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Vat Burger

Well, there finally seems to be a head of steam behind artificial meat. Time indeed will tell if this is economic nonsense – certainly they’ll have to do an unprecedented number on getting production costs down because this stuff ain’t exactly going to be competing with a bit of genuine Aberdeen Angus any time soonish. But that’s not really what interests me because I don’t know enough on that score to comment intelligently and unlike many of the readers of the Telegraph I always at least try on that score.

The usual suspects are out proclaiming disgust. Hell, even the article calls it “test-tube burgers”. Always with the test-tube negative waves Moriarty! People still talk about “test-tube babies” despite the fact it is entirely, utterly inaccurate. Robert Edwards who developed the technique won the 2010 Nobel for his work. Tricky stuff and the Devil is as ever in the details (at the 1965 Nobel “do” a churnalist pigeon-holed Richard Feynman and asked for a snappy five minute explanation of what he’d done. Feynman replied, “Look pal, if I could explain it in five minutes it wouldn’t be worth the Nobel Prize would it?”). It isn’t if you are many of the Telegraph commentators (with their unspecified “yuk” factor*). You see they never define that. It’s new, it’s biological so it is yucky and that is all they need to know or indeed ever seek to know. It’s pathetic. It is the same sort of bizarre mentality that caused The Times (once a paper to be respected) to run as a story a few years back that Louise Brown (the first child to be born by in-vitro techniques) had given birth and point out the child was “normal”. I was disappointed. I expected some sort of Whovian villain to emerge from the womb of a perfectly healthy and normal young woman. For shame! These science wonks simply aren’t creating the Soylent Green chomping Davros-ish loons that realise moral panics.

In any case in vitro fertilization normally uses a petri dish and not a test-tube. As does the Frankenburger of doom. Otherwise, unless my geometry is entirely askew, it would be the sausage of terror.

Anyway, it really annoys me – the whole Prince Charles-ish science has gone too far! I have enough dead relatives and friends from stuff they shall laugh at as being fatal fifty years from now to think it’s gone anywhere near far enough. Nor ever shall it. But it does interest me in a different way. For much of the last century the icon of science was a symbolic lithium atom but that has turned into the double helix or that (frankly creepy) biohazard sign. The mad scientists were once physicists building atom bombs and yes they did some crazy stuff. and that’s pure, unadulterated, 100% proof Dr Strangelove. Yeah, a supersonic, tree-top level missile the size of a railway locomotive powered by a nuclear rocket dropping hydrogen bombs. It’s the sort of thing to make that loon in Tehran soil himself in joy. Yet we seem to have learned to love the bomb (or at least not hate it) and the moral panic is now over biology. Physics is old hat. Yeah, right. When the Pakistani regime fails and the Taliban takes over and nukes Mumbai try telling me that again.

*When I was 16 my local authority gave careers advice and arranged work experience. Oddly enough anyone interested even vaguely in the sciences was advised to consider a career as an environmental health officer. It was only later my Dad told me this was because the council was short of them at the time. The devious Labour rats! Anyway, my mate did a week work experience with Gateshead environmental health and this involved some incredibly dull measuring of sound-levels on a bypass and a trip to the slaughterhouse. I think it was the skip full of still peristaltic bowels that pushed him over to vegetarianism after that. My point is “yuk factor” is… Well, I’ve never seen anything so HP Lovecraft like that in a lab (and I’ve been in a few**) so “yuk factor” is just code for irrational traditionalism here.

**Including a few biology labs. Indeed I have isolated DNA and done electrophoresis and you know “Playing God” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It mainly involves working in a clean, modern lab with bright engaging people and not being in a Bavarian Schloss, cackling maniacally whilst a hunch-backed Igor cowers behind the Jacob’s ladders and the peasants mass around the perimeter with torches and indeed pitchforks. “Mad, you call me mad? I who alone know the secret of life itself!” I hate to disappoint people but it really isn’t like that. That’s why I switched to physics. That Mary Shelley has a lot to answer for. The Modern Prometheus! Pah! It’s slogging your way through Lubert Stryer’s epic tome on biochemistry. If you think the knee bone is connected to the arse bone you ain’t seen anything like Lubert’s biochemical pathways. That’s why I preferred physics. It works on principles and not doing the equivalent of being able to quote the entire “Lord of the Rings” chapter and verse. To misquote a U2 song (I know) three vector identities and the truth. I learned sod all at university in terms of facts. I learned techniques. Actually rather more than three vector identities but I didn’t want to spoil the moment. Oh and a hint of complex analysis and tensors which are all about as fun as they sound – i.e. brilliantly so. And Fourier analysis which is not going, “You call that sable – that is stoat if I ever smelled one!”.

47 Comments

  1. Loki says:

    I live in Gateshead and can confirm that the local council is full of cunts.
    Chokka block full.

    If there was an aware for the cuntiest cunts, Gateshead council would win.

    Cunts.

  2. NickM says:

    Nah Loki,
    They were supreme cunts when it was “pin a red-rosette on a pig” Labour but when it went LD they passed the baton on to Newcastle who until Labour were unseated there were supreme cunts. I’m not making a party political statement just that unchallenged dominance for decades breeds cunts like they are going out of fashion. Newcastle is now moderately sensible after going LD. I have a tendency to like to vote against the incumbent on general principles. Keeps ‘em on their toes.

  3. Confession time

    I worked for Gateshead Council for a good many years. Most of the councillors at that time had a chip on their shoulder, were still living in 1930 (mentally anyway) while most senior management were either incompetent, demented or simply ready to sell their soul to the highest bidder.

    Out of that came the policy that tried to demolish every house built before 1918 regardless of condition (I said they were living in the past). They were willing to bend any rule to achieve that, including using their ‘slum clearance’ powers to deliberately blight property that would otherwise have been capable of lasting for another 100 years. Meanwhile they built new slums like the housing at St Cuthberts – which won an RIBA Gold Medal but still had mushrooms growing out of the floors and water running down the walls – and now demolished.

    Out of that debacle, which en passant led to me being threatened with the sack by the then Chief Executive for disagreeing with him, came a more sane leadership which eventually turned them into what seems, as far as local government goes anyway, a reasonably well-managed council (from 350 miles away anyway).

    I eventually wrote a post-grad dissertation about the whole sorry shambles and there also began the disillusion with party politics that still persists – although that shit Blair tipped me well over the edge.

  4. Also – my tutor at the time used to talk about the ‘one party state’ of Durham County Council. There was also the story, which I can’t vouch for but rings true, of an interview for a head teacher at a school in the County.

    Q: Are you a member of the Labour Party?”
    A: No
    Q: Are you a member of a Trade Union?
    A: No
    Q: (desperately) Are you in the Co-op?
    A: No

    At which point the chairman of the interview panel allegedly turns to his colleagues, saying “Why are we interviewing him? He’s got no qualifications.”

    Apologies for OT rants – the scars run deep…

  5. NickM says:

    Don’t worry ian. Nothing much is OT here and that rings very true for Durham! A lad I was at school with left at 16 and got a clerical job for Gateshead and he told me about the councilmen. And yes, at the time they were overwhelmingly white middle-aged geezers who were Labour because their Dad was and so on back to Keir Hardy being a twinkle in the eye of Mr Hardy senior and were all technically Methodists. They treated it like a social club (it had a very cheap bar). I recall the lad telling that at at kicking out time it was like a pinball machine watching them bouncing down the corridors – they were that pissed. You know Chopwell and High Spen and places? (People’s Democratic Republics of). I think there was a Lenin Street in Chopwell or something. My Dad taught a kid there who was given a (nicked) motor for his 14th birthday!

    But then I hail from Ryton which is nicer but still our old Labour MP was very old Labour. Went to school with his daughter. Scottish shop-steward left-wing of Mao who was parachuted into a safe Labour seat and did nothing for years (I checked in Hansard – not one question in parliament). His daughter went on to do art at Goldsmiths, got knocked-up, dropped out, gave birth to the kid in a squat in New Cross and called the charver Storm Bruin. Not making that up. Fuck knows where she is now.

  6. JuliaM says:

    I’ve put some pretty revolting things in my mouth, but I’ll draw the line at vat-grown meat!

  7. NickM says:

    Why Julia? As I said a slaughterhouse is pretty revolting too. The way antibiotics were first grown – in a beef-heart “broth” in chamber-potx was pretty revolting too but people used to die from the simplest infections. My Gran once told me (I was a small kid at the time) of a slaughterman she knew in the ’20s or ’30s who died horribly (she didn’t spare the details) from an infection from being bitten on the foot by a boar he was trying to send to it’s maker. I didn’t believe. I was born in the ’70s and (I was a very small child) a fatal infected foot was beyond my comprehension.

  8. Mr Ecks says:

    Handled properly with economies of scale and top-notch quality control this could usher in an age of cheap, wonderful, cruelty-free meat.

    Imagine it–huge, 2 inch thick, Peter Luger-style steaks on every table–the finest super-quality meat and not a single animal killed.

  9. MickC says:

    Ian b,

    funnily enough I was trying to stop some of those houses being knocked down-public enquiry etc. The words wind, into, and pissing spring readily to mind!

    The houses were pretty good Victorian terraces which really just needed some renovation-not demolition.

    Your assessment of the councillors and officers is absolutely spot on-their attitude was pure class-warrior. And the war was against anything which had been produced by capitalism.

  10. Tim Newman says:

    Robert Edwards who developed the technique won the 2010 Nobel for his work.

    Took their time, didn’t they?

  11. CountingCats says:

    Predicting ten years huh? Back in 2008 they were pridicting another five years…

    http://www.countingcats.com/?p=112

    Still, it meets the transformative tech specification of less than a generation.

    This is a GOOD thing. Think of how it will affect even Lunar settlement. Meat without cows.

  12. Kevin B says:

    Ah, but that was a proper Nobel, not like the Peace prize they gave to Obama for giving a speech.

    Peace and Economics tend to go with the flavour of the month, but proper Nobels go to those whose genius ideas stand the test of time.

    (Or last long enough for all the old fogeys to die and for the recipient’s peers to get the vote.)

  13. Philip Scott Thomas says:

    Hmm. The comments make me wonder: are there any commenters on CCiZwho aren’t from Newcastle/Gateshead? Me, I’m in Fenham, so I defo fall into that group.

  14. CountingCats says:

    I’m on Queenslands sunny Gold Coast, and so is the server. Does that count? Or as a contributor does that mean I am not a commenter?

  15. RAB says:

    Well I’m from Caerphilly/ Cardiff, and for many years now, Bristol. I’m nothing to do with these Northern nutters boyo! Farthest north I went was to Uni in Nottingham, and it was perpetually friggin freezin, in body and mind.

    Now then, now then, would I put a piece of this new flesh in my mouth? Well yes, if I was friggin starving, just like my ancestors used to do with Lavabread and Cockles.

    But the problem is that it is tasteless and colourless, those have to be added after. So what is the difference between this stuff and prawn cocktail flavoured crisps, or the stuff only Americans know about, labelled Hamburger Helpers, or the soya/tofu crap that my wife used to buy to put in Spag Bog instead of real meat, till I blew a fuse.

    I’ll eat my way through the existing stock of livestock first thanks, however good an idea this is on paper.

  16. CountingCats says:

    Yuk factor.

    This doesn’t work on me.

    This stuff isn’t prime rump, nor would it be any good where high quality chicken breast or lamb is called for, but mince, burgers, chicken nuggets, it would be fine.

    If it comes from a factory rather than a, well, a factory – have you seen the inside of high intensity sheds – so what?

    Protein is protein.

    In fact, it would be great, and it would shut up all those who are advocating controlling the beef trade because of rain forest destruction in South America.

  17. Tim Newman says:

    Yuk factor: keeping this boyo off Nigerian food since October 2010.

  18. Lynne says:

    I saw this item on the Beeb yesterday tea time. The way they spun the story was bizarre. Apparently this discovery has come in the nick of time because the world is going to run out of cows at some unspecified time in the future.

    This is probably wishful thinking by the Beeboids because cows are bad. Cows fart and cause global warming. Vat-grown meat will be green and will not fart (but let’s not mention how much pollution will come from factories producing this stuff on an industrial scale) If this vat-grown meat becomes available globally then there is little need for beef on the hoof. We already have plastic milk which, to be frank, tastes fucking awful, far worse than the real stuff. Next will come plastic pork, plastic lamb, plastic chicken and plastic wildfowl. Bye-bye livestock, livestock farms and farmers.

    I don’t believe for a second that vat-grown meat, should it become commercial, will be any cheaper than the real thing currently is. It never works out that way. Hoof-grown meat will be hideously expensive as it becomes a rarity that only the rich can afford as livestock farms begin to dwindle.

    I’m with Julia on this one. The product will be stuffed full of chemicals, even more so than our national herds. I’d go veggie first and fart like a regiment after a curry night in the mess. That’ll show those greenie scumbags.

  19. CountingCats says:

    I don’t believe for a second that vat-grown meat, should it become commercial, will be any cheaper than the real thing currently is. It never works out that way.

    Nope, couldn’t agree less. That’s exactly the way it works. Always. Otherwise there is no commercial reason to have the factory in the first place and they won’t happen.

    Otherwise, you seriously claiming that factory made clothes are no cheaper than the hand spun, woven and tailored variety were in our great grandparents day? Are you claiming that you have only two sets of clothing? One for weekdays and a sunday best? Seriously?

    Me? Poverty stricken as I am, I got as many, if not more, clothes than only the wealthy could afford a century ago. Quality is as good as well.

    I truly think this will be a boon, a godsend, and the cost will plummet and both quality and variety will soar over the years.

    In fact Lynne, I am surprised at you are so blatantly abandoning one of the best arguments for a free enterprise society. In that one comment you sound like a CiF progressive.

  20. Lynne says:

    I sound like a CiF progressive because I disagree and have valid reasons for doing so? That’s your argument? Seriously?

  21. CountingCats says:

    No. It is because I don’t think your reasons are valid.

    It is because I think the reality of factory mass production in a free enterprise society is the opposite of what you claim.

    And I also think you are being influenced by the yuk factor, something I reject. But that’s more personal I guess.

  22. Lynne says:

    It’s not the yuk factor, it’s the quality factor. What meat tastes like is reflected upon how the animal is fed. The only way vat-grown meat will achieve anything close to palatable flavour is to have it artificially enhanced. I already pay enough to eat meat that hasn’t been dosed to buggery with antibiotics for fast growth. That where my yuk factor lies. Right there.

    In Australia you might still enjoy the vestiges of a free enterprise society after Gillard has finished with it but living within the EU means that so called free enterprise is highly regulated and, in some cases, actively discouraged (think subsidies for renewable energy to the detriment of energy security). Food prices are kept artificially high just like energy prices.

    In my long and bitter experience as a food shopper, grocery bills rise on a weekly basis but never fall. The cheap meat argument might work in an ideal, market forces lead world but I don’t live in this utopia. The cheap meat argument won’t work because it won’t be allowed to work. It’s not personal, it’s the reality of what people in the EU live with every day. It’s called the Common Agricultural Policy, is administered by lunatics and ensures that fresh food costs the earth. Vat-grown meat won’t be any different. Unfortunately, your expectations do not currently invalidate my reality.

    I really would like to be as complacent as you are but my EU experience gene won’t allow it. I hope I’m wrong.

  23. CountingCats says:

    Ah, but that is the EU. I guess you don’t have the faith that I do that the EU will collapse.

    Anyway, China will allow it, and when they start exporting cheap meat products to the rest of the world the over regulated west will follow.

    this will happen, because you can’t buck the market.

  24. NickM says:

    Cats,
    I think Lynne has some good points. Primarily Cats you are living in the netherworld of believing, “if it’s commercial it will fly”. Now both you, I and Lynne would like this to be the case but it is not. Gubbermunt (certainly here) will twist this one way or another for reasons which are not by any measure commercial. I’m watching BBC News and they are offering up to GBP8000 off an electric van. Everything is manipulated and distorted. This will be too one way or another. It will either be deemed evil and banned as GM is in the EU or wonderful and subsidised. Everything is bent out of shape. OK, now on the BBC I’m hearing about the gubbermunt + the energy companies muntering on about paying folks fifty quid for nominating the poor (defined by benefits) for free loft and cavity-wall insulation. I’m potentially in the shit here. I live in a listed building. At some point they’re going to penalise the uninsulated which by law and reality I can’t do. Well the loft is lagged but the walls. They’re a foot of solid stone so (a) I don’t need to insulate, (b) I can’t and (c) it is probably against the law. On the plus side it’s at the top of a hill and has very thick walls so give me firearms and the gubbermunt can come and get ‘em and it shall be seriously fucking emotional.

    PS. Another thing on the BBC just now is about the complications of diabetes that the NHS is ignoring and someone from a diabetes charity is saying – I shit you not – “It’s not about care for people but reducing the cost to the NHS”. Christ almighty! Do you see how bent out of shape our polity is?

  25. Simon Williams says:

    Philip,

    I’m not from Newcastle/Gateshead, but I’m in Consett instead. I’m getting to know a few of the local Labour Party bods round here. Nice people, but I wish they’d grow up…

  26. JuliaM says:

    “Why Julia? As I said a slaughterhouse is pretty revolting too.”

    I’m sure. But since animals are self-replicating processors of vegetable matter into meat, I see no reason for science to try to ‘better’ that. It’s of no real value whatsoever.

    There’s a big, big difference in growing cures to resolve a problem (your antibiotics example), and spending valuable time and money trying to replicate a natural, existing process.

    Even if it will help vegetarians to have a ‘cruelty-free’ steak dinner.

  27. CountingCats says:

    JuliaM,

    I’m sorry, but what is so special about a cow held in a stall being so special that science shouldn’t find a ‘better’ (more efficient maybe) way of growing the animal protein?

    As far as finding a way to replicate and improve a natural existing process, we do it all the time. Wanting to stay warm is natural. So is rubbing yourself to do so. Clothing isn’t, nor is lighting a fire. The whole profession of medicine is dedicated to subverting natural processes. Ditto manufacturing. Transport is all about improving a natural process – you want to walk from London to here on Queenslands Sunny Gold Coast, feel free. Next time I make the trip I will fly, in a big artificial metal tube, with wings that don’t flap.

    Seriously, you want to live a natural life? Next time there is a snow storm go squat naked behind a tree. That’ll teach you the benefit of natural. Give me a world where all effort is made to subvert nature, any time.

    I am shocked, shocked I tell you, at some of the arguments being put forward here.

    Since when do technocrats like wot we are object to something because it ‘isn’t natural’?

  28. CountingCats says:

    Nick,

    The EU stuffing us sideways is no argument against this. It is an argument against the EU.

    Seriously, I would have no problem eating this stuff, and if it gets animal protein into a few more cook pots a bit more often, then great. Wonderful idea.

  29. NickM says:

    Cats,
    I seriously don’t like your use of “technocrats”. “technophiles” maybe. Julia has a valid point mind. This does seem to be a solution looking for a problem. My point (one of them) was (way back when) that I doubt the economics here – they are seriously, massive, unprecedentedly going to have to roll-out economies of scale not seen since ever… yet making animals involves a process that costs little and they see to enjoy. You’re a man of the world so I don’t think I need to draw a diagram. In a bizarre way this reminds me of the “pickle jar kid” from the late ’90s. The Stun had a cow over a pair of lesbians having a kid utilising a male friend, a turkey baster and a (washed – semen is killed by acid – stiking a lemon wedge up the vadge was standard “contraception” the USSR) pickle jar. The Stun’s coverage was not precisely homophobic – it was more against folks “doing it by themselves”. They seemed to take umbrage at this not being done in a medical setting and costing a bloody fortune to some fanny mechanic like Lord Robert Winston. They also (and this is interesting in terms of your points on “nature’s way”) seemed to object to mere mortals performing a “medical procedure”. Speak to any of the farm-lads I went to school with if you think they required Mr Herriot! The point is it’s simple. Evolution has made in most case conception simple even for humans. Yes you might have to buy dinner but… There are over 7 billion reasons to suggest even morons can do it. But there is this bizarre idea that a “trained professional” is needed or in some obscure sense it’s wrong. So, yeah there is something similarly weirdly “technocratic” about this scientific sledgehammer to crack nuts.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’ not saying this is wrong and if it works and produces a tasty and nutrious product cheaply then fine but I smell a rat. This has nothing to do with the yuk-factor (featuring Louis Walsh) but economics and control.

  30. PeterT says:

    JuliaM said

    “I’m sure. But since animals are self-replicating processors of vegetable matter into meat, I see no reason for science to try to ‘better’ that. It’s of no real value whatsoever.”

    This is incorrect. The current process for producing meat is extremely inefficient. All that grass that the cows eat? Guess what, its not all turned into meat. Most of it is used by the cows for energy to move around, digest, and what have you. Basically, the fewer times the energy in food has been processed (coming from the sun initially) before reaching our stomachs, the less wastage. This is the environmental benefit that is being referred to, not the reduction in cow farts.

    If the process for creating meat artificially were to become as efficient as it is for making bread or vegetables, there would be a serious reduction in the price of meat. Think ten fold.

    Also, personally I find the idea of eating artifical meat much less yukky than eating slaughtered animals, which I find morally doubtful (I’m not a vegetarian as a) my wife is korean, and b) I don’t eat cereals, legumes, or starchy food).

    100% with Cats on this topic.

  31. PeterT says:

    “Think ten fold.”

    I meant “one tenth”, or a “ten fold increase in yield”

  32. CountingCats says:

    PeterT,

    Absolutely. Producing a pound of beef on the hoof here in Oz is pretty efficient because there ain’t nuttin else eating that grass in the Northern territory. That pound of beef is harvested by turning some cattle loose a century ago and rounding up the excess on a regular basis. But the housed, sheltered and corn fed variety? Nah, pretty inefficient.

    I agree with you, I bet the efficiency (of resource utilisation) soars and the price plummets once the kinks are ironed out.

    Don’t forget, we are not talking about rump steaks here, or that aristocrat Sir Loin either. This stuff will be ground beef, mince meat, burgers, chicken nuggets, and I, for one, am all for cheaper food.

  33. RAB says:

    The more likely scenario Cats, if feeding the ever growing and hungry hordes is the top priority by the most energy efficient means possible, is that meat will be outlawed altogether and Vegetarianism made mandatory. The Watermelons are pushing this hard already.

    But nils desperandum, plenty of cool tasty stuff to scoff first, before we have to resort to growing our own. ;-)

    http://www.zulurestaurants.co.uk/

  34. Lynne says:

    Cats, I appreciate your point of view, the markets should be free (and who wouldn’t want food that is in cheap and plentiful supply – other than the EUSSR autocrats), but right here, right now, that ain’t going to fly any time soon. At least not without rioting and revolution which is what it would take to get the message across. Let’s face it, the violent backlash has already begun on the streets of Athens.

    We already know that what passes for British democracy has been emasculated and eviscerated to the point of irrelevance so we can’t rely on the ballot box to ring the changes. I don’t condone violence even though I joke about piano wire and lamp posts so what is left other than waiting for the walking corpse of the EU to finally lie down and expire? Let me tell you that isn’t going to happen overnight. The UK is in so deep it will take us decades to extricate ourselves from the mess. The economic fall-out will be horrendous. Compared to that, the billions that must be spent on the research and production of miracle meat that may or may not become available in my lifetime, and that hardly anyone will want to eat from choice no matter how much you cheerleader for it, pales into absolute insignificance.

    I’m bowing out. I’m not going to fight over this. If I haven’t convinced you of the seriousness of the European situation by now then I never will. Casting the problem aside so cavalierly, treating it as a frivolous argument, is an insult to everyone who lives within and loathes the EU. Also your use of belittlement, hyperbole and rudeness towards Julia is unfortunate, undeserved and an unwelcome escalation of what you said to me. You once asked me to modify my language. I did so. Should I expect less from you?

  35. CountingCats says:

    Lynne,

    I am fully with you about the EU, after all, I lived in the UK for a quarter of a century. However, this isn’t about the EU. It is about vat grown meat, and there is more of the world than just the European sodding Union.

    This stuff will be available from China, Africa, SE Asia, South America and the good old US of A. I am ignoring the EU as the centre of things precisely because the EU is acting to ensure it is not the centre of things.

    This conversation is about vat grown meat, peoples reaction to it, and the future of the stuff. I don’t even understand why you introduced the EU as a core issue on this subject. I’m not fighting with you over the topic, we seem to agree, but I certainly am scratching my head wondering why you think it is relevant.

  36. Lynne says:

    Cats, all I did was point out that not all markets are free. At least not for the 500 million plus people who live in the EU. I would love to live in a free market society once more but unfortunately I don’t. Not yet anyway. Therefore it is very difficult for me to be as enthusiastic as you are over this issue.

    There’s also the factor that if the BBC thinks this is a good idea, I’ll come out against it on principle until such times I discover more about it. I’m deeply suspicious of anything they endorse and with good reasons even you yourself would not dispute.

    I wait to be convinced that vat-grown will ever supersede hoof-grown for quality and flavour because I love to get my teeth into a big, juicy steak. If I’m proven wrong I’ll be the first to admit it. Meanwhile I’ll remain on the conservative regarding the issue. I hope you understand.

  37. NickM says:

    Again,
    Agreed with Lynne. Yes, who wouldn’t want food to be cheap and plentiful (the same thing really) except our entire power-structure. Cats we live in a continent where the heir to the throne of it’s third economic power (yes, we’re behind France again which is a fucking disgrace) can be taken seriously as saying food is too cheap. Food is not a major budget issue for me (and it certainly isn’t for Prince Chuckles) but it was when, say, I was a student. Oh yeah I recall the chilli me and my equally potless mates made from Sainsbury’s econom mince (beef, pork and oddly enough venison) once. Tasted bloody good and that was a hell of a night but I don’t think any whizz-bangery is needed. Just let the market work. My wife has a Russian degree and you know what she thinks finally finished the USSR? Have a guess!

    Nobody knew what the price of anything truly was. The economy had been gerrymandered and twisted for so many years that what was a loaf of bread or a litre of diesel to be sold at? Nobody knew. Sound familiar? We have prices here artificially inflated by “schemes” and subsidies and quotas and a common fisheries policy which makes PETA’s guff about “sea kittens” sound sensible.

    But back to Chuckles. I hate him because the entire basis of civilization is that you don’t have to work dawn till dusk for the basics of life. That is what gives us time to think and that is a virtuous spiral. It means more thinking which means more innovation which means more thinking time which means… And that is what he hates because all he wants is to some sort of frigging medieval overlord who presides over happy peasants drinking organic cider. A King of Britain? Not the Britain of James Maxwell, George Stephenson or William Armstrong. Geordie Stephenson worked every hour God sent to pay for night classes (he was illiterate until 18). You look for his monument? It’s in 1,435 mm guage most everywhere.

    My point is this is not a tech problem. They are solved by men in sheds from Geordie Stephenson to Bill Gates (dropped out of college to waste his life!) if they are only allowed to do it but the EU et al don’t see it this way. The fundamental problem is political and paradoxical. Of course by fair means or fowl (not an sp!) we can provide protein for the masses (or me, or you or…) but all that stops it is political and I don’t mean pissing about over allowing (or not) vat burgers or GMO or even the Prince of Wails becoming Soylent Windsor but the fundamental thing which is that from the Corn-Laws to the CAP titting by government around food production has never worked for anyone. Except for government which is why they still do it. It works for them because it creates problems which of course people feel the government ought to solve which…

  38. The down side to vat grown meat is that it is likely to end up handing food production to a small group of corporates. The product will be wrapped up tightly with patents so that even if the process can be hacked, the lawyers will be down on any attempts to do so.

    I don’t eat meat however and haven’t for years. This isn’t from any moral considerations, I stopped eating red meat because it aggravated my arthritis, I went off chicken and pork because what we could get at the time was like eating wet polystyrene foam, I never liked mutton or lamb, I’m allergic to shellfish and farmed salmon (something to do with additives for colour) and after a nasty bout of food poisoning after eating fish that left me in hospital, now even the thought of fish makes me ill. The smell of cooking bacon still makes my mouth water though!

    I suspect I’m slightly unusual…

    The process by which products like Quorn (myco-protein based) are made is probably not very different and I suspect the product will taste similar – ie not much – and will depend on sauces/seasoning for flavour. Quorn can probably do everything that the vat-grown products will do in nutritional terms, so it will all depend on replicating texture I think. Real meat has a fibrous texture that Quorn and other vegetable proteins simply can’t replicate.

    Tofu is not especially a veggie food – its been around for centuries, probably longer. It is like cheese, simply a way to store produce for longer. It is effectively cheese from soy protein.

  39. I should add that my opposition to GM food is similar – it hands the power to big corporates and power over food supplies is a major threat to liberty.

    Bush 1 refused to allow GM soya to be kept separate, claiming it was too difficult. I may not object, but I still want to know what I’m eating so another argument against in my view. The EU position is based on unscientific scaremongering though.

  40. CountingCats says:

    Nick, Lynne,

    You seem to be trying to inform me of things you know I am already aware of, and to persuade me to a point of view you know I already hold…..

    You are obsessing on the EU whereas the EU is a peripheral issue on this specific topic, in world terms.

    Sorry.

  41. Lynne says:

    Only time will tell. When the EU finally implodes under the weight of its own stupidity let’s hope the damage isn’t contagious. I don’t believe for a moment it won’t be. Let’s see how peripheral in world terms it is then shall we?

  42. Lynne says:

    In addition, the loss to the vat-grown meat market of almost an entire continent consisting of a substantial fraction of the combined western economies is hardly peripheral.

  43. JuliaM says:

    “…Sainsbury’s econom mince (beef, pork and oddly enough venison) once.”

    Ahh, venison. Probably back when they were starting to farm it, and couldn’t sell it because few people knew how to cook it!

  44. JuliaM says:

    And thanks to RAB for that link – next time I’m up that way, I know where I’ll be having lunch! :D

  45. RAB says:

    Julia, if you ever are round our way, give us a bell and i’ll come with you. It’s a mere 5 minutes walk from our house.

  46. bloke in spain says:

    The comparisons between conventionally reared & vat grown meat above are probably true but is that what the factory product will be competing with? More likely it’ll be replacing the factory farmed meat produced now. Same factory except producing chicken without the attached feathers, shit & squark. Pork without the squeal. Imagine chicken’ll be the meat duplicated first because it’s a less complex product to physically simulate & gets used in dishes with more supplementary sauces & flavourings.
    Chicken, pork & turkey are the cheapest meats currently because they’re easier to factory produce. If simulated beef & lamb/mutton are achieved, it’ll be those products that it’ll be competing with rather than it’s genetic precursor which will still be reared naturally as well.
    Can’t say the objection to vat meat on the basis of chemicals/antibiotics makes much sense. If you’re vat growing tissue it’s being done in sterile conditions. If you don’t put bacteria & viruses into the nutrient feed, you don’t need antibiotics. You don’t need to overdo the growth hormones because if the process is already efficient there’s little benefit. Most of the drugs farm animals are given are to counteract the problems caused by rearing in unnatural conditions. Even grazing animals are existing in much more compact environments than they would be in the wild species. Much more vulnerable to disease transmission.
    Be interesting if they really get the technology singing. There’s no reason just to stick to the current meat range. Mammoth’s been gene sequenced. Dinosaur? Human flesh’d be a doddle. Fancy a Chinese later?

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