Margaret Atwood always does that for me. She manages to find one or two images that are so grotesque that they burn themselves permanently into my brain. One such image: ChickieNobs.
In the dystopian preapocolyptic world of Oryx and Crake, only the most privileged people have access to “real” meat. Everyone else eats creatures so modified as to be virtually unrecognizable by taste or (living) appearance. Like ChickieNobs, the quick-growing, brainless 12-breast things (you can read the excerpt here, but be warned that it may be an indelible image).
Now, Reuters is reporting out of London that a Dutch scientist has managed to cultivate meat in a Petri dish. And, actually, science fiction parallels aside, it’s not a bad idea.
Currently, the meat isn’t marketable. The first burger, biologist Mark Post says, will probably cost about 250,000 € (appx $340,000). Taste and texture are still in process. But hey: it’s gluten-free!
The meat is grown from stem cells, which are taken from “leftover animal material” in slaughterhouses and fed a careful diet of the right nutrition. The muscles are exercised in their Petri dish homes with some Velcro strips, so that they can grow the way muscles should. Since there’s no blood, they apparently resemble thin strips of raw scallop.
Assuming the idea progresses and becomes cost-effective and palatable, lab-grown meat could be a great way to help the environment out. Less rainforest cut down for grazing land, fewer greenhouse gasses, less need for feed to be grown and fed to animals, fewer slaughterhouses. Plus, the chances for cross-contamination would be pretty slim.
If I can shake the ChickieNobs image, I’ll gladly chow down on a gluten-free lab burger.
What do you think? Would you join me?