Saturday 21 Jul 2018 | 10:06 | SYDNEY
Saturday 21 Jul 2018 | 10:06 | SYDNEY

Meat from the lab


Sam Roggeveen


23 April 2008 15:51

As Stephen Grenville pointed out on Monday, one of the reasons for the current global food shortage is growing prosperity. As people get richer they tend to eat more meat, and it takes eight kilograms of grain (or is that seven, or maybe 16?) to produce a kilo of beef. Whatever the exact figure, it is clearly always going to cost a lot more (in terms of nutrition) to raise an animal for slaughter than you will ever get back in meat. Unless, perhaps, you grow the meat in a lab.

Animal rights group PETA has just announced a US$1 million prize for anyone who can grow chicken meat in a lab and bring it to the market, without killing any animals. The use of cash prizes seems to be an increasinly popular way to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship, and for a lobby group like PETA, it is a refreshing alternative to the usual fixation on government intervention.

PETA's goal is to reduce the animal cruelty that is a largely hidden but routine part of industrialised meat production. But if lab-grown meat works, it could also take the pressure off food production. Mind you, growing meat in a lab might turn out to be highly resource intensive, so PETA's moral considerations could eventually bump up against environmental ones.

Photo by Flickr user ewanr, used under a Creative Commons licence.