Monday, August 5, 2013

Vatburger

Today's big story is the production of a hamburger made from lab-grown meat. As Reuters reports, one of the lead scientists in the project is Mark Post, a vascular biologist at the University of Maastricht. Being a Nederlander, Mynheer Post made a "burger" that seems more like a bitterbal:


To prepare the burger, scientists combined the cultured beef with other ingredients normally used in burgers, such as salt, breadcrumbs and egg powder. Red beet juice and saffron have been added to bring out its natural colors.


I, myself, would quibble that the addition of beet juice and saffron don't really bring out the "natural" colors of the vatmeat, they bring out the natural colors of beet juice and saffron.

Steak eating madman and bonafide rock star tsam wants something more ambitious from the meatmakers:

Also, if you’re gonna manufacture meat in a test tube, go for the ribeye or porterhouse, not fucking HAMBURGER. Geez. WTF?

I have to say, the thought of being able to grow my own ribeye and bacon is awfully intriguing. I LIKE IT.


I churlishly pointed out the fact that ribeyes and porterhouses require ribs and that T-shaped bone by definition. I suppose that some sort of bony lattice could be built so that the meat could be grown on it. Perhaps a robot "skeleton" could be made so that the artificial muscle fibers could be exercised in order to provide for a better texture.

Of course, the growth of meat in a lab can be taken to disturbing extremes- it raises the possibility of cannibalism without murder, should human meat be grown in a lab. Would eating the vat-grown meat of endangered species be unethical? How about eating meat cloned from extinct animals? Are there "Flintstones" style brontosaur ribs in our future?

Would eating meat that is genetically "human", but had been grown from a swab of cheek-lining epithelial cells be evil? If Sergey Brin bankrolled the cultivation of human meat in a lab for human consumption, would that violate Google's "Don't Be Evil" motto (the motto that Google routinely violates with its data mining operations)? Would it be considered autocannibalism if one grows lab-meat from one's own flesh and eats it? If Doctor Post told you "Eat Me!", would he mean it literally?

So many questions, operational and ethical... (for the record, I think cruelty-free meat would be great) at any rate, as the technology improves, the prospect of vat-grown meat becomes more likely. This disturbs me a lot less than the prospect of poop patties.

Note: Post title riffs off Fatburger. In a weird sort of synchronicity, I just learned that a Fatburger opened up in Manhattan.

Postscript: Damn, if the Shroud of Turin were authentic, and meat could be cloned from Jesus' cells, it would give the Eucharist an entirely new meaning.

The hits keep on coming: A Sergey Brin funded cloned human meat product could be called Soylent Brin. It could be made into Brinburgers.

Final Update: Cross-posted, most appropriately, at America's Meatiest Blog.

8 comments:

mikey said...

I just don't understand the 'controversy'. Meat is an organic substance. There is no mystery about what it is, or where it comes from. It grows naturally by a very well understood process.

If you can emulate that process and end up with a materially identical organic substance, why would it be of any concern to anyone how it grew? I'd be delighted to eat it.

Earth's population is going to reach 9 billion in a few decades. Under current agricultural models, that's unsustainable. Too many resources goes into raising animal protein for the wealthy populations that can afford to eat it. If we can create animal proteins in large volumes while simultaneously de-coupling their production from land, grain and water resources, it's nothing but a win for everyone...

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

There is no mystery about what it is, or where it comes from.

What about mystery meat?

I'm with you, bring on the lab meat! I imagine it would be grown on sheets of agar, or vats filled with a nutrient solution.

Vixen Strangely said...

Given factory farm conditions, I would consider vat meat not only more humane but potentially far cleaner--esp. considering all that won't be a factor in the final product, like antibiotics, steriods, and whatnot. But I note they are mostly talking about muscle tissue, and while meat protein is lovely stuff for putting on lean mass--let's not knock animal fat. I do have to wonder what this will taste like--but I can't imagine I'll like it less than soy or seitan.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

It can't be worse than McDonald's.

Can it?
~

Mandos said...

I found the Seitanic verses!! Fish's Law works again!

Substance McGravitas said...

There's already quite a bit of everyday consumption of human protein...

Syrbal/Labrys said...

Yeah, I don't get the whole "that's unnatural" argument.
What, raising cattle by the thousands in feedlots, feeding them anti-biotics because they stand in shit up to their bellies IS natural?

zombie rotten mcdonald said...
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