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Lab-Grown Meat? Less Sci-Fi and Far More Relevant to the Texas Economy Than You Might Imagine

I listen to a lot of public radio. A couple months ago, my home girl Terri Gross broadcast an interview on Fresh Air that focused on the logistical and ethical questions at play regarding growing meat from stem cells in a laboratory setting.

Before you jump to conclusions about real vs. lab-created meat, science writer Michael Specter, who traveled to laboratories in the Netherlands and North Carolina to examine the progress scientists have made in developing in vitro meat, is quick to point out that this is real meat. It’s real muscle cells, the same ones that live inside a real cow, minus the environmental bugbears such as pesticides, UV radiation, etc. (Specter wrote about the arguments in favor of lab-made steaks in the May 23 issue of The New Yorker.)

Even though the technology and global feasibility are still in development, I’d lay money on the fact that the technology’s not going to fade away. And being that this is Texas, this is a topic worth familiarizing ourselves with so that we can have a reasonable discussion about the technology’s pros and cons.

Pros: a reduction in animal cruelty and greenhouse gas emissions

Cons: You tell me. Especially in light of rising population numbers and the domino effect of socioeconomic and environmental pitfalls associated with feeding all those people.

Agriculture stats show that the largest share of Texas’ agricultural income is derived from beef cattle. Texas ranks #1 in the country in cattle raised—a number that can exceed 14 million head. That’s about 20 percent of the nation’s beef cattle.

I encourage you to listen to the episode of Fresh Air and read Specter’s article, then return for a discussion in the comments section.

3 comments on “Lab-Grown Meat? Less Sci-Fi and Far More Relevant to the Texas Economy Than You Might Imagine

  1. (If these questions are pondered in the radio piece or article, I apologize. I can’t access them right now.)

    I wonder what lab meat tastes like. Obviously the flavor of meat is greatly influenced by how the animal lived – what it ate, how much it moved around, how long before the inevitable – and also where the meat was located on the body. Without any of these influencing factors, what does beef really taste like?