Meat Factory Update

By | April 24, 2008

Last week we wrote about the coming age of in vitro meat. Here’s a major step in that direction, People for the Ethical treatment of Animals (PETA) is offering a $1,000,000 push-prize for the development of vat meat:

PETA Offers $1 Million Reward to First to Make In Vitro Meat

Scientists around the world are researching or seeking the funds to research ways to produce meat in the laboratory—without killing any animals. In vitro meat production would use animal stem cells that would be placed in a medium to grow and reproduce. The result would mimic flesh and could be cooked and eaten. Some promising steps have been made toward this technology, but we’re still several years away from having in vitro meat be available to the general public.

PETA is now stepping in and offering a $1 million reward to the first scientist to produce and bring to market in vitro meat.

Why is PETA supporting this new technology? More than 40 billion chickens, fish, pigs, and cows are killed every year for food in the United States in horrific ways. Chickens are drugged to grow so large they often become crippled, mother pigs are confined to metal cages so small they can’t move, and fish are hacked apart while still conscious—all to feed America’s meat addiction. In vitro meat would spare animals from this suffering. In addition, in vitro meat would dramatically reduce the devastating effects the meat industry has on the environment.

Via InstaPundit, here’s a Popular Mechanics piece with more details on this emerging technology.

Whatever you might think about PETA (and I personally have never thought much), they are to be applauded for taking this step. All their accumulated shock messages, sanctimonious political posturing, and obnoxious, not to mention frequently dangerous, behavior over the years have probably had a net effect of making most people less sympathetic to the cause of animal rights (or at least animal well-being) than they would have been. But this is a positive step — a financial incentive to bring about a new technology that can eliminate animal suffering and end a lot of environmental damage associated with livestock farming.

  • Stephen Gordon

    I find it fascinating that taking this step has caused a “near civil war” in the PETA organization.

    Its not good enough for some of the PETA diehards that “no animal was harmed in the making of this steak.” Eating something that even looks like it came from an animal is just… gross.

    Which, I think, explains some of the clueless commercials that PETA airs. They’re not really effective in converting people to vegetarianism or helping animals. They’re as much about making the PETA people feel good about themselves.

    Anyway, its good that PETA is getting behind something that could actually work and benefit the world. Its worth the civil war.

  • advancednano

    The PETA prize will not motivate anything unless they change the terms. My name has a link to my article about it.

    The prize is only awarded if the chicken replacement meat passes a taste test when deep fried. That part is relatively ok. Except that chicken is one of the cheapest meats and so a better target would be beef (but I guess they think tofu beef is sufficient)

    But then it has to be commercially selling in 10 US States at competitive prices.

    KFC the chain sells $1 million worth of fried chicken in about 5 to 10 minutes. $12.2 billion/year in sales and most of is fried chicken. Even one KFC store averages about $1 million in sales.

    10 states, probably at least 50 stores. 2-5% of sales where it got substituted in for the chicken fingers/strips.

    All by 2012.

    The companies looking at inVitro meat are targeting ground meat first.

    If I was going to make invitro meat I would not be adjusting my plans to target fried chicken first for a 1 million prize. There are bigger and better commercial targets and plans.

    PETA is grabbing headlines for an ill conceived prize. It shows how little they understand business or the food industry that they want to influence.

  • back40

    Well said. It is instrumental, a sly way to get some press with what, on closer analysis, is an empty promise.

    No one who is not already soft on the subject, squicked about life, would fail to be very skeptical of PETA and do the work to see through the hustle. Fashion victims.

    The techno-vegetarian dream will come true, but not soon, and not due to animal squick. At some point it will just be cheaper and then only wealthy foodies will eat anything, plant or animal, that has ever lived.

  • Phil Bowermaster

    Brian –

    Good points. PETA may need to dial down the winning criteria or dial up the prize money. I think starting out with chicken is okay — people are used to some pretty non-chicken-like implementations of fried chicken, anyhow (e.g., McNuggets.)