SciFi in Ag: Is In-Vitro Meat the Future of Animal Ag?

*Article Notes: This monthly column takes some crazy sounding ideas and applies them to the field of Ag Tech. The purpose of this is purely entertainment, but hey, if we can spread ideas or ignite imaginations, how awesome is that?

“Grandpa, you used to need millions of acres to grow your food. Where did you put it all?”

“Nowhere, we didn’t have enough food. Lots of people actually starved.”

Cultured meat, synthetic meat, cell cultured meat, clean meat, vat meat and in-vitro meat — all different names for meat grown in a controlled environment with the hope of replacing an animal.

In August 2013, the first cultured meat created into a burger patty was consumed for the press in London. This experiment was funded privately by none other than Google co-founder, Sergey Brin.

People who are for this type of growth see the meat as less like a GMO and more like hydroponically grown vegetables. This is due to the fact that there is technically no genetic modifying of the cells that are the base to the grown meat.

Proponents also suggest that not having to raise and kill an animal makes this type of meat production sustainable and ethical.

I’m not sure where I sit in the camp of eating meat produced in this manner but I am certain it will play a role in our diets in the future. Where on the spectrum this “lab grown” meat will land is up for debate. Will it become a niche, like veganism? Will it be produced so cheaply that it becomes a mainstream food source? Will eating meat from an actual animal become more of a niche? I think it will probably come down to the cost of production, and marketing.

This is here, now. It’s likely only one process invention away from getting the cost down enough to be mainstream. This is the same route all technology takes — computers, automobiles, you name it. All start as expensive technologies then eventually become mainstream.

But wait. What about the plants!

I’ve been envisioning for some time why we should replicate the processes plants do to create seeds, rootstock, or whatever we want to eat and just create as much or as little of a commodity that we need. That would equate to 100% efficient nutrient uptake (What I mean is no leaching. The process hasn’t been invented yet, so I don’t know the efficiency.)

I’ve talked before about being at an anthropological turning point. We went from hunters and gathers, to a food producing society, to a place where plants grow themselves. However, there could easily be an alternative path where we are at an anthropological turning point of hunters and gatherers, to a food producing society, to a society where we don’t even grow plants or raise animals any more — we just manufacture the results we want in whatever quantities necessary.

My bet is on this happening in my generation’s lifetime.

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