Is Lab-Grown Meat as Ethical as It Sounds?

Everyone would love to eat for free for the rest of their lives, but a new product prototype is meant to test the limits of such a possibility and to raise questions about the ethics of lab-grown meat.

Scientists created the concept of Ouroboros Steak to draw attention to their ethical concerns about lab-grown meat.
Scientists created the concept of Ouroboros Steak to draw attention to their ethical concerns about lab-grown meat.

A group of American scientists and designers have created Ouroboros Steak, named after the ancient symbol of a serpent eating its own tail, as something of a commentary on the burgeoning industry of meat grown from cultured animal cells. Ouroboros Steak is made by taking cells from the inside of a person's mouth and adding a serum derived from expired human blood donations.

The bite-sized results aren't really meant to be eaten, but instead are being displayed at London's Design Museum. The creators are suggesting that Ouroboros Steak is currently the only possible way to make meat that does not rely on animals in any way.

The creators argue that despite claims of sustainability and cruelty-free animal treatment, lab-grown meat still harms animals because it relies on fetal bovine serum. This serum is derived from the blood of calf fetuses, which can only be obtained by killing a pregnant mother.

"As the lab-grown meat industry is developing rapidly, it is important to develop designs that expose some of its underlying constraints in order to see beyond the hype," said Andrew Pelling, a scientist who helped develop Ouroboros. "Although some lab-grown meat companies are claiming to have solved this problem (of using animal byproducts), to our knowledge no independent, peer-reviewed, scientific studies have validated these claims."

Some meaty truths:

  • No significant study has shown any human benefits to eating red meat, but many have connected it to heart disease, high cholesterol, and other illnesses.

  • Eating plant-based food instead of animal products is only beneficial if you choose correctly; white rice, french fries, cookies, and other choices are no more healthy than some meats.

  • The world's annual meat consumption is approximately 75 pounds (34 kg) per capita; more than 70 billion land animals are killed every year for meat.


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