Would You Eat Synthetic Meat?

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Aug. 31 2011 3:30 PM

Would You Eat Synthetic Meat?

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Photo by PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

The New Scientist writes that lab-grown meat might be a reality soon, with one scientist estimating that he is six months away from creating a sausage, a year from a hamburger. Synthetic meat could have all sorts of positives, chiefly that it would be cruelty-free and eco-friendly (“cultured meat will require 99 per cent less land than beef farming”). Vegetarians tempted by the siren scent of bacon would surely rejoice to indulge without the guilt.

But it’s caveat time. First of all, we don’t know if the synthetic “muscle-like strips” that are the precursor to full-on meat substitute will even taste good. At the moment, the strips appear “anemic and unappetizing,” says the New Scientist, since there’s no blood to give the material that meaty color.

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Taste aside, there’s another problem. Vegetarians and non-veggies alike have embraced “natural” foods (even if the label can be misleading), believing them to be more wholesome than processed foods. Genetically modified foods, from crops to salmon, have become one of those divisive topics, like abortion and vaccines, that can provoke heated discussion among usually logical people. Lab-raised sausage may lose its appeal when would-be diners start to fret about the food’s unnatural origins.

But maybe if the bacon smells good enough, there will be enough of a market for synthetic foods.

Read more on the New Scientist.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State that looks at the implications of new technologies. 

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