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Would you eat "synthetic meat"?

Y'know, the kind that is born, grown and all together created in a test tube?

I probably would, as long as it was cost-competitive and taste-competitive with "real" meat.

Certainly something to chew on ...


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    1. re: Chemicalkinetics


      Also, the synthetic meat they discuss is tissue-cultured meat. Ummm... tissue cultured cells require serum from, um, animals. Usually fetal animals. Wouldn't it be simpler to just eat the animals, rather than using serum from animals to grow synthetic animal tissue?

      1. re: Indirect Heat

        To be fair, there are a number of serum free alternatives for tissue culture medium these days. But the general principle holds true. The cost and energy inputs required to create the growth media components is far too excessive for the foreseeable future.

        1. re: kmcarr

          Indirect Hear and Kmcarr.

          It is actually ridiculous huge for energy nad resource input. Margarent Mellon opposite it for that reason:

          "So, to recap the opinions on the state of shmeat: It's animal-friendly but bad for the environment; we have the how-to, but not the how-come; unleashing unknown technologies is fodder for nightmares."


          All that aside, do we really need to drive down the cost of meat anyway? Are we really not eating meat enough, so we are thinking about alternative way for growing expensive and resource demanding meat.

    2. <cost-competitive and taste-competitive, preventing an enormous amount of suffering> given those parameters, I absolutely would.

      1. The first thing that came to mind when I read your post was "Thalidomide". There is so much chemical stuff out there that has probably not yet revealed its potential to cause much harm.

        Eat synthetic meat ? Hell, I won't even eat margarine or red velvet cake !

        8 Replies
        1. re: souschef

          Thalidomide is actually approved by the FDA for some very specific and controlled purposes, i.e., leprosy.

          I didn't realize that margarine was "synthetic." I don't eat it but I didn't know that.

          1. re: c oliver

            Synthetic: man-made; not of natural origin; prepared or made artificially. Margarine qualifies.

            From what I've heard the laws regarding the word "imitation" as it refers to foods have been loosened. It used to be that margarine, "Bac-os," and cheese whiz were all imitation, in that they are not butter, bacon or cheddar cheese. These days I can't imagine how many products would be labeled imitation.

            1. re: WhatThePho

              Would that make pie, for instance, a synthetic product as it doesn't appear in nature in its completed state? Isn't margarine a combination of "real" food products? Nasty but real? BTW I don't like pie :)

              1. re: c oliver

                Maybe...Butter is minimally processed. It is just separated from the non-fat part of milk; margarine is highly processed. If it were liquid oil, it wouldn't taste like butter. It's hydrogenated, colored and flavored to mimic butter. Which, in my mind, is what makes it synthetic.

                I don't like pie either.

                1. re: WhatThePho

                  WTH? Where are all of you pie haters coming from? I just made a Lemon Cream Pie to die for.

                  1. re: pikawicca

                    Lemon cream pie made by you? I could force myself :) But basically pie AND cake are the last desserts I'd ever eat. 'Course I rarely eat dessert except to be polite to a host.

                    1. re: c oliver

                      I'm not a huge dessert eater myself, but once in a while, I splurge. I will NEVER pass up a slice of a Southern Coconut Cake.

                      1. re: pikawicca

                        lol In adulthood I've begun to come around.. I'm not a huge fan of sweets in the first place, and the texture and ... well, i know this is blasphemy, but dry blandness of pie crust, just never appealed to me. I find that if I know who made it, then it magically tastes a whole lot better. :)

        2. No. Not a chance in flamin' hell.

          1. No way. Canola oil's enough to gross me out.

            6 Replies
            1. re: MandalayVA

              sorry ,are you saying that canola is synthetic?

              1. re: howlin

                "canola" is an acronym for Canadian Oilseed, Low-Acid...it's a genetically modified hybrid of the rapeseed plant. (rapeseed oil is bitter, highly acidic, and contains potentially dangerous levels of goitrogenic compounds that can suppress thyroid function...not exactly ideal for consumption.)

                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                  Sincerely asking: are goitrogenic compounds synthetic?

                  1. re: c oliver

                    no, sorry i got all science-y on you :) the term goitrogenic is related to goiter - it refers to compounds (natural AND synthetic) that suppress thyroid function, potentially causing goiter.

                    foods in the brassica/cabbage family are actually relatively high in goitrogens, but cooking moderates the impact, and you'd have to consume tons of the vegetables to suppress function in a healthy individual. but for someone like me with compromised thyroid function it's wise to watch your brassica intake. but i digress. what i was saying in my earlier post is that oil derived from the true rapeseed plant (not the hybridized strain for canola oil) has a very high goitrogen content.

                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      o_O I did NOT know that. I thought "canola oil" was just their way of finding a more attractive name for the rapeseed.

                  2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                    While there are GM versions of canola out there, by definition, canola doesn't have to be genetically modified - indeed, the varieties available up until the early-90s were exclusively non-GM. It's just a hybrid of two species of Brassica. Many plants will naturally hybridize with other species.

                    The hybrid, canola, has lower eruic acid content, making it more palatable than rapesseed.

              2. Bluefin tuna and sharkfins can't be synthesized quickly enough.

                1. I think it would depend upon how hungry I was.

                  1. Not if it tasted anything like non-synthetic meat.

                    1. I admit that I replied the first time before I read The Atlantic piece. Now having read it, I can't understand why anyone would have a problem with it (if the cost and taste were appropriate).

                      1. Yes, if it tastes good but I can't imagine it would. My favorite cuts are the tough ones, the parts of the animal that does work, shoulders, thighs etc. How would you replicate this in the test tube meat? I'm guessing it will have the texture of a McNugget which is a bit of a turn off.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: bookhound

                          Well, that may be achieved with some alternating electrical voltages to contract the muscles -- maybe.

                          I am just not convinced by the arguments in that articles though.

                        2. I think it would be a lot more productive to go with a much less traumatic (to the animal) method of slaughter than to sit around and talk about "in vitro" meat. But on the pragmatic side, and considering the lobbying funds at the disposal of "agri-business," I don't see much hope for either in the near or distant future.

                          However, I do find the term "in-vitro meat" to be a sloppy string of words. "In-vitro" immediately brings to mind "in-vitro fertilization" for most folks, in which a sperm and an ova are united in a petrie dish, then the new life is implanted into a waiting womb. That seems not to be what they are talking about here. Instead, the idea seems to be taking a few adult stem cells from a particular type of muscle (eye of round? tenderloin? brisket?) and growing them in an appropriate solution into a full adult size (presumably edible) muscle.

                          Such things are done in the laboritory now on a fairly routine basis. Adult stem cells can be taken from the skin of a third degree burn victim, flown to the laboratory, and in approximately two weeks, SHEETS of the patient's very own skin will be returned ready for grafting. It is NOT "synthetic" skin, but is grown from the patients own body tissue. Possibly still in the research stages and waiting for FDA approval is the "cloning," by this method, of bladders, and two infants born with no or seriously impaired bladders have recieved such miracles in the last couple of years according to press releases. There is also research going on to grow new cartilage for knees from adult stem cells from the patient which could ultimately replace surgically placed total knee replacement prosthtics in time and be far more lasting and comfortable. (I'm waiting for those puppies with bated breath!) In England, they have implanted adult stem cells (from a donor) in someone who had lost a tooth and the person has grown a new one. But this is leading edge scientific research that, as the article on "artificial meat" says, is prohibitively expensive. The cost of a lab grown steak would make the highest grade of grown-and-graded-in-Japan Kobe beef seem like penny candy!

                          But the other factor is what would it taste like? And make no mistake, it would be "real" meat and not "artificial." The reason a tenderloin is tender is simply because that is the muscle that recieves the least amount of exercise. Which is not to say that it gets no exercise, and that's a critical point. So my guess is that growing a tenderloin from an adult stem cell in a "amniotic bath" with absolutely zilch exercise would result in a muscle with a texture somewhat like sous vide oatmeal. And since it will lack all of the bone, sinew, connective tissue, blood flow and all of the other things that go into making on-the-hoof meat taste like meat, I'm guessing it won't have anything close to the flavor of a USDA Prime dry aged tenderloin. So if anyone really wants to pay a premium price for a mollecular gastronomy version of balogna, this may be just the meat for you! Me? I think I'll pass.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Caroline1

                            "I think it would be a lot more productive to go with a much less traumatic (to the animal) method of slaughter than to sit around and talk about "in vitro" meat."

                            Precisely! I don't know why there isn't a bigger movement for this type of thinking... I mean, why is creating lab meat considered a more rational solution than coming up with more humane ways of slaughter? What is going on here?

                            "The cost of a lab grown steak would make the highest grade of grown-and-graded-in-Japan Kobe beef seem like penny candy!"

                            The selfish part of me replies, "Ohh, then bring on the lab ribeyes and let me order up some price-slashed Kobe!" :) But the reality is, this would only devastate the farming industry, so never mind. :(

                            "And since it will lack all of the bone, sinew, connective tissue, blood flow and all of the other things that go into making on-the-hoof meat taste like meat, I'm guessing it won't have anything close to the flavor of a USDA Prime dry aged tenderloin. So if anyone really wants to pay a premium price for a mollecular gastronomy version of balogna, this may be just the meat for you! Me? I think I'll pass."

                            Amen. Co-signed. This. Ditto. And every other term meaning, 'I fully agree'.

                            1. re: Diamond

                              There are animals that are humanely raised and slaughtered, and it's no secret how this is achieved. But that costs more, and most people aren't concerned enough about those issues to pay.

                              Whether the "in vitro" meat takes off is a similar sort of question. How will it taste? What will its nutritional profile be? How much will it cost? Until these questions are answered, it's hard to really answer whether there will be customers (and how many) for the product.

                          2. No. Dear, sweet Lord in heaven, no.

                            I just wish we could go back to an earlier time, when food was FOOD, and it came from the Earth and was sold as is without being messed around with. It's bad enough that 99.9999% of frozen dinners and fast food are laden with chemicals, preservatives, and other types of terrifying additives. (I believe Lean Cuisine and In N' Out Burger are the only two respective exceptions to this rule.) I wish the only option out there was organic. The idea of laboratory foodstuffs terrifies me. I want my meat to come from a butcher, not a man in a lab coat.

                            1. Synthetic meat? What an appalling concept.

                              1. This reminds me - I once met a guy who hated eating so much (he considered it a bother) that he wished he could take a pill instead.

                                3 Replies
                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    Unhappily he saw a lot of that before he passed away.

                                    1. re: souschef

                                      Sorry, I didn't know your friend has passed away.

                                1. synthetic meat would still be the same cells as meat. so if done well, yes. (not well done though)

                                  1. Anyone read "Oryx and Crake" by Margaret Atwood? It came out a couple years ago, sort of sci-fi set in the near future where the food supply was severely compromised. Some company in there was breeding chickens with multiple wings and drumsticks... ew. Though this wasn't a major part of the story, it totally grossed me out and I couldn't eat chicken for a while.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: truman


                                      That was horrifying.
                                      I hope we never go there.

                                    2. If the synthetic stuff were practically identical to real meat, cost about the same, and wouldn't put me in a pine box before I turned 50, absolutely, I would.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                        Perilagu Khan,

                                        All I can say is, to quote Charlton Heston, "Soylent green is people!"

                                        Seriously, I agree with you. It wouldn't bother me to eat it, provided that all the artificial means used to create it did not result in something toxic to me in the short or long run. We seem to be having a similar debate currently about eating irradiated foods.

                                      2. meat cells cloned and cultured are exactly he same as meat grown on the hoof. it isn't a meat substitute being discussed here. it is real meat, and you do not have to kill anything to get it, you so not need to deforest the amazon to raise it, you do not have millions of cows passing greenhouse gasses. seems like a win-win to me

                                        10 Replies
                                        1. re: thew

                                          Tissue culture (that's really what we're talking about here) is light years apart from meat grown "on the hoof". Tissue cultured meat would be made of a single cell type, myocytes. There would be no collagen to provide lip smacking goodness, no fat to carry flavors. And speaking of flavor where would that come from? Certainly no chowhound is going to wax poetic about this the way they do about grass fed, dry aged beef. This is not real meat.

                                          1. re: kmcarr

                                            none of it exists as of yet, so what it will be is purely supposition - but there is no reason to not also grow collagen and fat as well.

                                            real is such a loaded word in your last line, only meaning you would not eat it, but without any other significance to it i can see. if it is chemically the same as meat, and structurally the same as meat then it is real meat. as we have already grown organ tissue, and many feel complete organs are less than a decade away. so vat grown sweetbreads, and vat grown kidneys, and vat grown liver is a very real possibility in the not very distant future. would those complete organs be real meat? if not you seem to be begging the question. and if thyroids and kidneys and heats, why not flesh?

                                            and if it tastes good i will indeed wax poetic about it.

                                            1. re: thew

                                              "none of it exists as of yet, so what it will be is purely supposition - but there is no reason to not also grow collagen and fat as well."

                                              And probably add artificial flavors, texture-enhancing agents, maybe some sweetener to replace the flavors like "grass-fed." Iron? Real cow's blood? (The industry probably has more than it knows what to do with..) This is the direction I envision it going. Just another highly processed food. But who knows.

                                              1. re: WhatThePho

                                                something wrong with cow's blood? i guess you eat all your meat dried.

                                                i love that sort of argument - you throw in all these things that have zip to do with what we are discussing and then act as if that says anything about what we were discussing.

                                                the question is "would you eat meat that was vat grown and not womb grown?", not "would you eat artificially flavored, texture enhanced, splenda-meat?" we can have that discussion if you like, but it is not what is being discussed here

                                                1. re: thew

                                                  Wow, actually I believe that is part of this discussion. People have asked the question, "Will the taste be comparable?" As far as I know, the added ingredients would be the only way to answer yes to that question.

                                                  I suppose my answer to the original question is, "No, because it would be very bland and not comparable to on-the-hoof meat." And if they fixed that problem? Then my answer is, "No, because I avoid processed foods."

                                                  And just for the record, cow's blood in it's natural habitat, cow meat, is one thing. After you start fussing with it, preserving it, injecting it, I just see the potential for altering the taste and nutrition.

                                                  1. re: WhatThePho

                                                    a lot of funny assumptions there.

                                              2. re: thew

                                                If it were safe and had the right taste, why not? People eat synthetic foods all the time. Even a lot of the "non-synthetic" supermarket chicken some eat has had a bath in water and chlorine, I'd probably rather have this future "synthetic" stuff. If it were cheaper it could also maybe help out those in need. The trick is making sure it is safe and is identical to the real thing. How they emulate exercise, having been fed a certain diet, etc seems to be a very tough obstacle.

                                                1. re: DukeOfSuffolk

                                                  Not all that tough, if you could grow the tissue into something approximating actual muscle fibers (which you'd pretty much have to do if it really was going to be "just like meat") all you'd have to do is stick electrodes into the appropriate points and run electric pulses in to make the muscles contract and relax. Muscles can continue to work from an current source other than the nervous system, Galvani and his frog legs proved that. As for flavors, that would seem to be a matter of figuring out what the muscles would be receiveing if the meat really was inside of a cow under that stimulus. I can even see the tech being able to eventually put cloned meat "on the bone" either a plastic form or eventually on a synethesized bone shell possibly with cultured tissue inside of it as well (if we can grow organs, and grow meat, it proably wount be too difficult to grow marrow. The same medics who work on the grown organs will probably work on that anyway for people needing marrow transplants.)
                                                  Actually I can imagine that cultured meat might actually end up tasting BETTER than the ordinary stuff. At some point (if this tech went commercial) "mother cultures" (the tissue samples from actual organisms that will be used as the starters for all this cultured meat) Something tells me that the companies that take up this industry are going (for the sheer need to compete with each other) to try and make sure that they select samples from the "best" animals they can, which in the context of what they are doing will likely equate to the "tastiest". Once cultured meat really got itself established, something along the lines of USDA prime (that is the highest grade, right?) might very well become the NORM for meat, and since it will be mass produced, there's a pretty good chance it will ultimately end up being cheaper than the real stuff (even the subsidized stuff) too.
                                                  Farther down the road, if we ever get to the point where we can look rationally at genetic engineering (as see its good or evil lies in what we do with it, not with something inherent in it) other things may come to pass cultured meat may actually become something better for us than the real stuff, maybe free of "bad" cholesterol (if you believe there is such a thing). I also could actually wind up having fewer antibiotics, provided that growth labs are kept sterile enough.

                                                2. re: thew

                                                  Pray tell, how is my use of the word "real" any more or less loaded than yours? I contest your assertion that synthetic (or cultured if you prefer that term) muscle would be "exactly the same as meat grown on the hoof". Yes we could grow something "meat like", which likely would have a similar nutritional profile to meat, but nobody would mistake it for natural meat. Also, please do not assume what I would or would not eat, I never said I would be opposed to eating cultured meat.

                                              1. Look at the ingredient list for any Gardien "chicken' product. Instead of "chicken," there's a long list of stuff (many of which do not sound like real food). This is a highly-processed, faux food. I won't touch it. (Although I did give it a try, once.)

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: pikawicca

                                                  I think a problem with this thread is that OP referred to "synthetic" rather than processed or manipulated or something.

                                                2. "Waiter, Mrs. Jetson and I will share the woolly mammoth chateaubriand in vitro, sous vide. Judy and Elroy will have the children's size petri of dododucken. Do you manufacture your own vegetable medley? And can you clone a T-rex bone for Astro?"

                                                  3 Replies
                                                    1. re: Veggo

                                                      Based on recent experience, I'm quite sure that woolly mammoth sous vide would be very tasty. You might have to cook it for 5 days or so, though.

                                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                                        Actually your'e probably right. There are people in written down history who have eaten wooly mammoth (back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, before we had the tech for real long term deep cold storage, when mammoths were found in the siberian and artic permafrosts, and teams were sent out to recover the skeletons and (somtimes) hidesm eating the meat was almost normal, you couln't really bring it back and supplies out there were at a premium.
                                                        I also recall a little "blurb article" in the last National Geographic about some people trying again to resurrect the Aurochs (wild ancestor of the cow) I have little doubt that, if they are sucessful, and they get up a big enough population they will become prized hunting animals (they were the first time round, often hunting them was a royal perogative, like deer hunting) and they will grace many tables (though as someone pointed out to me, unless they are actually let out into the wild to fend for themselves there may be no point, as farmed aurochs is likey to taste almost exactly like ordinary beef.)

                                                    2. So, at first, I feel "ick". But, then I often feel "ick" about eating meat. Don't eat it much, as a result. I guess I would have to factor in a whole bunch of things: cost, taste, nutrition, how much energy goes into a portion (as compared to eating my legumes, grains, veggies, and fruit), before coming to a rational decision about it. If I felt, rationally, that I could eat it without feeling guilty from whatever angle, I'd still have to see about that ick factor.

                                                      1. Can I try again? Ok thanks.

                                                        Wild meat has a distinct taste, based partly on species, but in large part on diet. Corn-fed venison vs grass-finished beef vs factory farm cement-finished beef? I don't know how they would synthesize this without the use of the sort of advanced processing methods that make "food" not real food.

                                                        Different cuts of meat have different flavor, due to their function and the surrounding tissue. So will this new industry be willing to grow bone and fat and sinew or will they just flavor the meat? I would guess growing everything in a manner that would replicate the taste would be cost-prohibitive.

                                                        Kidney? Heart? Liver? Taste the way they do because of what passes through them.

                                                        If all that had to be synthesized to make it taste right were the actual tissue you eat, I would say yes. Absolutely. But because it will take so many more steps than just that, I am guessing the finished product will not appeal to me.

                                                        Also, the farther something is from the earth, the more unhappy I feel eating it. There IS a certain amount of emotion tied up in that, but it's how my mind wraps itself around food. It is important to me.

                                                        1. No because too often, after the fact, they realize something that was "just as good" as a long time product isn't as good for you, hence, margarine, baby formula (ooh, I know that's going to start a debate), saccharin. It's the same reason I didn't get the swine flu vaccine. IF it were a necessity and the only food available, that's a different matter. But, in that case, I'd probably eat Soylent Green, too.

                                                          1. Sure, why not.

                                                            Is there anything more disgusting than tofu? Synthetic meat can't be far behind.

                                                            6 Replies
                                                            1. re: anonymouse1935

                                                              There is nothing disgusting about tofu. I'll bet you've never had freshly made tofu or had it prepared by someone who knows what they are doing.

                                                              1. re: bookhound

                                                                Yup, had it, still find it disgusting.

                                                                1. re: anonymouse1935

                                                                  May I ask where you had freshly made tofu and how was it prepared?

                                                                  1. re: bookhound

                                                                    Can't recall, it was that long ago.

                                                                    But I do remember it being disgusting.

                                                                    1. re: anonymouse1935

                                                                      <Can't recall, it was that long ago. But I do remember it being disgusting.>

                                                                      That's pretty much the way I feel about meat. Love tofu, though.

                                                                      1. re: small h

                                                                        I can relate.

                                                                        Slaughtered beast is only marginally better than disgusting tofu.