Will In-Vitro Meat Change Our Lives?

In a recent article in h+, Hank Hyena wrote a gleefully exuberant article on Eight Ways In-Vitro Meat Will Change Our Lives. Just for fun, I thought I'd give some of the sf writer arguments (and real life science arguments) in response to just three of his statements.

No more ranches.
Since in-vitro meat will be substantially cheaper (half the price), no one will buy the full animal just to have its meat.

Some people will pay twice the price just for better quality meat now. A few people pay ten times as much for "heirloom" meat varieties like Kobe beef. Also, it's a favorite device of sf writers to emphasize that people will always pay for natural beef; consider this quote from William Gibson's 1984 novel Neuromancer:

"Jesus," Molly said, her own plate empty, "gimme that. You know what this costs?" She took his plate. 'They gotta raise a whole animal for years and then they kill it. This isn't vat stuff." She forked a mouthful up and chewed.

Healthier Humans
In-Vitro meat will be 100% muscle.

IVM will not be 100% muscle; nobody eats meat that lean, except maybe for chicken. Successful IVM will resemble real meat as closely as possible; if it's just as cheap to make well-marbled T-bone steaks (bone and all!), then people will certainly buy it and in larger quantities. Mind you, there will be meat like chicken breast that will be served up lean - ChickieNobs, anyone? Or maybe a Kzin's food brick, as described in Niven's 1970 novel Ringworld. It's just the thing when you can't chase down some real meat:

Presently Speaker returned to the 'cycles. His mouth was not bloody. At his 'cycle he dialed, not for an allergy pill, but for a wet brick-shaped slab of warm liver. The mighty hunter returns, Louis thought, keeping his mouth firmly shut.

Exotic and Kinky Cuisine
IVM versions of rare animals (and even you and me) will be made available.

Unusual animal meat (like bison and ostrich) is already being served in places like the lunchroom at Cabela's, the outdoor outfitter's favorite store. I don't doubt that there is a market for other rare IVM meats.

Human meat for human consumption? This creepy possible future has also been described by science fiction writers. Ian Banks described it in his 1991 story The State of the Art, in which "stewed Idi Amin" is served. Larry Niven described the same idea in his earlier work Assimilating Our Culture, That's What They're Doing, a 1978 Draco Tavern story. Hopefully, it won't include any products like brain, which may pass on prion-related illnesses like Jakob-Creutzfeldt disease.

Read Eight Ways In-Vitro Meat will Change Our Lives; thanks to Winchell Chung.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 11/18/2009)

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