The not too distant future...
Walking down the meat aisle, you peruse the protein selections. Ohhhh "Black Angus" hamburger. Yum. Oh look, there's some "grass-fed" lamb. And some "free-range" chicken, too. Oh, I'm so glad those chickens get room to roam. Hmmmm. "Lab-grown" steak. Well that sounds inter- wait, what? "Lab-grown?"
That's right, synthetic meat could hit grocery store shelves much sooner than you think. According to Mark Post of Maastricht University in the Netherlands, the first successful instance of meat grown in the lab could be as little as six months away.
While the timeline for synthetic meat is becoming clearer, there is still one pressing question left unanswered: how will this meat taste? Researchers still admit that they have no idea. (Uh... like chicken, maybe?)
Though synthetic meat may not be a boon for the taste buds, it could be an incredible boon for our planet. Studies comparing the production of synthetic meat versus normal meat have shown that synthetic meat production would create only 4% of the greenhouse gas emissions, require up to 99% less land, and consume 7-45% less electricity.
As a devoted advocate of sustainability, I believe that this is an marvelous chance to transform the meat industry from a resource hog to a sustainability work horse.
But, as a devoted omnivore, I am seriously concerned with the potential lack of blood on my dinner plate.
For many vegetarians, however, there may be less of a conundrum. Synthetic meat represents a chance for them to sink their canines into a nutritious, slaughter-free, and sustainable source of protein.
The meat has already made a fan out of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). In 2008, the organization offered a $1 million prize to the "first person to come up with a method to produce commercially viable
quantities of in vitro meat at competitive prices by 2012."
So go ahead, my vegetarian friends, embrace your "inner carnivore." Tell you what, if you finish your lab burger then you can have a big bowl of organic quinoa for dessert!