Winston Churchill once predicted that it would be possible to grow chicken breasts and wings more efficiently without having to keep an actual chicken. And in fact scientists have since figured out how to grow tiny nuggets of lab meat and say it will one day be possible to produce steaks in vats, sans any livestock.
Pork chops or burgers cultivated in labs could eliminate contamination problems that regularly generate headlines these days, as well as address environmental concerns that come with industrial livestock farms.
The researchers noted that growing skeletal muscle in labs ? the kind people typically think of as the meat they eat ? could help tackle a number of problems:
* Avoiding animal suffering by reducing the farming and killing of livestock.
* Dramatically cutting down on food-borne ailments such as mad cow disease and salmonella or germs such as swine flu, by monitoring the growth of meat in labs.
* Livestock currently take up 70 percent of all agricultural land, corresponding to 30 percent of the world's land surface, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. Labs would presumably require much less space.
* Livestock generate 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than all of the vehicles on Earth, the FAO added. Since the animals themselves are mostly responsible for these gases, reducing livestock numbers could help alleviate global warming.
However, such research opens up strange and perhaps even disturbing possibilities once considered only the realm of science fiction. After all, who knows what kind of meat people might want to grow to eat?
In Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson's epic sci-fi satire "Transmetropolitan," supermarkets and fast food joints sell dolphin, manatee, whale, baby seal, monkey and reindeer, while the Long Pig franchise sells "cloned human meat at prices you like."
"In principle, we could harvest the meat progenitor cells from fresh human cadavers and grow meat from them," Post said. "Once taken out of its disease and animalistic, cannibalistic context ? you are not killing fellow citizens for it, they are already dead ? there is no reason why not."
Is there a reason why not? What do you think about growing MEAT without animals?