Beef produced by cell culture


#1

Food critics eat a hamburger made in the lab. Imagine being able to produce any food based on its fundamental biology — a kind of general computing for food, like 3D printing hopes to become a kind of general computing for household manufactured objects.

UPDATE (October 15, 2015): Mark Post, the scientist in the video, is planning to bring the burger to market through a new company called Mosa Meat.


#2

That cook was terrified out of his life, poor guy


#3

Ok, I could only make it into about 5 minutes. Good God, can we quit with the ‘poor animals’ and OMG the environments!??

How about we concentrate on price and efficiency? That is what people in the supermarket are going to go with most of the time, cost. If you can grow lab meat without the water, time, land and expense of traditional large scale cattle, then it makes more sense to do so. All these bleeding heart vegans and environmentalist whiners are never going to convince people en mass to go with a more expensive and more time consuming option because of some nebulous feel good reason. It will never happen. Yes it gets a lot of media coverage, but the reality is far from what you see on TV as far as people recycling, or even caring to, let alone where their beef comes from or whether or not a cow had enough room to frolic while being fattened up for slaughter.

Lets grow up, put down the fairy tale bull crap and do lab grown meat because we see the potential for extreme efficiency, cost reduction, texture quality, fortification, etc., m’kay?


#4

Beef is already super cheap. Who cares about making it cheaper? Scientists like Mark Post and philanthropists like Sergey Brin wouldn’t bother with any of this if the goal were just to make beef cheaper. That is a goal so small it’s not worth caring about.

Changing the food system at a fundamental level is a more interesting and important goal, and the primary reasons the food system needs to be changed are humane and environmental. Food is already plenty cheap. People who are malnourished typically live in regions where the latest agricultural technology isn’t used. There is already a technological solution to high (relative to income) food prices in those regions, the challenge is how to put that technology in the hands of more farmers.

The long-term aim is of course to make cell cultured beef even cheaper than cow-harvested beef, but not just for the sake of making it cheaper. It’s for the sake of facilitating the transition to a new form of food production — it has to compete on price in order for the transition to happen. But the transition is the real goal, not the price change (which is just an instrumental goal and a small added bonus).

Tesla Motors isn’t trying to make batteries and electric cars cheaper for the sake of making cars cheaper. It’s for the sake of facilitating a transition to a more sustainable transportation system. I don’t think the smart, passionate people in technology would be motivated enough to work on these problems if the goal were as small and comparatively unimportant as reducing the price of a commodity.


#5

That may be true, and as long as we have philanthropists with silly ideals funding projects that may have an actual purpose in reality, that is all fine and well. The rest of us, however shouldn’t buy into their silliness. Appreciate the benefits when there are some, but don’t drink their Coolaid. They can afford to be eccentric, pie-in-the-sky minded, etc. And once in a while, they fund something that can be a benefit overall.

Trouble is, not every worthwhile project is popularly high-minded and will attract the attention of someone who has more money than they know what to do with. In these cases, the true motivation for advancement becomes clear because the ones funding these innovations are companies seeking competitive advantage, more profits, more customers or all of the above. And lets not forget the wonderfully under-appreciated contribution of military innovation and research.

And by the way, there is a decided difference in seeking a more efficient and less wasteful means of producing something and seeking a way to do something that is more ‘environmentally sound’. While in some cases the end result is similar like in this case, it is important to have the correct mind set and goals. This is why we have a philanthropist supporting lab grown meat, but we can’t get good modern nuclear reactors online because of all the over-reaction to nuclear energy in general without any thought to the benefits over traditional energy production. The emphasis on nebulous candy-land goals isn’t a long term and stable source of technological progression.


#6

I mean Sergey Brin co-founded one of the top 5 most valuable companies in the world — Google — which is also one of the world’s top technology companies, so I think he knows better than most people about how companies drive innovation. The job of technologists is to bring the fruits of basic research to market, and that basic research has to get funded somehow — whether it’s companies like Google (now Alphabet) funding basic research like Calico, government funding like DARPA as you alluded to, or philanthropy.

Lab grown beef is somewhere in between the proof of concept stage and the mass production stage. Right now Mark Post, the scientist in the video above who made the lab-grown burger, and his colleagues are working on overcoming the technical hurdles to mass production, such as figuring out how to grow beef in large bioreactors instead of small cell culture plates.

Other similar products are already on the cusp of the mass production stage. The startup Muufri is planning to sell synthetic milk that is molecularly identical — or at least extremely similar — to cow’s milk starting in 2016. Muufri’s co-founders were introduced to each other by New Harvest, the same philanthropic organization that introduced Sergey Brin to Mark Post.

Both the general technological category of artificial animal products and the method of accelerating the commercialization of those products through philanthropy is, for my money, a proven success.


#7

Yes, I do agree with you in this case that synthetic animal products is one avenue benefiting from ridiculous motivations. That link to Muufri states that the founders “vegans who believe the dairy industry practices inhumane and unsustainable methods”. Both reasons which don’t really matter to the majority of people who buy milk. For many who are well off in San Francisco, maybe it is a big deal, but they aren’t the majority like they think they are.

On a side note, I did not know that November 1st is World Vegan Day. I think to celebrate, I may have some veal or something:


#8

Vegan and vegetarian motivations aren’t ridiculous, morality is one of the two important problems with meat. Both problems were addressed in their videos, I don’t see what you’re taking issue with.


#9

That’s where you’re wrong… :smile:


#10

I’ll have to disagree with you right there. My premise is that morality is not a problem with meat. It is a luxury worry that has no basis in reality. The morality of eating animal products goes right out of the window when survival is at stake. The pretentiousness of vegans and vegetarians who are so because ‘animal rights’ or some such hog swallop is ridiculous when viewed from objective reality. We evolved over millions of years and throughout that process we developed into an omnivorous species. You don’t all of the sudden ‘decide’ that you are not omnivorous because ‘poor animals’ when it suits you. You can only afford to do that in a highly interdependent and advanced (wrt food production) society of apex predators.

If vegans and vegetarians were to simply acknowledge the fact that their choice is an aberration of natural eating patterns for our species then it wouldn’t be a problem. The issue I take is this radical proselytizing that they take on and assume that their choices are ‘normal’ and should be accepted and adopted by others. No vegan-ism and vegetarianism are not normal, preferable or any other description other than your own free choice to be different because you have the luxury to do so. If it stops there, I don’t mind. But it rarely does:


#11

You have a point :stuck_out_tongue: I meant the moral reason for being vegan or vegetarian isn’t ridiculous. In fact many people who choose those diets do so for bad reasons, like health or purity.


#12

Honestly going vegetarian for health I could understand. The “moral” reasons are on shaky ground at best.

First, animals are killed to grow crops: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=97836&page=1

Second, most of the animals we eat would never have lived if we didn’t breed them for food in the first place.


#13

Yes, but we exist in that society of highly advanced and interdependent individuals.

“Natural” carries no truck with me, there’s even a fallacy for it called appeal to nature because of how commonly it’s used as a justification. I am aware that my choice is an aberration of natural eating patterns and I’m aware that fact is irrelevant.

It’s not normal but it should be (for two good reasons) for people who have the option, and that’s everyone who gets “proselytized” at. You don’t see vegetarians going to people in extreme poverty trying to get them to restrict their diet.


#14

In slaveholding houses it was common to breed slaves - those people would not exist had it not been for their enslavement, is their suffering therefore morally irrelevant? It’s a case of special pleading to say this matters for people and not cows.


#15

And here we have the real problem. A specific case of equating a lower life form to a human. There is no ‘special case of pleading’ going on, cows ARE NOT PEOPLE (I can’t believe I had to say that). Quit anthropomorphising them and all other animals!


#16

I didn’t equate them, read more carefully and don’t put words in my mouth.


#17

The vast majority people in Western society accept that dogs can feel pain, and can suffer in other ways, such as from prolonged confinement in a small cage. It is considered monstrous and in fact in many countries is illegal to kick a dog repeatedly in the face or to confine a dog to a small cage for its entire life.

The same treatment, however, is regularly visited upon cows and pigs in industrial farms. There is just as much evidence as for dogs that cows and pigs can feel pain and can suffer in other ways. The distinction isn’t based on science, it’s culturally contingent. Some cultures slaughter dogs for food with indifference, some cultures protect cows with the same love and fierceness that we in the West protect dogs.

Some people can’t imagine not eating meat, dairy, and eggs and so work backwards from that conclusion that causing pain and suffering to farm animals is morally acceptable. Some people think it’s morally unacceptable to cause pain and suffering to animals, but — like smokers who are afraid cigarettes are killing them and yet struggle to quit smoking — they’re addicted to animal products. Some despair that their personal consumer choices won’t have an impact, so there’s no point going through the sacrifice. Artificial animal products disrupt the psychological equilibrium of all these people.

The biotech/food innovation startup Hampton Creek developed a vegan mayonnaise called Just Mayo by rapidly sequencing the genomes of thousands of plant species and finding plants that could replicate the taste and texture of normal mayonnaise more than any previous vegan alternative. Just Mayo was an instant hit. For example, right away it became the best-selling brand of mayonnaise at Whole Foods. Admittedly Whole Foods already caters to vegans more than any other grocery chain, so that was a bit of an easy win, but there is pent up demand for this stuff.

Eating vegan is hard, and making it a lot easier — effortless, even — to eat vegan means more people will eat vegan. You can’t just look at people’s consumption behaviour to make conclusions about what people want. The fact that so many people eat McDonald’s and Taco Bell doesn’t tell you that all those people are indifferent about health and nutrition. If you came onto the market with cheeseburgers, fries, tacos, and nachos that tasted and felt the same as ever, but had the caloric and nutritional content of steamed broccoli, McDonald’s and Taco Bell would go out of business over night.

People’s morality is rarely hard and fast. Moral concerns, even deeply felt ones, hit a limit where they become too demanding and amoral selfishness kicks in. It is a non-starter for many people to talk about giving up meat, dairy, and eggs for the sake of animals, but it is a different thing altogether to offer an indistinguishable (and in fact identical) product that is cheaper, safer, more environmentally friendly, and healthier that also helps prevent the pain and suffering of billions of animals. People’s moral concerns change as their ability to act on those concerns change.

All that just addresses the cruelty aspect of animal agriculture. There’s also the environmental aspect. Animal agriculture is right up there with transportation and power generation as one of the planet’s primary sources of greenhouse gases. We should therefore consider artificial animal products as a necessary technological innovation to stop climate change on par with mass market electric cars and solar power cheaper than power generated from coal and natural gas.


#18

Here’s the argument that bioethicist Peter Singer gives for why human beings should be concerned about the suffering of other animals and not just of human beings:

[quote]In the previous chapter I gave reasons for believing that the fundamental principle of equality, on which the equality of all human beings rests, is the principle of equal consideration of interests. Only a basic moral principle of this kind can allow us to defend a form of equality which embraces all human beings, with all the differences that exist between them. I shall now contend that while this principle does provide an adequate basis for human equality, it provides a basis which cannot be limited to humans. In other words I shall suggest that, having accepted the principle of equality as a sound moral basis for relations with others of our own species, we are also committed to accepting it as a sound moral basis for relations with those outside our own species - the nonhuman animals.

This suggestion may at first seem bizarre. We are used to regarding the oppression of blacks and women as among the most important moral and political issues facing the world today. These are serious matters, worthy of the time and energy of any concerned person. But animals? Surely the welfare of animals is in a different category altogether, a matter for old ladies in tennis shoes to worry about. How can anyone waste their time on equality for animals when so many humans are denied real equality?

This attitude reflects a popular prejudice against taking the interests of animals seriously - a prejudice no better founded than the prejudice of white slaveowners against taking the interests of blacks seriously. It is easy for us to criticize the prejudices of our grandfathers, from which our fathers freed themselves. It is more difficult to distance ourselves from our own beliefs, so that we can dispassionately search for prejudices among them. What is needed now is a willingness to follow the arguments where they lead, without a prior assumption that the issue is not worth attending to.

The argument for extending the principle of equality beyond our own species is simple, so simple that it amounts to no more than a clear understanding of the nature of the principle of equal consideration of interests. We have seen that this principle implies that our concern for others ought not to depend on what they are like, or what abilities they possess (although precisely what this concern requires us to do may vary according to the characteristics of those affected by what we do). It is on this basis that we are able to say that the fact that some people are not members of our race does not entitle us to exploit them, and similarly the fact that some people are less intelligent than others does not mean that their interests may be disregarded. But the principle also implies that the fact that beings are not members of our species does not entitle us to exploit them, and similarly the fact that other animals are less intelligent than we are does not mean that their interests may be disregarded.

…If a being suffers, there can be no moral justification for refusing to take that suffering into consideration. No matter what the nature of the being, the principle of equality requires that its suffering be counted equally with the like suffering - in so far as rough comparisons can be made - of any other being. If a being is not capable of suffering, or of experiencing enjoyment or happiness, there is nothing to be taken into account. This is why the limit of sentience (using the term as a convenient, if not strictly accurate, shorthand for the capacity to suffer or experience enjoyment or happiness) is the only defensible boundary of concern for the interests of others. To mark this boundary by some characteristic like intelligence or rationality would be to mark it in an arbitrary way. Why not choose some other characteristic, like skin colour?[/quote]


#19

If breeding animals gives you the right to kill and eat them, does that mean it would be moral for parents to kill and eat their children? If you say no because humans are more intelligent than animals, what if their child was severely mentally retarded, or even brain dead? Is it okay then?

I suppose if you are religious or spiritual, you may believe that humans are a special animal because they have souls, or because your religious book tells you not to kill humans unless they have committed certain crimes. To which I can only say: okay.


#20

Meanwhile, I’m a bit surprised someone who accepts nutritional science dismisses climate science.