In this week's New Yorker there's a piece called "Test-Tube Burgers" on the controversial work being done to engineer meat in a lab. The stem-cell biologists, tissue engineers, animal rights activists, and environmentalists involved all share one goal: to grow muscle without the use of animals, and produce it in quantities that are large enough to sell in grocery stores.
"For many people, the idea of divorcing beef from a cow or pork from a pig will seem even more unsettling than the controversial yet utterly routine practice of modifying crops with the tools of molecular biology," said the author of the piece Michael Specter. "But the consequences of eating meat, and our increasing reliance on factory farms, are just as disturbing for human health."
The goal is to take the meat from one animal and create the volume provided by a million animals. The in-vitro meat is produced by placing a few cells in a nutrient mixture that helps them proliferate and form muscle tissue that's then stretched and molded into food which, in theory, can be cooked, sold, and consumed like any processed meat.
Does this idea of test tube-engineered beef or pork give you the heebie-jeebies? Or does thinking about a factory farm slaughterhouse freak you out more? Dan Barber, the chef at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York, which sits on an eighty-acre plot, not surprisingly, is behind it. "I would rather eat a test-tube hamburger than a Perdue chicken. At least with the burger you are going to know the ingredients." Would you agree?