The Doctor Frankenstein of Food

The article looks at a group of researchers in the Netherlands who are trying to turn the meat industry on its head. You may be thinking: “Great, they’re probably looking for better farming methods, increasing organic farming of cattle and emphasizing the need for more grass-fed beef as opposed to the antibiotic saturated grain-fed excuses for meat that’s dominating the meat market throughout western world.”

I know…I was thinking (and hoping) the same thing. Unfortunately, the researchers are doing something totally different and to be honest, it just doesn’t sit right with me.

You see, Professor Mark Post and his team are making meat without going anywhere near a herd of cattle, or a farm or the countryside. No, they’re cooking up experiments in a lab that seem like something straight out of a horror sci-fi story.

The following excerpt is taken from the article:

“Instead of getting meat from animals raised in pastures, he wants to grow steaks in lab conditions, directly from muscle stem cells. If successful, the technology will transform the way we produce food. ‘We want to turn meat production from a farming process to a factory process,’ he explained.”

Now let’s look at the arguments…

  1. Prof. Post says: “"I think everybody knows subconsciously that the way we produce meat is not sustainable and isn't friendly to animals." Personally, I couldn’t agree more with him. The majority of commercially farmed meat is full of antibiotics and the whole treatment issue of the animals is much to be desired. However, in saying this, I believe that solutions need to be (and can be) implemented to ensure better farming and harvesting of beef. Bulldoze a few big pharmaceutical facilities and replace them with green pastures to farm cattle maybe?
  2. According to the article “livestock farming accounts for around 18% of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions” and “around 10 per cent of the world's fresh water supplies”. I don’t know where or how the journalist got these figures. Either way, one just has to look at the massive industrial sector (and many others) where factories almost always pump out serious amounts of greenhouse gases every second. I’m sure the meat industry can improve but it’s a fraction of the total amount. Prof. Post needs to shock the muscle cells in order to stimulate growth…I wonder how many greenhouse gases are emitted by his researchers and the carbon-footprint they need to get the electricity need to continually shock the muscles every second of every day to get a steak produced.
  3. The following excerpt came as the biggest shock to me…Prof. Post says: “We don't really know where the taste of meat comes from…We assume it comes from fat, but there may be other components, most of them are unknown so it's a bit of a mystery how the conditions we use during the culturing of the meat will affect the taste." Ask any half-decent chef where a big part of the flavor of meat comes from and he/she will say the fat 99% of the time. No wonder the professor is struggling to find a way to grow fat…you simply cannot. It’s natural and found in real organisms known as cattle, poultry and yes, even people. It’s a product of metabolic processes and other extremely complicated yet amazing physiological effects. You’ll find fat in cattle found on the greenest pastures as well as those subjected to intensive farming. Fat is necessary for the meat’s flavor and in moderate amounts, it’s necessary for the human body and endocrine system to function properly.

I can understand Prof. Post’s good intentions but I believe his methods are not viable. Some people will argue for animal welfare and better environmental emissions, while some people will question the ethics of growing meat for commercial use.

Personally, I’d like to see better quality meat in general…from the farms to the abattoirs to the treatment of the cattle. I think there is nothing better than an excellent quality steak sourced from an animal that has lived a good life living in a field eating grass, hasn’t been injected with antibiotics and was harvested (the PC word for slaughtered) quickly and in hygienic humane conditions.

Some people may think I’m living in a dream world but some farmers, meat suppliers and butchers are already moving in this direction and I think it’s great for everyone…regardless if you’re a meat-lover or not.

I know the topic of meat production can stir up people’s emotions, which makes it a great talking point. What do you think?