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Here's an article about the current status of the lab-grown meat industry (such as it is):

...don't hold your breath while waiting for your first lab-grown roast. Despite considerable hubbub over the technology in recent months, we're still years--or, more likely, decades--away from affordable lab-grown meat. The current experiments are taking place in bioreactors that measure only a few hundred milliliters in volume, and the longest complete muscle tissues are just 2 centimeters long. Researchers are nowhere close to scaling up their production to market-ready levels, to say nothing of market-ready prices. A Dutch team's lab-grown pork, for example, would cost around $45,000 per pound--assuming they could make an entire pound of the stuff. Bioreactors may be energy-efficient when compared with cattle, but they're also expensive to design, build, and maintain. They also require highly skilled personnel to manage, in order to preserve aseptic conditions.

Furthermore, manufactured meat promises to replicate only the taste and texture of processed meat; as far as we are from enjoying lab-grown hamburger, we're even further from perfecting man-made rib-eyes. So even if meat labs did become viable commercial enterprises, the naturally raised meat industry would hardly vanish.

I think that this is a little too pessimistic. Considering where we've gone with realistic computer graphics based on fractals, I wouldn't count out the possibility of a nicely marbled filet being produced in the lab. But this is what I found interesting, in a linked article at the New York Times, bewailing how much meat we eat:

Americans are downing close to 200 pounds of meat, poultry and fish per capita per year (dairy and eggs are separate, and hardly insignificant), an increase of 50 pounds per person from 50 years ago. We each consume something like 110 grams of protein a day, about twice the federal government's recommended allowance; of that, about 75 grams come from animal protein. (The recommended level is itself considered by many dietary experts to be higher than it needs to be.) It's likely that most of us would do just fine on around 30 grams of protein a day, virtually all of it from plant sources.

What's the point of the first sentence? Were the 1950s the epitome of American health? Yes, people were eating less meat, and a lot more processed high-glycemic carbs (noodle casseroles, mashed potatoes, lots of sugary dishes--Lileks can tell you all about it). It's my parents diet (and it was mine as a child). They were both overweight, and both died of heart attacks fairly young (my father was eight years younger than me when he had his first, and if I live two more years I'll outlive him). I'm in relatively good coronary health, with no known problems. It's the diet of our grandparents that we should be emulating, not our parents (speaking to the boomers here).

And since when did the federal government become a nutrition expert? They food pyramid is a bad joke, in terms of health, with far too little protein, and too many carbs. The author of the article blithely states protein requirements as though they are established, objective fact.

It could be that some people are eating too much meat, but I'll bet that a lot more are eating too much sugar, white rice and refined flour. The interesting thing is that it's not meat and fat per se that seems to increase cholesterol levels (assuming that high cholesterol is really a problem, and not just a symptom), but the combination of it with an overabundance of carbs. That's what Atkins is all about (though I think he took it too far).

Anyway, I find it annoying to see this stuff promulgated as though it's indisputable, when in fact it is in constant dispute, and I think that those disputing it have the better of the argument. But if we do need more meat, I hope that we can in fact get the factories going, for both cost and ethical reasons.


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Bill White wrote:

My wife and I were at a local Italian restaurant the other day. Excellent food!

Anyway there was a large photo of the Rat Pack on the wall. For me, the most striking thing was how slender they all were. Today, few entertainers are even remotely that skinny.

Sean Connery, in the early James Bond movies was strikingly slender as well.

After commenting on all of that, I ordered tiramisu for dessert. ;-)

Bill White wrote:

PS -- Those guys are all pre-Boomers, of course.

I pretty much agree with Rand about carbohydrates and about Atkins being a good thought, maybe pushed too far.

Rand Simberg wrote:

...there was a large photo of the Rat Pack on the wall. For me, the most striking thing was how slender they all were. Today, few entertainers are even remotely that skinny.

Well, the fashion models are. Anyway, if people are overweight today, it's not because they're eating too much meat.

Chuck Divine wrote:

There is a series currently appearing in the Washington Post on childhood obesity. I have a hard time taking it completely seriously since early in the series there was a call for Federal action. Hmm. People were more fit back in the 1950s and 1960s without Federal action than they are now. Wouldn't it be more prudent to investigate what changes have occurred in American society in the past 100 years than simply calling for Federal action?

Jeff Mauldin wrote:

$45,000 per pound! I sense the opportunity for a super exclusive restaurant. We can sell guilt-free meat to rich vegetarian celebrities who want a big juicy burger!

Jeff Mauldin wrote:

"For me, the most striking thing was how slender they all were."

I haven't done any research here, but I bet they all smoked. I'm not overweight, but my brother who smokes is a stick.

"Today, few entertainers are even remotely that skinny." I think far to many female entertainers are unhealthily skinny. I guess the male heartthrobs nowadays tend to run muscular rather than slender.

Brock wrote:

Long before we can grow bepoke filet mignon we'll be able to ethically grow all the proteins necessary for human health. That will be no small blessing, even if it comes in a tube. I don't think there's enough grazing land in the world to feed all of Asia and Africa at Western levels, so a "third door" out of the box of global malnutrition will be available to us.

Relevant to this blog, a few extra pounds of uranium should be able to keep a bioreactor running for many years, allowing sustainable and much cheaper long-term exploration and colonization of space. That's what makes you a colony, not a mission: you grow your own food.

B.Brewer wrote:

30 grams of protein for your daily diet?

This guy obviously is not an athlete or lifted a weight in his life, you need 1 gram of protein per lb. of body weight if you do any serious physical activity, of course 30 grams of protein would be fine for a weak, sedate, vegetarian.

Carl Pham wrote:

Oh think about it. Who are the Democrats' (i.e. New York Times') constituents: the gun-totin' Bible-readin' bastiche ranchers who take potshots at endangered species who are snacking on calf? Or the Iowan corn and Wisconsin dairy farmers, both hmmm heavily subsidized by the government?

Besides, I kinda doubt that the exact formulation of your diet matters very much, within broad limits. We're engineered to be omnivores, pretty much. Flex-fuel vehicles. Not likely you're going to put yourself into the grave 15 years earlier because you ate 200g of protein versus 60g, or beef instead of chicken.

Obesity very likely does matter, but I would guess for the simple reason that Nature designs us to live longer in times of lean and shorter in times of plenty, for obvious evolutionary reasons. Getting fat just tells the genes (our real lords and masters) that the best current use of the plentiful resources is to breed like crazy and have the old folks die off faster to make room for offspring. So we have built in self-destruct mechanisms that turn on when we get too many calories, of any kind. (Getting thin tells the genes to conserve resources by extending life and shutting down procreation.)

So whatever diet lets you lower the calorie intake and keep slim without frustration and misery is the one you want.

Steve wrote:

as a obese person I'm appalled at your attitude.

If, as you say, my obesity is simply genetics based or natural selection based on availability of resources my law suit looks like so much BS. Your unfeeling attitude is as dangerous as those of the fast food moguls who have caused my plight.

Shame on you.

I need a milkshake.

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This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on May 21, 2008 6:23 AM.

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