A variant to an old joke would go something like this: “What does lab-grown meat at #Memphis Meats tastes like?” The answer, as it turns out, is “Just like chicken.” The startup, according to the Wall Street Journal, recently had a taste test and diners pronounced the breaded chicken strips that had been grown in a vat to be tasty enough to eat again. Memphis Meats hopes to start a food revolution that will make traditional livestock raising obsolete. Traditional meat producers, such as Tyson Chicken, are starting to take notice and are investing in the technology.
To be sure the small matter of cost stands in the way of vat grown meat gracing dinner tables across the planet. Currently, a pound of chicken breast costs $9,000 a pound when cultivated in a lab as opposed to less than four dollars when taken from a bird. The hope is that the cost curve will be bent down enough so that “clean meat” as it is called will be competitive with the traditional kind.
The other barrier to adopting vat grown meat is cultural and religious. Some faiths such as Judaism and Islam have fairly strict guidelines concerning what food is acceptable to eat and how it can be prepared. Both the Torah and the Koran are silent where vat grown meat is concerned. Even some secular diners may balk at eating something that comes out of a bioreactor and not a farm.
On the other hand, vat grown meat would be acceptable for many vegetarians who eschew the consumption of animal flesh for ethical reasons. The filet minion or fried chicken that comes out of a bioreactor would not involve the killing of an animal.
Vat grown food could also become a stable for future space colonists. How livestock would thrive on lower gravity worlds such as the moon and Mars is a question that has yet to be answered with research. Perhaps it would be easier to grow proteins for the dinner tables of the first settlers beyond the confines of Earth.
Finally, vat grown meat can be tinkered with to enhance its nutritional value, say be adding more omega three fatty acids, as well as removing properties that hurt people with food allergies. Perhaps by the end of the current century, the farm and ranch as we know it will be something that only old people remember.