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Would you like a test tube with that?

 |  Eco Catholic

Just imagine it. Someday soon, you sidle up to your favorite, old-fashioned burger joint -- one of those that still cooks everything in-house -- and order yourself a big, juicy burger.

You take the first bite, enjoying the hints of charcoal and the flavor of grease. In a moment of introspection, you think to yourself, 'Where did this cow come from? What kind of life did it have?'

Answer: It didn't. There was no cow involved at all in that slab of meat entering your digestive system.

It's a future that isn't too far away. Mother Jones magazine's Blue Marble blog has a post today about a possible coming revolution in laboratory-grown meat products.

From the post:

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"Although scientists have been kicking around the idea of synthetic meat for about a decade, they haven't yet been able to bring it to market, much less mass-produce it. But they're getting closer: Last week, Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden and the European Science Foundation held a workshop to discuss the future of test-tube meat and to develop an "action plan" to get fake meat to market. The conference brought together tissue engineers, as well as environmental scientists, ethicists, social scientists, and economists.

So far, the largest group of meat cells that scientists have been able to grow is only about 2.5 centimeters long and 0.7 centimeters wide, though some scientists are predicting that we could have lab-grown sausage in as little as six months, as TreeHugger reported recently. To make the stuff, tissue engineers take stem cells from an animal and place them in a nutrient-rich culture, where they can multiply into something resembling muscle tissue. It used to be that they had to use animal products to create that nutrient mixture (like animal blood), but now researchers have discovered a viable non-animal option that uses sunlight and carbon dioxide, much like photosynthesis, to grow the tissue. (The meat-substitute advocacy group New Harvest has a handy FAQ, if you're interested in learning more.)"

So, first things first: stem cell research is, of course, a tricky area for Catholic morality.

But, assuming they find a way to make these products in a way that jives with moral teaching, what do you think? Can you see yourself ordering a juicy test-tube burger one day?

Is it an answer to the prayers of those who enjoy meat, but aren't comfortable with killing animals? Or does it just defeat the purpose of the simple lifestyle?

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