In vitro meat heralds the dawn of a new age (if we gloss over its culturing in antibiotics and something called foetal bovine serum)
Dude, just tweeze those meat fibres out of whatever nutritional soup-filled Petri dishes I imagine they're currently swishing about in, press them together, grill under a medium heat and pop them in a bap for me. Cultured beefburgers, like the one recently grown by Dr Mark Post in his lab and taste-tested at a special event in London earlier this week, you are what I have been waiting for all my life.
And pass the ketchup.
Actually, it's not been my whole life. When I was young, vegetarianism was still a cult activity practised by filthy, bendy-boned hippies or mawkishly sentimental teenage girls who would probably be keen to renege on the whole non-meat-eating deal if only they had the strength to lift a whole steak into a pan.
I'm still not vegetarian, but the older I get, the less defensible this state becomes - and not just because it's an implied term in my Guardian contract that I must abjure not only at least seven-eighths of any joy that comes my way in life but also any meat that isn't certified organic Norfolk roadkill or the cow in Douglas Adams' restaurant at the end of the universe. Eating meat is unhealthy and grossly inefficient (you need up to 100 times more water to produce a pound of beef than you do a pound of wheat. A cow is essentially a giant sponge. Although if it were a sponge, it would be very eco-friendly. This is getting complicated. Let's leave it). It's unsustainable (unless Dr Post also comes up with a way to grow more land, it will be impossible to produce enough meat to satisfy the changing dietary expectations of rapidly developing countries. One of the first things people do when they get enough money in their pockets is abandon the attempt to do new and interesting things with millet and start barbecuing chicken wings instead). And it's also just wrong. I've stretched my conscience this way and that but I can't find a way to justify the suffering of another living being simply to accommodate my preference for beef over beans. Though I have, obviously, found a way to ignore it.*
In vitro meat heralds the dawn of a new age where oodles of the stuff can be grown efficiently and the world fed painlessly (if we gloss over its culturing in antibiotics and - displacing "carpet tiles" as the world's unloveliest phrase - something called foetal bovine serum). All hail man's indomitable problem-solving skills!
Or, possibly, don't. It suddenly occurs to me that it may herald instead an imminent apocalypse. What, after all, did we do when encouraged over decades to moderate our consumption, deny a fraction of our appetites, suffer an infinitesimal amount more so others might suffer infinitely less? We said, "Sod that - let's grow freaky pseudo-flesh instead! Fill me up!"
It may be, in fact, our End of Days. But not, perhaps, for the cows. The way we're going, those ancient, patient beasts - serum providers aside - may yet outlast us all.
* Don't write in. I'm doing my best. I've all but abandoned red meat and the rest is budget-strainingly happy fish and chicken, not eaten at every meal. There are more dedicated, more unrepentant carnivores to spend your diminutive stores of energy on than me. Look - there's someone enjoying a Peperami! Off you go.
Photo Credit: Tasty! A lab-grown meat burger. Photograph: David Parry/PA