Murder-free meat is now a possibility. But how do you get people to eat it?
Professor Mark Post of Maastricht University—the man behind the world's first lab-grown hamburger—told an audience at the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) trade show in Chicago on July 12 that he believes cultured meat can replace our dependence on the conventionally raised stuff in the nearish future.
Post has been on this tip for a while. We reported in March that he had developed a new culturing method that would lower the production cost from $325,000 to about $11.36 per burger.
See, Post isn't interested in bloody veggie burgers—he wants the real thing, minus the moo. In stark contrast to the multitude of arguments promulgated by vegetarians that humans are naturally herbivores, Post told the IFT crowd that "we are a species designed to love meat," and that has not changed throughout the course of our evolution.
With that in mind, Post is keen on the idea of humans eating meat that doesn't cost animals their lives. Getting the cost down is only one piece of the puzzle, however. The other is getting people to want to eat lab-grown meat.
And really, who can blame them? As mistrustful as many people are today of GMOs, pesticides, and multisyllabic additives in their Cocoa Puffs, this is a tough time to ask people to eat meat that has spent its entire life (if you can call it that?) in a lab.
According to FoodNavigator, Post has remained optimistic, saying, "That's something that time will heal, that if you have people who are early adopters and will eat something that's coming out of the lab then it will become more accepted … Kids don't even blink and ask 'when can we try it?'"
When explaining how people might come to crave something that has zero resemblance to a product of the natural world, Post pointed to hot dogs. "What's interesting is that people don't know what's in it, but more interestingly they don't want to know what's in it."
The real selling point, however, will be in-vitro meat's status as a slaughter-less alternative. "We are very capable of cognitive dissonance," Post said. "We know that an animal has been killed for [meat], and we accept that because we have no alternative. But if we do have an alternative, you can't do that anymore."
At this point, however, in-vitro meat does rely on blood from actual cows to culture the lab-grown stuff. Post's team is reportedly working on ways to reduce its reliance on blood as a growth medium, using saltwater algae instead.
Even with its comparatively cheaper price tag and promises of a cruelty-free orgy of conscience-soothing in-vitro protein in the future, don't expect to see Post's work in your meat aisle by next Labor Day. In the meantime, there's always vegan beet burgers.