Thursday, August 8, 2013

In Vitro Meat: The Future of the Paleo Diet

Eating little to no carbohydrates and enjoying a diet rich instead in meats and vegetables is the key to good health (if you ask those of us who follow the Paleo Diet). 

But there is, admittedly, no way the majority of the world's population can do that unless we radically change how we engineer food production on this planet.

And so recently we had the welcome news that researcher Mark Post has grown the first in vitro beef burger and conducted a taste test. 

Food experts Chicago author Josh Schonwald and Austrian food researcher Hanni R├╝tzler determined that the meat, while a bit too dry owing to the lack of natural fats, was certainly edible and had the texture and taste of meat.

Isha Datar, the director of New Harvest, a non-profit promoting in vitro meat, makes the excellent point that the production of cultured meat is ultimately similar to the production of fermented beverages like beer--a controlled process in which biological organisms grow to a desired effect.

I grew up in Wisconsin, descended from farming people. I spent time regularly seeing animals destined for slaughter. And I don't have a philosophical problem with humans killing animals and eating them. Our ancestors did so for millions of years. But if meat is, as I believe, so healthy for us, we can't tolerate a world in which a few elite get to consume a meat-rich diet and others are delegated to carbo-rich foods because they can't afford better. And we can't expand the current meat industry at the expense of our environment if the concentration of animals just promotes methane and disease, as we know it does with the annual flu epidemic surging from Chinese farms. In vitro meat is the solution.

This was just a "proof of concept" test, but it represents a dramatic leap forward in food science. I expect in my lifetime to see this become quite commonplace, with in vitro meat across the spectrum of food choices, beef, chicken, pork, etc, readily available, as well as cleaner than the traditionally raised animals. And properly done, this will result in high quality meat available more cheaply to even more people.