It’s coming. The roll out date for mass public consumption of laboratory grown meat may be some time away, but lab-grown meat, also known as synthetic meat or in vitro meat, will be here soon enough. It’s a product whose time is long overdue. The current meat demand worldwide is growing. It is estimated that by the year 2050, meat production will be double what it is now. Already, much of the world’s arable land, as well as water resources, are consumed for food animal growth. Beef alone accounts for nearly 60% of the world’s agricultural land, and 22% of the global freshwater supply is used for meat production. Add in the devastating environmental effects of the mass growing and killing of land animals for food, and it is clear that this is not a sustainable path for the long (or even short or medium) term. Recent food safety issues, such as the discovery of antibiotic resistant bacteria and fecal bacteria in ground turkey and the public’s increasing awareness of the cruelty of this industry make the idea of sterile, non-death causing meat even more appealing.

Will it appeal to everyone? Of course not. For example, after (basically no) consideration, I know that I will not be a consumer of these products. I have not eaten meat in almost 30 years and have no desire to return to it, even if an animal didn’t die to produce it. For me, it is still an animal derived product. I put it in the same category as dairy, an animal derived product where the animal was not killed, but still required. For me, it does not fit with the vegan path I have chosen for my life. Plus, one of the many reasons I stopped eating meat is that I simply don’t like it – it grosses me out. I won’t even eat many of the tvp-based alternatives because they are too authentic in taste and texture. And for people who try and avoid food that is highly processed, it may not be an appealing option. But for much of the meat-eating world, people who like meat and want to continue eating it, this may be the best solution the world will see for a very long time. Does it still exploit animals? Yes, in that the starter material will be taken from an animal and it will still be cultured animal tissue. Does it conform to an abolitionist world view in which nonhuman animals are appreciated for their sentient nature and not viewed as a means to an end? Absolutely not. But will it save billions of land animals from being born, only to live in confinement, have painful procedures such as debeaking and castration (usually without the benefit of anesthesia), be pumped full of dangerous hormones and antibiotics, and die ghastly, tortured deaths? Yes, indeed it will. And who knows – it may even change a few minds about what it really means to eat the flesh of another. It’s not nirvana, but I’ll happily take it when it comes.

photo: Jon Sullivan via

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