Meat is a massive part of human existence. In addition to being a crucial source of much-needed protein in our diet, the cooking and consumption of meats play a large role in practically every major society on our planet. Meat is also (obviously) considered by many to be highly delicious. I personally consume a great deal of meat (I actually probably consume more meat than is healthy for me, strictly speaking), and I consider it to be my favorite form of food by a wide margin. I particularly enjoy the cooking and eating of beef; I like making and grilling burgers almost as much as I like consuming them, and I personally consider grilling a steak to be a meditative and exceptionally satisfying process.
For my first Write and Respond assignment, I explored the uncomfortable concept of the impact of my meat consumption, focusing specifically on its water usage. The results were worse than I had feared; my carnivorous diet made up around 80% of my total water footprint. As I am too selfish to swear off meat altogether, I began to take an active interest in finding a workaround. It occurred to me that, since laborotories can grow perfectly functional human kidneys, hearts, and lungs from stem cells, it shouldn’t be too much of a stretch for them to grow, say, a loin of beef.
According to Newsweek, it turns out I’m not alone. And I’m nowhere near the first person to come up with the idea. Although I know the concept of lab-grown meat has been around in science fiction for a long time, I was blown away to read that it was predicted to happen in real life by no less than Winston Churchill, all the way back in 1932. And although we haven’t yet achieved his dream of “escaping the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing” on a global scale, we have gotten a good start on it. PETA helped get the ball rolling in the 90s by funding “test-tube meat” research and later again in 2008 with a $1 million prize for the first lab to make “commercially viable” lab chicken. Since then, the amount of interest and funding for lab-grown meat has skyrocketed, as more people start to realize the costs of meat production and more venture capitalists begin to consider the potential profits to be found in getting in on the ground floor of an industry that could quickly become phenomenally popular. Famous billionaires Bill Gates and Richard Branson have invested in an American meat-making company called Memphis Meats, which is based in San Francisco. Four years ago, a biologist at the University of Maastricht created a(n incredibly expensive) hamburger out of lab-grown cattle protein. And barely a month ago, China made an import trade deal with some Israel-based meat-makers, to the tune of 300 million dollars. It seems as though the science world was way ahead of me. I couldn’t be happier.