Thursday, June 20, 2013

Vat-Grown Meat

Father’s Day dinner at a steak restaurant reminded me of the futuristic concept of growing meat from cell cultures in vats. It turns out such a process has already been achieved, although nowhere near on a commercially economical level:

In Vitro Meat

Would “meat”—or “shmeat” as it's sometimes called—produced by this method satisfy the objections of vegetarians, since it doesn’t involve eating formerly living animals? According to the writer of the Wikipedia article, it probably would. Would vat-grown “pork” that looks and tastes like the natural meat but doesn’t come from real pigs be kosher? Or not, because the original muscle cells used to start the culture did come from a pig?

This idea reminds me of a punny Damon Knight story, “Eripmav,” about a world of intelligent plants where trees are made of meat. (The sap-sucking plant vampire gets destroyed by a steak through the heart.) Would a sapient plant be horrified by our omnivorous diet? Or would the thinking plant regard our consumption of vegetables the same way most of us view consuming parts of animals—if it isn’t sapient, it’s okay to eat?

Remember Alice’s talking pudding? “It’s rude to eat people you’ve been introduced to.”

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

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