Vocablets in the News: Test-Tube Burgers?

There’s more to every Vocablet than what’s on the surface.  Let’s take a closer look at the story behind the snippet.

The Word:

Would You Eat Meat Grown In A Lab? (NPR, 30 August 2011)

My answer?  I don’t know.

I don’t eat meat.  The ethical and environmental problems of eating meat seem insurmountable to me, so that’s the personal decision I’ve made for my life.

But if meat could be grown without the suffering of animals or the enormous depletion of natural resources that currently accompany industrial meat production?

That certainly changes things.

But then, eating meat grown by scientists seems… weird, doesn’t it?  Separated from Earth and the natural order of the world.

Here’s the story; decide for yourself.

The Story:

Scientists are working on developing ways to grow meat in laboratories without requiring live animals.

They start by taking stem cells from animals and placing them in a nutrient-rich broth, where they rapidly grow.  The next step is to create muscle tissue from the cells, which involves figuring out a way to stimulate the muscle so it won’t atrophy and die.

Because the cells come from animals and replicate organically, the resulting meat would not be synthetic — it just wouldn’t be from an individual animal that had once been alive.

Researchers say the taste and texture should be indistinguishable from other meat.

Why It Matters:

Americans eat a lot of meat.  Increasingly, other countries are adopting a more American diet, which means much more meat.  These factors, along with our rapidly increasing population — from 7 billion today to an anticipated 9 billion in 2050 — mean that the demand for meat is skyrocketing, and that isn’t likely to change.

Unfortunately, all that meat takes a huge toll on the planet’s resources.  Livestock is already responsible for almost 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, not to mention the huge amounts of grain, land, and water needed to feed the animals, plus the environmental costs of slaughtering and processing.

There has also been backlash against the meat industry due to the cruel treatment that food animals often receive, both at slaughter and during their entire lives.

Lab-grown meat would eliminate all of the ethical and many of the environmental concerns that many consumers have about eating meat.  It may also be a necessary step if we are to face the challenges that face our species as we continue to deplete Earth’s resources over the next century.

So, in ten or twenty years when you pull up to the window at your favorite drive-through fast food restaurant, that burger you chow down on may not have come from a life of misery, a terrifying death, and a huge environmental footprint, but from a team of scientists and a petri dish.

And you’ll never taste the difference.

Making It Memorable:

What did YOU think when you saw this Vocablet?  Do you have any thoughts, ideas, or stories about meat, its environmental impact, animal welfare, or the prospect of growing meat in a lab?  How is this word and its story memorable to you?

One thought on “Vocablets in the News: Test-Tube Burgers?