A burger created by Dr Mark Post using stem cells will be of interest to vegetarians across the globe. Vegetarians are as mixed a social group as any other so they have all sorts of different views on the prospect of laboratory-grown meat. Some are waiting with baited breath, keen to experience the taste and texture of meat without actually harming an animal, while others find the whole idea utterly repulsive.
We appear to be a long way from a marketable product but that doesn’t stop the whole concept of artificial meat being a hot topic in vegetarian circles. In a poll currently running on the Vegetarian Society’s website 79.86% (as of 5 August) have stated that they would not eat in vitro meat while 6.91% have said they would.
Lynne Elliot, Chief Executive at the Vegetarian Society, said:
“There is little doubt now that people need to reduce the amount of meat that they eat, for the sake of the environment if not human health or animal welfare, so many campaigners argue that any development which results in fewer animals being reared and slaughtered for food is a good thing. But there are still many unanswered questions. The biggest question for many vegetarians is why? Why go to this much trouble and expense to replace a foodstuff that we simply do not need? Wouldn’t it be simpler, cheaper and more sustainable to just stop eating meat altogether?”
There are also technical issues to take into account. The environmental impact of artificial meat production is not easy to estimate and the processes may rely heavily on the use of animals – as a starting point for cell cultures and in the growing medium. Presumably, the end product would also be classed as a ‘novel food’ requiring animal testing to meet EU legislation. Looking at the potential products themselves, the closer they get to “the real thing” the more suspicious some consumers will become. Labeling would be absolutely key to developing trust and the food industry already has trouble providing vegetarians with transparent information about the provenance of certain products.
Source: The Vegetarian Society