April 12, 2024

Could in-vitro meat save the world?

The most expensive burger ever produced.

At 250,000 euros, this burger is far and away the most expensive every produced. It’s a burger with a difference – the meat patty has been grown in a petri dish with a nutrient medium. It was produced from muscle stem cells in a laboratory in Mastrich University. Professor Mark Post grew the burger with funding from Google Co-founder Sergey Brin.

Peter Singer has labeled the achievement “a milestone” on the road to “reducing both human and animal suffering, and leaving a habitable planet to future generations.” Whilst the current cost of the meat is prohibitive, there is no reason why in the future it couldn’t be a similar price to meat from farm animals.

Not only will the meat do away with animal suffering, it will also reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of flatulent livestock. As the United Nations Food and Agriculture organisation has noted, greenhouse gas emissions from livestock exceed those from all forms of transport – cars, trucks, planes and ships – combined.

Some are cautious about the laboratory meat, arguing that it doesn’t classify as ‘natural’ food. 

Xavier Symons

The burgeoning enthusiasm for genetic explanations of everything has emerged in economics. In one of the year's best-sellers, A Farewell to Alms, economic historian Gregory Clark argues that it is not changes in institutions but changes in people which determine the course of history. “The triumph of capitalism in the modern world thus may lie as much in our genes as in ideology or rationality,” he says.

One of the key questions in economic history is why the Industrial Revolution took place in England. Clark bases his answers on his research into the reproductive success of wealthy Englishmen. After 1250, rich commoners had more surviving children than the rest, and their children, too, had higher-than-average reproductive success. This meant that the distinctive values which had made them prosperous percolated throughout society, eventually leading to Britain's economic take-off in the late 18th century.

What was being inherited was not necessarily intelligence, but a whole spectrum of desirable character traits which turned England into a hugely successful economy, such as non-violence, literacy, long working hours and a willingness to save.

Creative commons
animal welfare
food ethics