March 31, 2006

Test Tube Beef

Chris MacDonald asked me whether this piece in the Globe and Mail is really a bioethics story; "Will consumers have a beef with test-tube meat?"

Maybe yes, but what I keep wondering is whether or not meat grown from the cellular level could possibly be worse than McNuggets. The piece is pretty vivid:

Scientists can grow frog and mouse meat in the lab, and are now working on pork, beef and chicken. Their goal is to develop an industrial version of the process in five years.

If they succeed, cultured or in vitro meat could be coming to a supermarket near you. Consumers could buy hamburger patties and chicken nuggets made from meat cultivated from muscle cells in a giant incubator rather than cut from a farm animal.

Home chefs could make meat in a countertop device the size of a coffee maker. Before bed, throw starter cells and a package of growth medium into the meat maker and wake up to harvest fresh sausage for breakfast.

The only question is whether or not animal rights activists will start to make anti-abortion claims regarding the rights of disorganized but living piles of chicken cells.

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