Monday, January 9, 2012

Lab-Grown Beef: It's What's For Dinner!

Remember when Toyota first released the Prius, and suddenly we all had that friend who thought they could drive as much as they wanted guilt-free because their car was so darned fuel-efficient? Inevitably that was the same person who still downs a liter of Coke every day, but it’s OK because it’s Diet.

We Americans have a nasty habit of missing the point when it comes to moderating, and the new buzz over in vitro meat is just another example of that.

If you haven’t heard about in vitro meat yet, it’s still in the preliminary stages, but scientists think we’re not too far away from a day when we’ll be able to grow meat in a petri dish instead of having to kill an animal for it. The idea is gaining favor with animal rights activists, as well as environmentalists concerned about the amount of land and natural resources involved in raising animals for human consumption.

According to a recent Huffington Post article, “growing in vitro meat would use up to 60 percent less energy, emit up to 95 percent less greenhouse gas, and use 98 percent less land than conventionally grown meat.”

Call me crazy, but you know what else would use less energy and emit less greenhouse gas? Eating less meat! When did we all lose the ability to make small sacrifices for our own long-term good?

Enter Meatless Monday. Gaining renewed interest from the recent sustainable food craze, this movement which, as its name would suggest, encourages people to abstain from meat one day a week, has actually been around since World War I, when Herbert Hoover encouraged Americans to cut back on their meat consumption as a part of the war effort.

And I’m not just skeptical of lab-grown meat, as some people who know me may suspect, because I hate progress. (Although, come on, five years ago, did you really say to yourself, ‘Wow, I wish I had a hand-held device that could instantly send a picture of this sandwich I’m eating to everyone I know?’ There’s only so much progress we need.) I’m saying this because when science tries to imitate nature, we usually don’t end up with what we expected.

In last summer’s post, You Probably have Scurvy, I mention a significant danger in relying on synthetic vitamin supplements for health. We’re a long way away from discovering everything there is to know about what nutrients our bodies need and the best way to get them. If the nutritional difference between corn-fed and grass-fed meat is any indicator, there’s a very real possibility that there will be a pretty significant deficiency in cultured meat that won’t be discovered until it’s clogged a few hundred thousand arteries.

It’s no secret anymore that fruits and vegetables just aren’t as nutritious as they used to be before the soil was depleted by chemical fertilizers and other unsustainable farming practices. It’s been proven time and again that quick fixes to agricultural problems just create more problems than they remedy.

You can read more about Meatless Monday on their website, where you’ll find, among other things, some really clever and tasty meatless entrees. Not all of them are easy to make. Not all of them can be eaten quickly from the comfort of your computer desk while your mind is on other things, but I for one would rather suffer that inconvenience than have someone’s science fair project for dinner.


  1. My Grandma used to not eat meat on Fridays. But it wasn't for environmental or health reasons.

    It was for Jesus.

  2. Touche. Solid arguments. Keep up the good work.

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