The cows that make up our burgers consume 80 percent of the planet's farmland, generate 20 percent of our greenhouse emissions, and consume 10 percent of our fresh water. Also, cows don't like getting killed.
Feel bad? You could go vegetarian, but that takes sacrifice. Luckily, modern science has a way around almost every dilemma. At universities in the U.S. and Europe, researchers are busy cultivating meat in petri dishes.
Dr. Vladimir Mironov, whose name seems well-suited to a Frankenfood scientist, is an associate professor at the Medical University of South Carolina. He's been working toward developing lab-grown meat from stem cells bathed in a nutrient-rich bioreactor mixture for the past decade, according to ABC News. He and Nicholas Genovese, a research associate backed by funding from PETA, are working on customizing the taste, texture and nutrient content of "in-vitro meat." The going is slowed by lack of funding and high costs (right now, a single lab-hatched burger would cost tens of thousands of dollars to create), but their goal is to get their meat from the agar jelly to your plate as soon as possible.
Short Order asked two locals --- one who loves cows, and one who loves to cook cows --- what they thought about the initiative.
"I don't think that ethically there's anything wrong with getting
lab-engineered meat, so I'm ethically neutral, maybe slightly positive
on that," said Alex Cuevas,
local animal rights activist and soon-to-be vegan restaurateur. "As
in, if someone really needs to have meat, it's better that they eat that
than to kill an animal and to cause suffering and environmental damage.
So I'm more on the positive side on that front. However, I'm
nutritionally opposed to it. The foundation of the nutritional reasons
for being vegetarian is predicated on that meat has little nutritional
value and a lot of negativity related to animal protein, toxicity in the
meat, fat, and cholesterol. So I'd rather people go vegetarian, but if
they're going to eat anything that's going to be meat-based, ethically I
think that's a better choice."
where Michael Jordan and other star athletes feast on Certified Angus
Beef Prime, the "top 1 percent of all U.S.D.A.-graded cattle."
Surprisingly, he was similarly open to the entrance of in-vitro meat on
the food scene.
"It's always a shock when new
ideas and concepts come along. But as a restaurateur, if no one can tell
the difference between that and a regular steak and it's
cost-effective, there's no reason not to use it," he said.
Still, he wasn't sure consumers would be on board. "God bless PETA and
their morality, but at the end of the day, people don't want food that's
been genetically engineered. That's why heirloom tomatoes are in
demand. People want things that are grown locally and that are
sustainable products, which this might be, but I would bet that it's
about ten years from being something you might find in a restaurant.
I've gotten my beef from the same place for years, and I know that the
cows are not being treated poorly. But if they can pull this off and
make it taste the same, it would be something to consider."
there you have it. Who would have dreamed all it would take to bring an
animal rights activist and a steakhouse chef to consensus are some cow
stem cells and a petri dish?
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