Wednesday, August 14, 2013

World's first lab-grown burger

BBC News - World's first lab-grown burger is eaten in London:

'via Blog this'

I'm still impressed with this recent development. Call it faux flesh, call it a vat burger, lab-grown meat for human consumption has been a staple of science fiction story settings for a long while. Or a plot enabler technology, in the case of last year's beautiful and Blade Runner-like short film, Loom, by Luke Scott.

Now vat grown meat is real, at least in a non-production, non-commercial, laboratory sense.

I don't know if it will ever be a major component of the human diet in the future. In fact, given the recent improvements in vegetarian meat alternatives, it's hard to see lab flesh as ever being a viable food product. Vat grown meat would still require a lot of inputs in the form of prepossessed calories and nutrients, rather than open fields and planets whose primary inputs are solar energy, water, and carbon from the air. Then there are factors like contamination and all the costs and technical hurdles of maintaining a sterile environment in which to grow the otherwise defenseless mass of flesh.

Still, if it's even marginally more efficient than traditional husbandry and ranching, then it'd  be a good thing for this crowded planet of ours. Food animals require a lot of land and a great deal of feed. Much more resources than growing direct-to-human crops like wheat and corn or vegetables in any kind of pound for pound comparison. Raising animals to eat is also associated with a lot more pollution than plant agriculture.

Or if not on Earth, then off it someday, in environments in which raising food animals is not even remotely viable.

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