Would you eat a vat burger?
Over at the Innovation section, they have a story about "in vitro" meat. The animal rights group PETA is sponsoring an X-Prize-style competition, in which they are offering up $1 million to the first person to make lab-grown chicken meat.
Here's how it works: a muscle cell is taken painlessly from an animal and then placed in a nutrient-rich mix.
Over time, the cells would divide and produce millions of daughter cells, which then are placed on a scaffold. After the cells attach themselves to thin grooves in the scaffold, they are bathed again in the growth mix while being periodically stretched and contracted. This movement creates tension so that the cells form fibers, as happens when muscles are exercised.
After several weeks, a thin sheet of real muscle tissue develops that can be pulled off the scaffold and processed: stacked, rolled, or ground up. Fat cells for flavor and connective tissue for added texture could be grown along with the muscle or grown separately and added later.
PETA's idea is to create a way for us to get that meaty taste and texture that we tend to crave, but without any animal suffering and with fewer environmental consequences.
So my question is, if you could choose to eat lab-grown hamburger meat instead of meat that comes from a cow, would you? Let's assume that the price and nutritional content is exactly the same.
I, for one, totally would. I've been a vegetarian for fourteen years now, and, while I haven't yet grown tired of Gardenburgers, I think it would be nice to have the real thing. But I don't want to harm any animals that haven't done anything to me. So vat-grown meat seems like just the ticket.
But we're not just talking about cows and pigs and chickens here. Theoretically, this technology could be used to make tiger burgers, Komodo dragon filets, or a Tyrannosaurus sub.
Or even human meat, for that matter. Indeed, you could grow a steak from one of your own cells. How's that for sustainable!