Later this month, the people of London will get a chance to taste-test grilled schmeat. “Schmeat”, if you don’t know, is beef that came, not from a field, but from a lab! More precisely, it’s meat that came from a petri dish, and it may be soon more cost effective – and more environmentally friendly – to grow and shape our protein intake in a scientific laboratory.
Backers claim that schmeat products increase the human food supply of vegetables and farm land, as well, noting that a large proportion of agricultural land is used to grow feed for livestock rather than food for people. “In terms of food security, that’s not the greatest way to go.” says Isha Datar, one of the people behind London’s schmeat experiment. She also added that livestock are “breeding grounds for disease epidemics, such as various influenza strains” that require the use of controversial antibiotics to control and contain. In addition to freeing up land for an ever-growing human population, the project could save billions of animal lives while still providing for the public demand for meat products. But, if you believe in the spiritual idea that when you eat something you take in the energy from that plant or animal, what are you taking in when you eat a Schmeat burger? Will the appeal of designer burgers, chickens wings that have nothing to do with birds, or flight-ribs that are boneless because they were never attached to an animal make the difference in how many vegetarians and animal-rights activists see schmeat products? It seems like meat-like rib-flavored substances might be right around the corner … and kind of sound like the current McRib, come to think of it!
While we’re on the subject: if you’ve ever seen Food Inc., then you probably have a good sense of where your burgers currently come from. If you haven’t, you might want to watch it. For those of you that have seen it, though, you know that your burger probably didn’t come from a cow lazily munching in the middle of a field. It probably came from a hundred different cows, each standing knee-deep (Cows have knees, right?) in their own excrement. Standing in poop is bad, and a growing number of people are increasingly aware, and uneasy, about the quality of their commercial meat supply in these concentrated conditions. It’s just possible, however, that the days of the concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFO’s) are almost over, and that’s probably a good thing, no matter where you stand on other meat-issues.
So, should we choose schmeat instead of meat? Should you eat either? We don’t have the answers for that, but it’ll be interesting to see where this goes!