Test-tube Meat!

The very first laboratory-grown burger was taste-tested recently in London. This is an amazing scientific advancement, that’s just a little bit icky! Here’s a Washington Post article about the taste test. There’s lots of discussion now about whether lab-grown meat could help solve world hunger, given the huge land + feed+ water + other stuff expense of raising beef in the field.

People are saying that the “hunger problem” in the world is not fundamentally a scarcity problem, it’s a poverty problem. There’s enough food, it’s just people are too poor to access it. This point embodies a lot of Amartya Sen‘s ideas on the entitlement approach (failure of exchange entitlements).

As we will learn in class when we talk about food demand: when people’s incomes increase, the types and quality of food they want to eat changes. We will also learn about whether and how the quantity of food demanded changes as income changes…do you think people want to eat more calories as their incomes go up? What shape might that graph look have, with income on the x-axis and calories “demanded” on the y-axis?

So, what do you think? Do you think test-tube burgers could eventually supplement real meat in the diet? Do you think test-tube burgers could help solve world hunger? What about the nutritional considerations? There are many micronutrient deficiencies which could be fixed by including some animal products in the diet… (vitamin A, iron, iodine….)!

One thought on “Test-tube Meat!

  1. The concept of test tube meat could have far reaching implications. The protein content of the burger was likely similar to that of a traditional beef burger which could be used to alleviate protein energy malnutrition in many areas of the world. The article and video did not state if the test tube meat had comparable levels of other nutrients, such as iron, so the meat may not satisfy multiple nutrient needs of people suffering from hunger. The cost of production of test tube meat would be a major factor in both the supply and demand of this meat in developing countries, however. In developed countries, there may be a market for test tube meat with vegetarian and vegans because this meat does not harm animals (with the exception of harnessing the initial stem cells) or the environment. Another population that might be interested in the test tube meat could be those diagnosed with heart disease because the article seemed to report that the meat was much lower in saturated fat and cholesterol than traditional beef. In countries where other options are available and affordable, the “yuck factor” would be a major limitation of demand for test tube meat.

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