87. Meat is not murder anymore.

When I wrote a post about really expensive foods, like truffles and caviar the other day, I missed one out; hamburgers. Or rather, a hamburger. Just the one. This hamburger.

The height of luxury.

The height of luxury.

This hamburger, good people, cost  $300 000. So how did this paragon of the culinary arts taste? Well, it tasted “close to meat”. And no, it was not a Big Mac. It was also, rather unfortunately, white, but that was soon sorted out with a bit of beetroot juice. And it had no fat in it, which sounds like a good thing, but isn’t. The fat in burgers is where a lot of the flavour and all of the juiciness in normal burgers comes from. Sounds great!

Sounds like tofu. Mmmmm.

Sounds like tofu. Mmmmm.

It is, or rather, was the world’s first test tube burger. It wasn’t made out of a large dead animal. It was made in a laboratory. In a petri dish. Out of stem cells harvested from a cow. 20 000 strands of artificially cultivated cow protein were woven together and served up after being fried in a knob of molten butter.

Is it just me or does this whole thing sound horrifying. It’s straight out of “Brave New World” or “1984”. It’s hard not to picture lines of grey-clad, grey-faced apocalypse survivors queuing up in the permanently shadowed canyons between grey concrete buildings, as they wait for daily rations from vats of grey, quivering, skinless meat.

The world may have gone to hell, but at least there are still burgers.

The world may have gone to hell, but at least there are still burgers.

But it’s not actually horrifying. The meat industry is horrifying. If you like yourself the odd juicy steak, as I do, never, ever look into what goes on in those giant feed-lots that dot the world. It makes grey, quivering, skinless meat growing in vats sound positively appealing. Quite apart from that, all those steaks we like to eat had a former existence in which they walked around cheerfully farting global warming into a reality. And they were helped along by the Brazilian farmers who are chopping down the rainforests to make space for more cattle.

I’m not an environmental activist. I’m one of those shameful people who is capable of remaining cheerfully indifferent to things that I feel cannot be changed. Those long haired, earnest-looking types who wander around protesting against the meat industry may have a point, but they don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of changing a single damn thing, because the people they are protesting against don’t have cardboard signs. They have money. Vast, shiny piles of money. And marketing budgets. And a free toy with every kiddies meal. And that means they win.

The multi-billion dollar global beef industry will be closing down the moment they hear about this.

The multi-billion dollar global beef industry will be closing down the moment they hear about this.

But do you know who does have a snowball’s chance? That guy who just put his hand up and said “Hey, guys! Check this out! I can make meat in a jar!” Because, as uninspiring as the reports on this new culinary sensation sound, there’s something you have to bear in mind; it was the first one. Ever. And it was made by a university professor who was focussing on the science of it. Just wait until the food scientists get hold of it. Think of what they’ve done with the flavourings on potato chips. Just wait until McDonalds get hold of it. they won’t even have to do anything to it.

I think we might just have seen something that is going to change our whole world. Not today, or tomorrow, but maybe in a decade or two. Think of a world without beef farming. Think of all the space, the land freed up for other things. Think of what something like this could mean to places blighted by drought, or famine, or poverty.

At last there'll be room for more sheep.

At last there’ll be room for more sheep.

It all starts to sound quite attractive. And if you don’t like beef? Don’t worry. PETA is offering $1 000 000 to the first person to grow chicken in a jar. Yum.

I'll be through shortly , darling. I'm just feeding the chickens.

I’ll be through shortly , darling. I’m just feeding the chickens.

49 thoughts on “87. Meat is not murder anymore.

  1. One day I’d like to be in a place where we can raise and slaughter all f our own meat. Far kinder and safer than any of the factory farmed stuff and a damned sight safer than any genetically modified, highly processed meat in a jar. Bleugh! I’d rather go hungry thanks.

  2. sheenmeem says:

    Eeee…….yucky I like a little bit of meat but seeing your pictures I wouldn’t like to exist in such a world.

  3. Oh ye of little faith! … I’m an environmentalist in the making, no long or earnest faces around here…well maybe the hair.

    I heard that locusts were going to solve the protein for the world issue. There’s a restaurant here which serves them in a stirfry.

    My first visit to a slaughterhouse was a couple of months ago. Meat made in a jar doesn’t seem so bad after that.

    Though we do need ruminants to cope with huge amounts of vegetation. Hmm. Try reading ‘Meat, a Benign Extravagance’
    Not that reading gets a look in with all this blogging…

    • 23thorns says:

      i think this is one of those things where ignorance is bliss. I’ve always been suspicious about the whole vegetable thing. There’s something worrying about monocultures- huge stands of corn and such, with all other life weeded out, driven out or poisoned…

  4. anna mosca says:

    great article! will share.

  5. A.J. Goode says:

      I can’t help but think it’s got to be healthiest to just eat real meat. The idea of eating pseudo-meat just seems wrong.

    • 23thorns says:

      Apparently unprocessed meat isn’t nearly as bad for you as it’s made out to be. It’s the processed stuff that you have to watch out for. And this stuff seems to be pretty damn processed.

  6. I don’t know about vegans being safe…… we already have Monsanto playing around with our crops…. GM corn etc. It’s not going to be food we’re eating at all if we don’t put a top to it. If I want meat, I’ll eat it, if I want vegies I’ll eat them, sometimes at the same meal, but I won’t tell anyone that they are wrong for what they want to eat. Now that is wrong.

  7. mariekeates says:

    I think I’ll stick with real cows who spent their lives wandering around real Hampshire farms thank you very much. As for the fast food places, best avoided at the best of times 🙂

    • 23thorns says:

      I can just picture all of them sitting around in board meetings this morning, saying “But we’ve been doing that for years, and no one gave us any credit…”

  8. Mmnm says:

    I thought of you immediately after I heard that news- I’m glad you picked up on it cos I sure do need a more humourous take on the man-made beef pattie

  9. Lyn says:

    I saw a 10 minute news doco on this the other night. It sounds like a totally spiffy idea. By freeing up the land from herds of beef and probably sheep in the future, it would mean a whole lot more land for the mining companies to frack in their search for coal seam gas. Coming soon, on a cattle or sheep station near you, a lifeless quarry, polluted water tables and vast amounts of money in the pockets of mining companies and their CEO’s.
    Think I’ll have roast leg of lamb and all the trimmings tonight or perhaps a nice ribeye steak.

  10. billgncs says:

    not sure what they have over there, but we get almost all our meet from farmer’s markets which is locally grown and butchered.
    It’s a luxury but we find it worth it.

    One thing they might do is make the soylent-red healthier for us.I’d eat it.

  11. sisteranan says:

    What i want to know is how the fast food industries can make entrails etc. so tasty when all i can do with real meat is transform it into bland shoe uppers.

  12. sedge808 says:

    Food for thought. Great post.

  13. Feeling a bit queasy…

  14. holmesr64 says:

    Yah but it looks shit… And looks count for a lot when it comes to food.

    • 23thorns says:

      Yup. One of the tasters actually said that the taste test wasn’t fair, because any other burger would have sauces and relish and jalapenos and so on. They could have dressed it up a bit.

  15. Typehype says:

    I don’t eat meat, but if I did I would eat that burger. They harvested (gag) the cow protein from a cow’s shoulder. Eeew. Soooo disgusting!!!

  16. lylekrahn says:

    It’s better just to enjoy the food – whatever that is these days.

    • 23thorns says:

      I went to boarding school. Put some gravy on it and give me the vague impression that someone is going to try and take it away from me, and I’ll eat anything. Quickly. While growling.

  17. narf77 says:

    I am just heading off now to have a bit of a twitch under the bed. I am with Johnjroberts and soylent green. We already have pink and white slime folks, that’s what most “hamburgers” are glued together with and what those wonderful breaded chook burgers are made from and now they want to add test tube meaty ex cow strings to the party? I have NEVER been so glad to be vegan… right up to the time when they figure out that why stop at meaty DNA? Lets make corn DNA, how about mass generic “green” DNA so no-one has to eat their greens in boring veggie form any more? You can have them disguised in all kinds of kid luring shapes and how about just combining the DNA from the ex cows with the DNA from the ex veggies and being able to call it “sustainable and healthy and even organic!!!!”…under the bed is starting to look mightly comforting and I might take that bottle of scotch with me…

    • 23thorns says:

      You forget what it was like to try and get small people to eat their veggies. I think you’re a genius! The day they can grow Brussels sprout slime and sell it in a tube, guess what my kids will be brushing their teeth with!

      As for your fears about people meddling with plant DNA, I think you’ll find that those lovely people from Monsanto have already got that covered. I’m not even that upset. Glow-in-the-dark mashed potatoes can only add to the ambience of a romantic candle-lit dinner.

      • Linne says:

        Well, I disagree about getting kids to eat veggies. My two boys ate theirs and no fuss. We had little money and I wanted them to be healthy, so I didn’t keep junk in the house. They got real food, prepared at home by me. They didn’t have to eat, no pressure was applied. Nothing else was cooked, either. It was their business if they weren’t hungry. But I wasn’t throwing good food out the window (or anywhere else) either. So whatever wasn’t eaten showed up as another meal, sometimes altered in form and flavour. My boys were very active from their first year and I used to say the only problem I had with their eating was getting enough on the table!

        They did get baked goods, in large quantities, at Christmas, but most of the year it was bread only. Fruit for dessert (and sometimes the main course). They are both big and strong men now, and even after careers in alternative sports (footbag, mountain biking and skateboarding), they have never had one broken bone. Lots of scars, though. 🙂 We didn’t eat a lot of meat, either; too expensive. And in case it sounds too good to be true, the meals weren’t always balanced, either. Sometimes it was just applesauce and bread, or soup and dumplings, or popcorn. Potato soup was seen often. When I could, I grew stuff, but most times we lived where we had no garden.

        My answer to fussy kids is throw out the junk, the sugar and the treats. And don’t say a word. Of course, it helps if you live in the boondocks and they can’t run to a store or a friend’s place to tank up . . .

        That reminds me . . . once when we had friends up from the southern states to visit, we adults were sitting around chatting over tea when in came the two boys (3 and 8 at the time). They were chewing on something, so my friend Susan asked what it was. My oldest said, “dog biscuits” (true); Mummy won’t let us eat anything else (NOT true!!). I was so horrified and have no idea to this day why he said that. They were actually forbidden to eat the dog food. Luckily it was friends who were over; they had known me for ages and just laughed heartily. Kids!! But I love ’em anyhow.

      • 23thorns says:

        Hunger really does change your mind about food. I went to boarding school, and now I will eat literally anything.

    • Linne says:

      move over and make sure you bring two glasses, ok?

  18. Jocelyn Hers says:

    From hunting to gathering to cultivating to “scientific cultivation” Where to next in the endless hunt for something to eat?

  19. johnjroberts says:

    As far as novels/movies go, I wonder if the “Soylent Green” project can be far away.

    • 23thorns says:

      It would certainly solve a whole slew of problems at once; overpopulation, hunger, overcrowded cemeteries, the works. You should suggest it to your government. I’ll just sit back and watch from over here.

      • Linne says:

        Don’t suggest it to my government; they’d be right on it; for all I know they’re on it already . . .

        In the news on Mum’s tv, it showed a silhouette of a cow and a syringe being poked into her hip. But the voice said they were using stem cells as the source.

        I don’t have strong opinions about meat eating; most times I eat little to none, but have been known to live on all meat a couple of times. Whatever keeps us alive, I guess. But I sure prefer wild meat to this factory stuff we get nowadays. At least a wild animal can choose what it eats and it eats for its own health, not for fads or show. But I’d be fine if I never ate meat again, really.

        But I won’t be eating any of that ‘soylent red’; Come to that, I’ll go back to making soymilk and using the okara to make loaves and patties that are quite tasty. That’s what I did when my nestlings returned to the nest for a while. As easy as making bread and I’d do both on a Saturday (I was working in an office by then), and make two soups and a couple of salad dressings as well. That left us well set up for the week.

  20. John Roberts says:

    As far as novels/movies go, it makes me wonder if the “Soylent Green” solution to world hunger can be far away.

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