Clean Meat – the New Science

Bacon sandwich for breakfast? Not for me because I don’t eat meat.  It was a conspiracy of circumstances that took me to vegetarianism.

I had already stopped eating red meats. I didn’t care for it but I loved the trimmings of mint sauce and horseradish and when I realised I could still have those and not the meat, there was a solution, and I ‘came out’.

Telling someone, for the first time, I was a vegetarian, wasn’t easy. I felt the need to explain how I had done some work as a consultant in an abattoir and seen meat rendered, and really, I was a pescatarian because I still eat fish and etc.

The final push over the edge was a close vegetarian friend who just said, ‘why not?’ and that was it.

Since then I haven’t eaten any red meat. Now, I don’t like the texture. Maybe I have had an odd bacon sandwich and the very occasional piece of chicken. Over these 15 years or so there have been a few, but rare days when I have strayed and without guilt except to those friends who went out of their way to make sure that there was always a vegetarian option for me.

I might have said relapse but that would imply an illness or fighting an addiction. It is not like that. I just have lots of small, but no overriding reasons not to eat meat.

I don’t have a strong ethical basis for my vegetarianism. I don’t proselytise my cause and I am even happy to cook meat for my friends. I am not too concerned about the volumes of CO2 growing to dangerous levels because of farting cows. Nor am I a member of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). I like animals, I like the environment, but I also understand the hierarchy of the food chain.

The thing about meat is that it is a great source of protein which is rather important in our diets. I know there is a wider world protein problem.

Insects have been promoted as a solution. When I was in Malawi, there was a week when the larva of an insect blossoms into what to me is a large, flying pest. They arrived as a horde, attracted by the sulphur of the street lights and the neon in the shops. Malawians would come out and scoop up handfuls and, there is no easy or nice way to say this, eat them al fresco and al dente.

Once I owned a Malawian cookbook which had recipes for all sorts of insects, some roasted or others as a dessert covered in chocolate. One day this may be a solution but, insects have certain yuck overtone.

Now, modern science has another solution and it is a Clean Meat. You may not have yet heard about it so let me explain.

Don’t be confused by Clean Eating. That is very different and let’s get that out of the way. Clean Eating is not another spin on the idea of eating more or less of specific food groups such as carbs or protein but the idea is to avoid processed foods and only eat ‘real’ foods. Simply, clean eating is a diet but there is a tenuous link to Clean Meat.

The most widely read introduction to Clean Meat is a book written by Paul Shapiro and this is the from the book’s website:

Since the dawn of Homo sapiens some quarter million years ago, animals have satiated our species’ desire for meat. But with our growing population and global demand for animal products increasing, raising such huge numbers of animals for food poses serious challenges.

But…what if we could have our meat and eat it too? Enter clean meat.

Just as we need clean energy to compete with fossil fuels, clean meat is poised to become a competitor of factory farms. Clean meat isn’t an alternative to meat; it’s real, actual meat grown (or brewed!) from animal cells, as well as other clean animal products that ditch animal cells altogether and,  are simply built from the molecule up.

Yes, you read that right. Clean Meat is about scientists growing or brewing (chose your own verb) meat in vast vats.

It is real meat in every sense except that the cow, pig, chicken doesn’t die and only shares a cell or two as the kickstart for the process. Simply, the cells are taken from the animal and fed with proteins in the vat. They grow and grow eventually becoming your burger or steak.

Don’t ask me if we call this a processed food. I have no idea. It’s either 100% processed or 100% real. It doesn’t seem to me there is a halfway house.

There are about half a dozen companies in the US spending fortunes looking to be the first to the consumer market and, whoever succeeds will become very rich.

So far, they have managed something more akin to mince than the juicy steak, but that is not far away. The first laboratory-grown chicken nuggets, from American company Just, should be on limited sale later this year.

Rather than obtaining meat from animals raised on environmentally destructive factory farms and slaughtered in filthy slaughterhouses, clean meat is produced by taking a small sample of animal cells and replicating them in a culture outside of the animal. The resulting product is 100 percent real meat, but without the antibiotics, E. coli, salmonella, or waste contamination – all of which come standard in conventional meat production.(

It may not be long until we sit down to breakfast with a bacon sandwich while the progenitor Peppa Pig, watches us from its mud bath on the farm or we have our lunchtime steak sandwich with Daisy mooing outside the window.

We are always saying that children don’t know enough about farming and where their foods come from. Soon it may be that unless they have an advanced science degree that will not change

Enjoy your lunch.