing the need to devote funds to protecting them.

K2
 

dannymcg

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#3
So we could end up eating human meat without having to kill people first.
That's gotta satisfy the animal rights brigade surely?

"What mate? You don't want us to eat the cute ickle lamb? Well then howzabout this plate of your leg? We've been growing it in a vat since you fell off your bike last year!"
 

WarriorMouse

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#4
I'm not surprised by anything the US government does.
Did they not once declare that Ketchup was a vegatable in an effort to makeing school lunch programs less costly.
 

Biskit

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#5
I suspect we now have to wait for someone to figure out the "hidden costs" behind the idea. It sounds so simple, but what is the feed-stock that goes into the vat? Do we use things like oil to make the organic precursors, or feed in mulched plants etc.
 

Foxbat

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#6
Given that meat production is a major contributor to greenhouse gasses, this might be a good thing (if people can get over the Frankenstein effect).

Here's a SF horror thought.... By culturing 'longpig' it may be possible now to be a cannibal without actually killing and eating somebody - Hell! you could even eat yourself if you wanted to (with no detrimental cost to your own body).
 

Edward M. Grant

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#7
Here's a SF horror thought.... By culturing 'longpig' it may be possible now to be a cannibal without actually killing and eating somebody - Hell! you could even eat yourself if you wanted to (with no detrimental cost to your own body).
Yeah, I was writing about vat-grown cannibal restaurants in 2006. I'm sure I wasn't the first.

Back more on topic, so long as it provides the appropriate nutrition when eaten, vat-grown meat seems like a great idea. Animals are an incredibly inefficient way to create meat, requiring vast amounts of feed and all the land necessary for growing that.

Besides which, it's pretty much essential for moving off this planet. There won't be fields full of cows on the Moon any time soon.
 

Parson

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#8
Back more on topic, so long as it provides the appropriate nutrition when eaten, vat-grown meat seems like a great idea. Animals are an incredibly inefficient way to create meat, requiring vast amounts of feed and all the land necessary for growing that.
Nature very rarely finds an inefficient way of doing things. Witness how much less expensive it is to raise a pound of grazing buffalo than grain fed beef.

I suspect that in any short range scenario vat grown will be outrageously expensive. It's only likely use will be in outer space where space for livestock will be next to impossible to arrange inexpensively.
 

Edward M. Grant

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#10
Nature very rarely finds an inefficient way of doing things.
Nature usually finds inefficient ways of doing things. Witness the human eye, which has the nerves in front of the retina, rather than behind. No human camera designer would put the wires in front of the CCD, because it would be insane.
 

chrispenycate

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#11
The nutrient solution for the tissue cultures will have to come from somewhere, and I'd be astonished if it were much more efficient than using agriculture to produce 'feed' (which the animal's digestive system would transform somewhat inefficiently into meat). Certainly not as efficient in human terms as grazing sheep on vegetation that grows itself and uses sunlight that arrives free.

Going the whole hog, genetically optimised algae tanks and a simulated mechanical/chemical/bacteriological transformation system checked continuously might, in time reach the same quantity to space and energy usage as our present evolved system (maybe even as good as eating arthropods) but that would require lots more experimentation, lots more time to achieve.
 

Wiglaf

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#13
Wouldn't most of an increase in efficiency come from only growing muscle for say sirloin and not any brains, bones, skin, etc. Plus, no energy would be required for physical activity; it's not like the ribeye is going to go for a stroll around the lab.
 

aThenian

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#15
Given that meat production is a major contributor to greenhouse gasses, this might be a good thing
I do hope so. It's depressing that we may be heading towards catastrophic climate change in no small part due to an addiction to burgers.
 

Edward M. Grant

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#16
Certainly not as efficient in human terms as grazing sheep on vegetation that grows itself and uses sunlight that arrives free.
I's only 'efficient' if you ignore the cost of the land and energy. You could be using that land and light for more useful things than growing grass. Even it it's merely letting the land revert to wilderness so it will support a larger variety of wildlife than just sheep.

And good luck doing that on the Moon. No grass, and no sunlight for two weeks a month unless you live near the poles.
 

Robert Zwilling

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#17
Lots of possibilities. Farms are horizontal land users, mechanize the process and we could have vertical structures to create the food. A distillery of sorts. Artificially grow some kind of genetically designed raw product that would yield multiple products. It wouldn't have to be functional, just eat and grow in vats until harvest time. Like fur balls with a meat core. Get wearing apparel and a steak at the same time.

There will be all kinds of foods brewed in vats. A lot of people eat one kind of insect or another but ask anyone if they want to invest in brewing cricket protein and you will only hear crickets chirping. Ask if anyone wants to invest in synthetic red meat and the lines of investors will be endless. There are all kinds of foods that have protein components so it would be easy to substitute synthetic protein for natural protein. Waffles made from algae, what's the difference when synthetic flavors will be added to recreate the original product.

With a population that will easily hit 9 billion people are going to be making food any way it can be made, and eating it. We already eat a lot of prepared foodstuffs that are artificially constructed to make them look and taste the way they do so it is an easy matter to change the ingredients going into manufactured food. It's all already coming out of barrels. All kinds of unnatural substances are used to shape the agricultural products while it is growing. We are just modifying the additives and the framework used to make the food.

I would think most synthetic stuff starts out costing more but goes down as the process is improved. So many synthetic products now, there's no reason food won't be added to the list. It will probably become the food of record for those who can't get enough now. Big markets to experiment on. It's not trendy yet. Seems like most new versions of things nowadays don't get made out of necessity but start out as costly trendy objects whose price starts high but comes down as more people buy into it. Start with the high profit zones where quality counts, then move out to the low profit zones where people won't be able to object to cheap substitutes.

The conversion of consuming raw substances and converting it to meat on the bone inside animals is highly efficient. The animals are eating stuff that is naturally growing, all part of a self sufficient system, but the animals aren't there to be mass killed everyday. Artificially expanding out parts of the natural process doesn't it mean it will remain an efficient process start to finish.

All the meat eater populations are picking off parts of the populations they feed on in very defined ways that do not decimate the populations. If they do decimate the population, the populations will naturally shift to other sources or locations or develop new strategies. All the different animals are working in the natural environment to keep it robust and growing strong. When you replace the entire cycle with a few types of animals and grow them repeatedly in the same place time after time, the land gets tired, kind of like planting the same crop year after year.
 

Robert Zwilling

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#19
They found a practical use for stem cells, you can eat them. Because it's all hand made for now, I'm sure they can lower the production costs substantially as time goes on. All they have to do is not go for big profits right out of the box, just sell it cheap, undermine the traditional beef industry, and then raise prices later on. The name of the cow, especially exotic high priced cows whose steaks cost a hundred bucks or more should be enough enticement to generate enough business to make it practical. Giving the product a fancy proper name instead of just calling it beef meat would turn the law around that says that only beef meat raised on an animal can be called meat. Plus you could advertise it as not being meat which would generate a new market of meat eating meatless vegetarians. I could also see the industrial medical stem cell market looking for a more controllable source of stem cells so the two industries could be mutually self supporting.
 

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