Ever since we heard the news earlier this week that meat is now being grown in labs, with scientists using stem cells to create strips of beef, the debate has been quite lively here at Hippyshopper HQ: Would you eat test-tube meat?
According to this article on BBC.co.uk, Dutch scientists are now working towards creating a more efficient alternative to rearing animals and have so far successfully grown small pieces of beef muscle in a laboratory. The beef strips are then to be mixed with blood and artificially grown fat to produce a hamburger by the autumn.
The cells initially used to grow the beef strips come from by-products of slaughtered animals, but could potentially be taken from a living animal in the future.
Besides the discussion of would you eat it or not, I suppose there is the question of if vegetarians could, and would, eat this lab-grown meat? According to the Vegetarian Society, a vegetarian does not eat 'any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish or crustacean, or the by-products of slaughter'. So as it currently stands, these synthetic hamburgers would be a no-go for vegetarians.
However, leaving the idea that a meat-free diet is healthier aside, in the future, if no animals have been killed or hurt in the process of making this type of meat, vegetarians could potentially eat this meat if they (as most vegetarians I know) are doing it on grounds of animal welfare. In the end, I suppose it comes down to individual choice. But with the first lab-grown burgers estimated to cost around £200,000 to produce, there is still a long way to go before we would see it in our local supermarket.
But going back to the original question: Would you eat test-tube meat? For the devoted vegetarians in the office the answer was simple: no, they wouldn't. For me, a carnivore with a conscience - I'd never have an animal killed for the sake of ending up on my plate and I do care about animal rights - I would definitely try it. And if it means an end to unnecessary slaughtering of animals and a more fair distribution of food worldwide, the future is looking brighter when seen from the lab lights.