What’s the beef with the “World’s First Lab-Grown Burger”?

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On Monday, scientists in London unveiled the world’s first lab-grown burger, serving it to volunteer taste testers.

The burger was made using strands of meat grown from muscle cells taken from a living (or dead, depending on what reports you read) animal and then mixed with the usual ingredients you’d find in a burger (herbs, salt and breadcrumbs). It cost the equivalent of NZ$425,000 to develop and the tasters pronounced it ‘close to meat’ in flavour and texture.

Professor Mark Post of Maastricht University in the Netherlands, who led the research, claimed it could eventually replace ordinary beef and in so doing reduce the huge environmental pressure caused by raising animals to be eaten. He predicted that lab meat could be on supermarket shelves in 10 to 20 years.

So whilst I’m cautiously optimistic that laboratory meat could bring an end to eating animals and their suffering at slaughter, there are a few issues:

  • It’s not yet ethical. According to Mother Jones “the growth medium that provides nutrients, vitamins, and growth hormones to the cells is currently made with a mixture of sugars and amino acids supplemented with fetal bovine serum – literally the blood of unborn cows. Fetal bovine serum is a slaughterhouse byproduct of cow’s blood. It’s used mainly by the pharmaceutical industry. Relying on a slaughterhouse byproduct for feed means that, currently, lab-grown beef can’t exist without a vast,  conventional beef industry.”

Plus, there are the animal tests related to the development and the safety assessment of such products.

  • It’s still unhealthy. Meat, dairy products and eggs are low in fibre and loaded with saturated fat and cholesterol, which can make us overweight and lead to clogged arteries and heart attacks. In contrast, a balanced vegetarian or vegan diet  can lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis. 
Image credit: KEKO64 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image credit: KEKO64 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
  • Aside from the health aspect, doesn’t in vitro meat play into the idea that we NEED meat? There are so many delicious veg foods nowadays that we needn’t hurt animals to live a fulfilling life – or eat meat from a test tube (check out some go veg recipes).
  • Would people eat in vitro meat anyway? It would certainly turn off many vegetarians, and meat eaters may feel it was unnatural.
  • There are already many fantastic faux meats available (try a Fry’s sausage!) and scientists working with Bill Gates are working on even better plant-based alternatives so people who like the taste and texture of meat can still get their fix.

Whether laboratory meat is a step forward in reducing the need to slaughter animals remains to be seen. But one good thing is that it has got people talking about eating meat and how we must address the growing animal welfare and environmental issues our current diets have created.

If it does achieve all that the scientists are claiming, then in vitro meat could be  a truly great thing. But in the meantime, adopting a vegan diet remains the only way to ensure no animals have suffered to produce the food we eat. We can simply choose not to eat animals – at all.

Take the Go Veg pledge today – for you, the animals, and the environment.

What do you think? Would you eat meat grown in a laboratory?

Mandy Carter
SAFE Campaign Manager

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Phil Walker says:

    I’m really happy that SAFE are onto this and see this the way I see it. I think the whole thing is horrible. It concerned me that some Vegan sites were saying this was a good thing but it’s not looking at the big picture. The front cover of a UK newspaper was displaying this as some great solution to world hunger.

    It’s really bad potentially for health, we don’t know the effects this could have, it certainly doesn’t sound natural to me. Furthermore it’s completely perpetuating the myth that we need meat which is not the direction to head. I feel this is adding power to the meat and dairy industries by doing that. Evolving to a Vegan diet is the way of health, ethics, greater consciousness and helping world hunger issues. This is firmly not in my view and no there is no way whatsoever I would eat it.

  2. Animal Lover says:

    I would – I have many food allergies so I cannot possibly be vegetarian/vegan while still maintaining my health (tree nuts, peanuts, eggs, soy, rice, gluten to name the main ones, which are the main replacement foods), so having the ability to get the meat I need to be healthy and get enough protein without solely relying on dairy but with minimum cruelty is just what I’ve been waiting for. I’m all for it!

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