Tasty, Tasty Lab Meat

Meat grown in a lab is something that scientists have been working on for a long time, and rightly so. Meat is expensive, taking up a huge amount of resources including time, energy and land. Factory meat is typically a terrible place for the animals themselves, usually corralled into small cages, fed poor diets, and treated poorly. There’s a number of videos that show people just how cruelly some of the animals are treated. Chickens with beaks cut off, cows being beaten, that sort of thing. Videos like these have changed millions of peoples minds, including a number of famous celebrities like musician Paul McCartney, director James Cameron, and actress Michelle Pfeiffer.

Not only is meat expensive, there’s some health issues as well. Cattle are fed hormones to make them grow fatter, pigs are fed a steady diet of antibiotics to prevent them from falling ill, and chickens are given Prozac to deal with the existential issue of being a chicken. Not only that, but you have to remember that meat comes from animals, and animals defecate on a regular basis. Although current practices tend to keep most of the shit off of your burger, you have to keep in mind that if you’ve eaten a steak or a drumstick, then you’ve definitely ingested some poop at one time or another.

There’s only one problem though; meat is really, really delicious. I mean, it’s amazing. Meat is simply a treat to prepare. Due to its protein cellular structure, it reacts much differently than grains, fruits, roots or vegetables. You can’t roast a potato the same way you can roast a roast. And this is coming from a guy who loves potatoes. You cant slow cook broccoli in a smoker for several hours. Vegans and vegetarians have the luxury of their choice because of the knowledge we have gained as a species in regards to plant diets. Hundreds of years ago, if you wanted to survive, you’d need meat protein.

Right now though, our meat consumption is not sustainable, and the world is demanding more of it. What if you could grow meat the way you grow vegetables? What if, under certain conditions, you could grow a lamb shank or a pork shoulder? Would that change the game, and would we be able to eat as much meat as we’d like without having to pen cattle and coup chickens up in cages?

Many vegans and vegetarians aren’t forgoing meat because they don’t enjoy it or they have certain dietary restrictions. They’re choosing to skip the steak because they feel bad for the animals. If the meat is grown in a lab, then no animal is actually harmed. In this light, lab grown meat could be considered ‘vegan meat’, and not that tofurkey nonsense. This would actually be meat without any cruelty or hormones or farm factory practices. If meat is grown in a lab, then you can control every aspect of it. You could control its fat content, whether it was more like beef or veal. In the future, you could have a mixture of meat grown to your specifications, like chickenfish, or quailmutton. The possibilities are endless.

Well, a group of people at Memphis Meats are working on those sort of things as we speak. They are growing meat, and it actually tastes like meat. They’re using animal cells to create meatballs  It’s better for the environment, it’s better for people, and you can certainly better for the animals. Synthetic meat is certainly something we’ll all be hearing about in the near future.

Would you eat it though? For a lot of people, even the idea of meat grown in a petri dish is a turn off. Would people become snobbier about food than they already are? Would restaurant advertise that they serve animal meat instead of lab meat? But what if you couldn’t tell the difference? Would a black market form, an secret underground meat market, where high powered cartels test meat the same way they cocaine?

What will happen to the farm lands of the world? A monstrous portion of our land is devoted to the production of meat, whether directly, or the vast amount of grains they consume. Not only would farms that dealt in livestock be affected, but the huge amount of land that would suddenly become unnecessary. Just as driverless cars are coming and will change the way we use transportation, synthetic meat is coming and it will absolutely change not only our diets, but our farmlands as well.

Would I eat meat grown in a lab? You can certainly bet I would. I’ve eaten plenty of weird things, and I plan on eating more weird things. There’s only one caveat; meat should be prepared to order, and this man likes his steaks rare as the dickens.


The Illustrious Mr. Charlton.

p.s. I once had a can of silkworm larvae once, I brought to a party. No one, including myself, could actually eat one. They smelled absolutely nasty.


This was a horrible idea.



Mr.Charlton Goes to the Market

I love going grocery shopping. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and there’s few things that make me happier than grabbing a bunch of fresh vegetables, heading to a butcher and talking shop before getting a cut of something, then popping over to the liquor store and grabbing a nice bottle of wine. If you go to the farmer’s market, you can accomplish all three.

Like any self absorbed hipster, I try and go to the farmer’s market as often as possible. The food is fresher. Everything is typically local, so I know that I’m helping out business’ in town. And there’s always a wide variety of food stuffs there, from produce, to meats, fresh honey, grains, and specialty stores. There’s also a bunch of people hawking their wares, from handcrafted wooden trinkets to odd jewellery. The only thing that makes people turn away from the old farmer’s market is the price. Here in Canada, you can expect to pay twice as much for a lot of the food on sale. Why is that?

There’s a couple of reasons. First, if the prices are high and they are still in business, that means that people are willing to pay those prices. That’s basic economics. If you can sell a cucumber for four dollars as opposed to the two dollars you’ll see at the grocery stores and people seem to have no problem paying the extra price, then you don’t have any incentive to lower your price.

Which brings us to our second point. There isn’t a whole pile of competition at the farmer’s market. The smaller the market, the less options you have, the price goes up. You might say to yourself “Well, Mr. Charlton, they’re competing with the major grocery chains, so the you would think that their prices would reflect that.” But the truth is, they are not competing with the major chains. The kind of people who shop at the farmer’s market are willing to pay the extra price, and there isn’t a lot of competition between vendors. All of the produce vendors might be selling carrots, but if only one of them is selling beets, then that vendor is going to have the beet market cornered.

The third reason is due to government subsidies. If you are a large farm producing a lot of food, then you can have access to a number of subsidies and grants, as well as insurance and other protection. The smaller farmers also can apply for this government money, but they certainly get a lot less, or none at all. Now this makes sense in some regards. Food is something that people need, and we need people to grow it. The number of farmers has been steadily decreasing for decades, while the demand for food goes up, because we have more people. If a farm is able to produce more foodstuff, then it should be entitled to more money. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that the mega farm will produce a wider variety of foodstuffs. A farmer who has a massive farm that produces corn, for example, will have access to more money than a small farm that produces tomatoes, beets, potatoes, beans, whatever they happen to be growing. This creates a bit of an issue, as corn is a grain relatively devoid of nutrients. We now have a scenario where the nutrient cost for food from the small farm is actually lower, but the money still goes to the farm growing corn. As a money maker, it’s a safer bet to go with growing a mono-crop than it is to diversify. This mono-crop style of farming is bad both for the environment, as well as consumers.

The system is flawed. I was going to write down some simplified, bullshit solution like ‘Hey, if we did yada yada yada, the problem would be solved!” The truth is, there’s still a lot of political power that farmers have. The subsidy money isn’t going to dry up anytime soon. Remember, most of the grains and food grown end up in processed garbage that’s making you fat and slow. The hard pill to swallow is eating fresh vegetables and unprocessed meat is going to cost you.

So my actual advice is, if you love food, spend the extra couple of bucks and support local farms. The food tastes better and is better for you. But as long as consumers keep voting with their wallets, most of the food we harvest will go into making Kraft dinner, instead of carrots.


The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. I also bought a dozen perogis for nine bucks. They were good, but they weren’t ‘Almost a dollar a pop’ good. Ain’t always a win at the farmer’s market.