Sometimes, in life, things happen that make you wonder “why?” Such is the case with the breaking news of lab-grown meat. A scientist named Dr. Mark Post, of Maastricht University, apparently thought it would be a great idea to grow a meat-like disk in a laboratory dish from muscle stem cells and then serve it to diners at a posh London restaurant. The eager tasters gave the “burger” relatively high marks for flavor and “mouth feel,” though some said the fake meat was harder in texture than had been expected and others said it was less fatty than a traditional burger.
British newspaper The Guardian reported that one food writer said the “meat” tasted “like an animal protein cake.” This description is hardly an enthusiastic endorsement, nor one which would incite the masses to rush out for a sample of the stem-cell entrée.
If you’re scratching your head and wondering what would possess anyone to undertake such a Frankenstein-esque endeavor, perhaps the fact that Google funded the disturbing project might shed some light on the motive. It really shouldn’t come as a surprise that Google was eager to toss $331,535 at the dastardly doctor responsible for bringing the Franken-meat to life. After all, Google execs are working on computer chips that can be implanted into your brain and cars that drive themselves. Who knows what other robot-adoring projects they have up their sleeves? However, Google’s official motto is “Don’t Be Evil,” so we can all rest easy, right?
Dr. Post, however, seems to have a legitimately altruistic reason for creating the lab-grown meat, and contrary to Google’s worship of robots and technology, he has been inspired by the idea of kindness to living things: animals. “When you see how these cows are treated, it’s certainly something I’m not comfortable with,” Post says.
His vision for the future includes farms that contain a very minimal number of animals who are all treated in the most humane way possible. His eventual goal is to grow all kinds of synthetic meats, such as different cuts of steak, without the need for cows.
It took his team three years and a lot of sweat to grow over 20,000 individual muscle fibers in a petri dish and then smash them together. Since the end result comes out much more pale than real meat (excuse us while we suppress our nausea,) the team colors the fake burgers with beet juice and turmeric so the patties can look more authentic.
All kidding aside, Dr. Post really does seem to have good intentions, including providing a future in which the entire world’s population could have easier access to high quality proteins. Reducing animal abuse while also increasing food production and access to nutrition are lofty goals, and thinking about them neutralizes the discomfort one may feel when pondering fake meat grown in a petri dish. Dr. Post also points to the diminished drain on environmental resources as another great reason to pursue project expansion.
So we live in a world scientists have grown edible meat in a lab, we are forced to talk to robots on the phone whenever we call customer service, and people are more comfortable interacting with screens than with other people. Perhaps we should accept it, and dig into a yummy plate of stem-cell derived, petri-dish grown, Franken-burgers. Bon appetite!
By: Rebecca Savastio