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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.