Shmeat: Is It What's for Dinner?

Friday, September 09, 2011

Michael Specter, New Yorker staff writer on science, technology and public health and the author of Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Harms the Planet and Threatens Our Lives (Penguin 2009), explains the science of lab-grown meat, or shmeat, and takes your calls on whether you'd eat it as an alternative to meat.


Michael Specter

Comments [14]

Gerald Fnord from Palos Verdes, CA

I love the taste of meat, I don't like killing things, so I'd bite.

Sep. 12 2011 11:48 AM
Henry from Manhattan

For reference as to the acceptable palatability of current market meat analogues, I present exhibit A:

Sep. 09 2011 01:14 PM
Henry from Manhattan

@ L. DiPasquale from NYC

A vegan would probably be critical of eggs and diary you might regularly consume as a vegetarian (especially from factory sources), or any leather (animal skins, ew!) you may wear and not understand how you can consume it in good conscious while being emphatic about some soybeans or wheat gluten mashed and seasoned into a patty. It’s like saying someone won’t eat noodles because it’s wheat shaped into worms. Many people feel that portabella mushrooms have a meaty quality; should vegetarians avoid them too?

Meat analogues have a well-developed history with Asia (Buddism in particular), people assume its new fangled technology, but meat analogues have been around for centuries.

Organized secular vegetarianism, as established by the Vegetarian Society in the United Kingdom in 1847 and continued by vegetarian and vegan societies across the world, didn’t come about as a group of people who just didn’t like the taste of meat, it’s a little more than that. Ditto for religious/cultural vegetarianism of ancient and modern Asia.

Sep. 09 2011 12:57 PM
Arthur from Astoria, NY

I'm waiting for "schuman" - now that's something I'd line up to eat.

Sep. 09 2011 12:03 PM
Henry from Manhattan

These hypothetical conversations on lab grown meat are so speculative as to be nearly meaningless. Once something commercial hits the market, there’ll be a discussion, because the acceptance of lab meat is wholly dependant on details of the actualized product.

If lab meat is indistinguishable from conventional meat and or course cheaper, adoption and acceptance won’t be much of an issue, people already eat hotdogs and McNuggets. We don’t even need to resort to examples of meat confections, as the majority of meat consumed (99%) comes from abhorrent factory farm conditions: sick medicated animals crammed together standing in their own filth and slaugerted in plants that routinely recall millions of pounds of tainted meat every year. Most people don’t’ care. Even most small farm advocates like Michael Pollen will eat conventional animal products out of convenience.

But if lab meat is expensive, or the texture is off, etc, adoption will be slow.

Until there’s a product on the shelf, there’s not much reason to talk about what ifs.

Finally, if you are the type of person who understands the issues with animal products and want to make a change you don’t have to wait for lab meat. Eat less, swap in more plant-based meals or opt for meat analogues that are acceptable to you that are already on the market. Perhaps consider doing some research into vegetarianism or veganism, there are plenty of non-meat eaters around as living examples.

Sep. 09 2011 12:03 PM
L. DiPasquale from NYC

No! No! No! Flesh is flesh and, for many vegetarians, that is gross in itself. This includes, for me, any soy product that is made to have the texture and taste of meat. I have friends who are strict vegans who go for this stuff and I really don't understand it. For me, it's no to meat and no to shmeat.

Sep. 09 2011 12:00 PM

CAFOs are NOT the only way to get meat - grass-based farming replenishes soil with animal poop - animals eat what they love and get to express as themselves out in the sunshine

Sep. 09 2011 11:58 AM
The Truth from Becky

I think White Castle beat 'em to it already!

Sep. 09 2011 11:58 AM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

I'm sure the scientists won't be able to replicate many of the micro nutrients the animals get by eating a good diet (organic, specifically).

Personally, this product is not for me. I'll stick with the local organic farm raised meat that I eat.

Sep. 09 2011 11:58 AM
DarkSymbolist from NYC!

Wait...what did he just say? My doctor is going to be giving me a prescription for a hamburger?

Time to find a new doctor...

Sep. 09 2011 11:57 AM

This is really twisted! Also, in the wild, animals go for muscle meats last - first they go for organ meats. This is also true of traditional human foods - bones and innards are far more nutritious.

Also, ever notice that the people doing this weird stuff to our food in the name of "feeding the world" GMOs, schmeat, etc... or about our food - don't know a thing about kitchens or traditions or real farming?

Sep. 09 2011 11:56 AM
The Truth from Becky

Now this is just shnasty!

Sep. 09 2011 11:51 AM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

"soylentmeat" anyone?

One more lab produced product. People eat "lab" food everyday without giving it much thought. If this "product" makes it's way into a Mickey D's burger, I'm sure there won't be much fuss about it.

Sep. 09 2011 10:46 AM
Robert from NYC

Well if the first two letters of the spelling of this stuff is any indication of what it is, I sure would stay far away from it!

Sep. 09 2011 08:48 AM

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