Friday, November 27, 2009

Time Magazine Names 'Meat Farms' as One the 50 Best Inventions of 2009

So what if cultured meat wasn't invented in 2009? Time Magazine still listed in vitro cultured meat as one the 50 best inventions in its "Best Of" year-end issue. (Read it here.)

Time Magazine has broad definition of 'invention'-- the term also includes ' breakthrough ideas of the year' no matter what year an idea was technically invented. Breakthrough idea--  I can handle that.   It just goes to show what kind of traction the concept of guilt-free meat is getting. (Speaking of traction, I kind of liked the term, 'Meat Farming'-- I will add it to my list of possible names for cultured meat.)

Notably, Time allowed its readers to vote for the best invention.  As of this writing, 'Meat Farms' was ranked #29th-- just above 'Controller-Free Gaming.'  That's right, an invention that could single-handedly combat global warming, reduce epidemic influenzas and end animal suffering is just one notch above a solution to the Wii induced suffering known as [ahem] "Wiinjuries."  (Go ahead and click the link, laugh a Wii bit.  I'm not making this up.)

Do I sound bitter?  I'm not.  America, the brunt of Neil Postman's brutal critique Amusing Ourselves to Death, thinks cultured meat is a 'sexier' idea than Wiimoteless gaming.  That's a Winston Churchill-size victory in my book.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

(Would) a Meat by Any Other Name Taste as Good?

Methinks, no. People might eat cultured meat, but they sure as heck won't eat Frankenmeat!

Romeo's ambivalence to nomenclature proves once and for all that NASA didn't fake the whole Shakespeare thing, because the writer of Romeo and Juliet obviously hasn't been exposed to the 5,000 marketing messages a day that we are forced to endure in this post-modern life.

Not counting Shakespeare, everybody knows that names matter (including  children).
But perhaps no one knows it better than Strategic Name, the brand naming company behind the Baconator. The Baconator is one of the company's proudest accomplishments. You gotta give 'em credit--despite its manifestly horrifying appearance--when the Baconator came out, people definitely noticed. Here's what Strategic Name says about the naming of the Baconator:

"America's freshest fast-food company wanted a provocative name for its signature cheeseburger--one that would appeal to younger males. The Baconator assumes the person of the epic Terminator character, and highlights the burger's essential ingredient, bacon, in a playful way. And just as the Terminator is a huge guy, The Baconator is a huge burger with plenty of beef and cheese in addition to the bacon."

Sheer genius. Wendy's sold 25 million Baconators in the first 8 weeks and it remains one of its top-selling products. If Strategic Name can sell a heart-attack on a plate (51 grams of fat, 60% more than the Bic Mac), surely we can find some way to sell a burger that is healthier, Greener, safer, and more ethical. Of course, there some uncertainty about whether being healthy, safe, ethical and environmentally-conscious is "attractive" to consumers.  But perhaps it is, with  green marketing's recent rise to prominence.

Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself, here. When Stegeman or some other company does decide to put cultured meat on the market, I'm sure they'll hire a fancy marketing company like Strategic Name to come up with a tasty brand name.  Take for example, Quorn, which is made in a somewhat-similar manner as cultured meat. The makers of Quorn didn't call its product "mycoprotein foodstuff made from processed vat grown fungus."  Quorn sounds a wee bit more pleasant, doesn't it?

So cultured meat right now is more of a general concept, a general type of food, than an individual branded product. But general food concepts are susceptible to branding, too. For example, detractors of the U.S.'s predominant method of livestock production label it "factory farming" while the meat lobby/FDA/EPA refer to the method as "intensive farming practices" or "Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations."

Likewise, "organic natural farms" and "grass-fed beef" sounds a lot better than "extensive farming," despite the fact that the latter name is indicative of the amount of land needed to produce its product. (U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization found that 70% of the Amazon had been deforestated to allow "grass-fed cattle" to graze. That's one reason why cultured meat is so necessary.)

So what about the topic of this blog? My first introduction to this food that I'm now referring to as as cultured meat was in a newspaper article that called it "Vat Meat." Talk about "Yuk factor!"

Proponents like Jason Matheny most often use the term 'cultured meat' in popular news sources, while scientists (including Jason Matheny) normally use the more technical, but cumbersome term, "in vitro cultured meat" in their scholarly articles. (Although, Jason Matheny has recently been calling it hydroponic meat-- but he's been using it more as a way to describe how clean the process can be, as opposed to naming it.)

So what's the most popular? A quick Google search reveals that the term "in vitro meat" dominates the competition in internet references:

1,070,000 - "in vitro meat"
34,000 - "cultured meat"
18,000 - "vat meat"
12,000- "lab grown meat"
10,000 - "laboratory meat"
9,000 - "in vitro cultured meat"
6,000- "schmeat"
2,500- "hydroponic meat"

(Note: I left out search terms that may refer to both cultured meat and another product. Notably, artificial meat, which may refer to meat replacements like Quorn, as well as engineered meat and Frankenmeat, which normally refer to genetically modified meat in general.)

I think we can all agree that a tasty name will make consumers more open to the future of meat.  So that naturally leads to the question(s) of the day. I was going to wait a few *days*--when this blog had *millions* of readers--but I just can't wait to ask:

What do you think the best name is?
Can you come up with a better name?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Can You Be Both "Green" and a Meat Eater?

Not unless you're eating cultured meat.

While driving a Hummer will cause you to get dirty looks pretty much anywhere, eating meat is only passé in Portland or San Francisco. But it seems that is starting to change.

 Scientists, professors, informed individuals, the news media are starting to all pay attention to the environmental impact of our food choices on the environment.

Carnegie Melon's Christopher Weber tells how giving up meat and dairy just one day a week would be the equivalent of driving 1,500 fewer miles a year.  Read his full report here, a brief blog on Earth Sky here or listen to his 90 sec Earth Sky interview here:

(But we've still got a lot of work to do, because it takes two vegans to make up for every one Hummer driver.) 

Here are some more recent studies:
A widely touted 2006 United Nations study found that livestock were responsible for 19% of greenhouse gas emissions. The study is highly regarded and, spanning over 300 pages, is extremely comprehensive. At the same time, it is filled with easy to read language, pictures and helpful charts. You may find a table of contents with individual pdfs on relevant sections here, or you may download the complete pdf here.

This month, a study by two World Bank scientists examined the UN's study's result and found that it didn't take into the affect of the deforestation that occurs due to meat production, and the CO2 expiration of the billions of livestock. Taking these and other factors into account, the study concluded that the number was 51%!

This year, the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency found that reducing world intake of meat by about 40% would save $20 trillion on the costs of reducing GHG emissions!

A newly minted study by Hanna Tuomisto at the University of Oxford predicts that cultured meat will eat will likely reduce green house gas emissions by 80%, use 30-60% less energy (depending on the type of meat), 98% less land and between 90-98% less water.

The In Vitro Meat Consortium has a good summary on how how cultured meat can help mitigate much of the catastrophic harm that meat production has on the environment.
Read it here.

For more information on meat's impact on the environment read this interesting article.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Daily Kos covers Cultured Meat

Front page pro- cultured meat post on Daily Kos concerning cultured meat. The Kos post quoted an amazing article in H+ magazine entitled: 8 Ways that In Vitro Meat Will Change Our Lives. This is one of the better article I've read, so please read it, if you haven't yet.

The Kos blog highlighted what could probably be two of the biggest advantages of cultured meat: environmental benefits and health benefits.

I've read a number of online articles and the comments are invariably similar. Most people just found the idea gross. As Jason Matheny has often pointed out, if people knew where their sausage, ground beef, hot dog and chicken nuggets came from, they'd eagerly line up behind cultured meat: “What we’re talking about is hydroponic meat that would be the cleanest meat ever produced,” said Mr. Matheny. “That’s far preferable to how our meat is produced now: 10,000 animals crammed into a metal shed, pumped full of drugs and living in their own waste.”

A commentor named Otto summed up my concerns about most of the comments: "It's pretty funny to read people so quickly dismiss an idea like this. It's pretty much the direction we are going to be forced to go if we insist on continuing with diets that are so meat protein filled."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

(Don't) Leave It to Cleaver

Well, that was the most humorous blog title I could come up with on the spot. This is a blog after all. I think the rules of blogging mandate that one not spend too much time
being clever revising, lest one sound inauthentic.

All of this is to say that writing about cultured meat need not be boring. Case in point: Due to spontaneous and uncontrollable laughter, I almost choked on the delicious "Chickie-nobs" I was eating when I read The Schtory Of Schmeat: Vladimir Mironov's Lab-Grown Chicken. Stephanie Pulford tells the back story of cultured meat in an entertaining fashion. I highly recommend checking it out for content and the cleverness.

What Can Geeks Do to Help Bring About A Culture of Cultured Meat?

If you'd like to help make cultured meat a reality,, is a resource for 'technology designers, companies, and animal rights and welfare activists to promote" cultured meat.

The site discusses the ways that technologies spread and ways that you can help. He relies heavily on the concept of the 'stickiness' of an idea. I haven't read the articles cited, but I have read Made to Stick. Made to Stick discusses ways to help people reminder the ideas that we tell them. If not the best, it's one of the best 'how to improve' books I've ever read. I devoured it in hours. If you haven't read the book, I highly suggest you watch this slide show or read it immediately.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Of Self-Loathing Omnivores and Meat Hungry Vegetarians

There are some people who just don't crave meat and wouldn't eat it-- even if there was a healthier and cruelty-free alternative to the current destructive methods of factory farming--and then there are the rest of us.

Patrick J. Kiger, a reluctant meat eater (and former vegetarian), provides a nice, quick and dirty overview of the history of in vitro cultured meat in his blog.

Welcome to my cultured meat blog

I intend this blog to be a resource page for those who are interested in learning more about in vitro cultured meat.

Rather than this being an actual blog, where I wax poetic about cultured meat, I will normally provide links other articles and blogs which discuss cultured meat.

Of course, as I am in favor of cultured meat production most of the links I provide will be to that effect. On the other hand, for proponents of cultured meat, it is best that we understand the objections of those who oppose cultured meat so that we best address their concerns.

Blog header image by Dan Salamanunder, licensed under Creative Commons by-nc-nd 2.0.