Are You Ready For Test-Tube Meat?

By Danny Tyree

Remember actor James Garner and the “Beef: real food for real people” commercials? We may soon see the “Beef: ambiguous food for ambivalent people” campaign.

According to CNN, Dr. Mark Post, professor of vascular physiology at the University of Maastricht in the Netherlands, is turning bovine stem cells into artificial muscle (i.e. meat) in a petri dish, with the ultimate goal of completely replacing the meat-animal industry.

Post says the world will have to wait until October for the first lone burger and that it will have cost $330,000. I just hope the poor waitress knows she can kiss her tip goodbye.

Post’s anonymous financial backer is out to revolutionize agriculture, to make meat production more environmentally friendly, to defend animal rights, to “make Bessie’s big brown eyes stop haunting my dreams. Make her stop!!!”

The experiment is spurred by the fact that global demand for meat is expected to rise 60 percent by 2050 and that traditional livestock farming would require the clearing of vast amounts of forest for pasture. Here’s an idea for handling the population crisis. Have the UN declare that after sex everyone must consume a pinkish-yellowish test-tube burger instead of smoking a cigarette. “Not tonight, I have a headache” will become the universal language!

Being nice to Mother Nature is commendable, but I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for a payoff. I suspect in a few years we’ll hear a news bulletin such as “Today an earthquake destroyed a railroad bridge in Virginia, and a trainload of artificial meat plummeted into the ravine.” Mother Nature can be an UNGRATEFUL shrew at times.

Many people are disturbed about Post’s plan because it messes with our idea of the future of agriculture. (“The future isn’t what it used to be.”) Back in the 50s people didn’t contemplate the obsolescence of livestock; they all thought that pigs and cattle would be flying over the pasture with their own little rocket backpacks. (“Hey, Porky, watch the kind of ‘crop circles’ I can make from 1,000 feet up!”)

To be more accurate, cattle would not be entirely eliminated under the master plan. A limited herd of cattle would be retained to serve as donors for stem cells. (Post said one donor cow could produce one million times more burgers than traditional livestock production would.) This is a recipe for disaster (not unlike Paula Deen’s initial reaction of “Yum! Deep-fried petri dishes!”). Not only would even more power be concentrated in the hands of Big Agriculture, but the premium mini-herds would inspire cattle rustling on a scale that Roy Rogers and Gabby Hayes just couldn’t handle. (“Head fer the hills, Roy! They’ve done broke out the goldarned Stinger missiles!”)

Granted, skeptics have ALWAYS stood in the way of scientific progress. Copernicus, Edison, and da Vinci all battled scoffers. What would Galileo say if he could hear the debate today? (“Meat from a test tube? What, did somebody drop you off the Leaning Tower of Pisa onto your HEAD???”)

Luckily, traditionalists have a spokesperson. Rick Santorum has upped the ante, not only insisting that beef come from real cattle but that the cattle be legally wed before breeding. (“I’d like to clarify my previous statement about cattle nuptials. I think all Anguses are Muslim.”)

Danny Tyree
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