Over the past year, we’ve been inundated with stories proclaiming the imminent arrival of “clean” or “cultured” meat. “Lab-grown meat is in your future,” asserts the Washington Post, while Business Insider announces that affordable cultured meat is projected to hit the shelves by next year. Whether this news generates feelings of relief or revulsion, there seems to be near-unanimous agreement that this development is significant. Like many other Silicon Valley wonders, a comforting, techno-utopian aura pervades the whole idea. The homepage of one such cultured meat venture, the Good Food Institute invites us to “imagine a food system where the most affordable and delicious products are also good for our bodies and the planet.” In other words, we are encouraged choose “clean meat”—midwifed by scientists in white coats—rather than “dirty meat” with all its attendant blood, pain, and negative environmental effects.
But is the difference between conventional and cultured meat a difference that makes a difference? The folks at the Good Food Institute would say yes, claiming there is no difference in taste and nutrition, but every difference in the ethical and environmental consequences of meat consumption. Who wouldn’t want to eat a cruelty-free, environmentally sustainable, and (allegedly) delicious alternative to farmed animal protein? Who—other than the millions of people working in the animal food processing industry and a handful of recalcitrant foodies—could possibly object to such an effortless solution to all the ethical and environmental problems posed by conventional farming? Continue reading
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