Thursday 16 March 2017

Clean Meat

I read this thread on Hacker News and felt compelled to write.

I used to be Vegan. I didn’t last long, maybe 8 months or so.

It’s not easy. <sarcasm> Ensuring that the first thing everyone knows about you is that Veganism is your most defining feature, is exhausting. </sarcasm>. Seriously though, it is not easy. “Not consuming animal products” as a way of describing Veganism is like describing driving as “turn the engine on, push the pedal, don’t hit anything”. There is a lot more to it than that. Managing your amino profiles, your B12, getting a range of healthy fats and protein in practice is a lot harder than “not consuming animal products”. It’s a daily battle; success is possible, but not likely.

In the end, I caved in. I remember it distinctly. I’d just finished at the gym and was walking back to the office. I had the taste of a soy protein shake and dextrose in my mouth; it tasted gross. I’m pretty sensitive to gross mouth tastes and smells. All week a voice inside of my head had been getting louder and louder. Monday it was quiet “meat, meat”, Wednesday it started getting serious, “MEAT, MEAT, MEAT” and by Friday it was deafening: “MEAT, MEAT, MEAT, MEAT”.

Enough, I told myself and into the deli I went. “Three slices of black pudding and five slices of beef please” passed out of my mouth with ease. In my head I was asking for “ a cup of and blood and a few shavings of boiled flesh please” but no one wants to hear that, and I did not want to come across as some form of hungry murderer. Except I was. If you consume animal products, then on some level you are aiding the murder of a creature. I’m not judging you here by the way, I’m making a philosophical point. We can extend this idea to consider if eating plants is murder. Or is it only murder when the subject have eyes and lives on land? At this point rational discussion of Veganism vs Carnivorism becomes hard and requires two sides of very skilled debaters to handle rationally. Rarely are social media users or recent dietary converts of either side equipped to handle such rational discussion. Whenever I see this argument for or against whatever dietary approach, I walk away and I stop listening.

There is also the environmental factors to bear in mind. They’re important but generally speaking, both sides tend to descend into throwing “articles” and “studies” at each other and again, I walk away and I stop listening.

That black pudding and beef tasted great by the way. Best ever, yes Sir: umm MMMM. However, like the soy shake that I was tasting before I jumped back onto “The Good Ship Flesh Muncher” I’ve been left with a lingering taste in my mind, soul, heart, whatever; and that is - no matter how you put it, the large scale commercial meat production and treatment of animals is flat out barbaric. When I eat meat or fish these days I don’t feel compelled to rush to post a gram with some form of trite regret, but the thought is there. I know I could make a different choice and if enough people made a similar choice we could end the industry tomorrow. However much that seems possible though, it’s never going to happen. This is not a Hollywood movie and there is no ending. This is reality, the mathematically predictable cycle of sale and consumption of will continue until humans are gone.

And this my dear reader is where I get to the point. Technology, once again, is set to step in and give us a helping hand to “disrupt” 1 an industry. This time, it is the meat industry2 and it will do in such a way as to re-paint its barbaric approach into a picture that Vegans, Carnivores and all those in between the two ends of the spectrum can unite and agree upon, and happily enjoy a tasty burger reminiscing about the old times they battled on Facebook.

Lab grown meat, or “clean meat” is getting traction and the price for producing it is coming down. The $330,000 burger now costs $2250 dollars and as that technology evolves the owners estimate by 2021 that cost should be down to an affordable $2.40 per burger. I based this figure from the linked video and multiplied the 2¢ by the size of the burgers I make - 120g.

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Other companies are in on the action too. The article that gave me the push to write this was based on a company that has chicken in production. There is also Impossible Foods who have a product that some say is a 1:1 for meat and it has no meat in it.

That lingering taste in my mind, soul, heart, whatever; will at some point be washed away. If I can eat clean meat, at a price that can match my expectation, I’d do it in a heart beat. In one fell swoop instead of being part of a problem, I’d be part of the solution.

Of course when one door closes another one opens. The next problem we’re going to face is a legal one and entirely one of our own making. There is no intellectual property infringement when you take a calf or chicken, grow it, kill it and eat it. Clean meat however; you will pay for this. The production methods used will be locked up in patents well into the 2030’s. If copyright law is anything to go by, I think we’ll see these patents extended forever and ever.

All is not lost however. We already have open source beer. All we need for an truly epic future is open source clean meat. I do not drink booze anymore, but if we can make that future happen, I’d break my teetotal life to raise a glass to a humanity that finally figured out how to “Earth” properly – Free beer and Free murder free meat.


  1. I hate that term, I really do, but in some cases it applies, and this is one 

  2. I am eager to remove small scale farming from this statement. Small scale farms can work in a sustainable way, if the scale is right.