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Would you eat dog meat grown in a lab?

Would you eat dog meat grown i...
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Growing meat in labs might be one solution to the ethical and environmental issues of farming animals for food, but although plenty of research is focused on the practical details of how to pull that off, public attitudes to eating cultured meat have been largely overlooked. A new study has tried to shed some light on key questions, like whether the average person would eat cow-less beef, how vegetarians and vegans feel about it, and even if people would eat lab-grown horse, dog or cat meat.

To many people, meat is an important (and tasty) part of their life, but there's significant evidence that the planet would be better off if we just gave it up. That would solve any ethical dilemmas about killing animals and take a load off the environment, which is currently bombarded by millions of tons of greenhouse gases belched out by farm animals every year.

But a good steak is a hard habit to kick, and rather than change the attitudes of billions of people worldwide, taking the animal out of the meat might be a better option. In the last few years, companies like Impossible Burger and Memphis Meats have taken cells humanely from animals, cultivated them in the lab and grown meat products without the environmental footprint or ever killing the source animal.

But would the general public actually eat the stuff? To find out, researchers from the University of Queensland surveyed 673 people in the US with a range of dietary preferences, political leanings, ages and genders, asking them how willing they would be to try lab-grown or in vitro meat (IVM), what factors influence their decision, how they felt it compared to traditionally farmed meat, and what types of cultivated meat they'd be most comfortable dining on.

Overall, the majority of respondents said they would be willing to at least try IVM, with about a third of the group answering "definitely yes" and another third "probably yes." Respondents were less certain when asked whether they would be willing to eat it regularly or as a replacement for farmed meat, with about one third of them answering probably or definitely yes to those questions.

The researchers identified nine different potential barriers in the way of people choosing lab-grown meat, and of those, IVM's taste and appeal stood out as the main concern. Almost 80 percent of people quizzed said that taste was their primary barrier, but that could be a good thing: if scientists can nail the authentic taste, it might just sway more people in favor of IVM.

In general, men appeared to be slightly more receptive to the idea of IVM than women, and liberal-leaning respondents more so than those with conservative beliefs. But the current diets of people, and their views on IVM, posed an interesting paradox: vegetarian or vegan people thought IVM was beneficial but were less likely to eat it themselves, while meat eaters had less positive views of it, but would be more willing to tuck into it anyway.

But here's the kicker: if the ethical issue of killing certain animals is removed, would people be more willing to eat traditionally non-food animals, like cats and dogs? Western culture has drawn some pretty clear lines about which animals are considered ok to eat and which ones aren't, but these don't always line up with the rest of the world. Horse meat, for example, is eaten in some Asian and European cultures, but it sparked a huge outrage when it accidentally started turning up in beef products in Britain in 2013.

The researchers found that people were more likely to eat horse, dog and cat meat if it was created in a lab. Granted, these numbers are very small – about five percent of respondents would eat lab-grown horse, and three percent would eat dog or cat – but it does raise an interesting question. The team says that the stigmatization might be related to our unwillingness to kill those animals – after all, dogs and cats are a part of the family, but much of Western society sees cows as big, dumb animals void of personality.

The team concludes that people have a complex relationship with in vitro meats, and many of the concerns are the same types of moral issues people hold against genetically-modified foods in general. Some of the other main hurdles, like taste and price – the first lab-grown burger cost about US$330,000 – are issues that could be overcome as these products become more market-ready.

The study was published in the journal PLOS.

10 comments
Ralf Biernacki
. . .have taken cells humanely from animals, cultivated them. . . IIRC, lab grown meat uses bovine fetal serum as the growth medium. Somehow I doubt that serum is humanely harvested as well. I will eagerly embrace lab-grown meat when a) a working synthetic, vegetable, or dairy-based growth medium is developed, and b) the price comes down from orbit---which conditions are probably correlated. As for horse or dog meat, I have no qualms---but then I am an adventurous eater, and have already tried both, not lab-grown. Still, it would be better to finally have a work around for the abattoir.
Bob Stuart
I grew up on a beef farm and live among ranchers, and I don't miss meat at all. It was the easiest "give up" in my life by far. I'd only eat lab-grown "meat" if it was as healthy as unmodified food, and used less land to produce. I'd rather have my algae as something else, though, not being nostalgic for the Stone-Age "health food."
MichaelKelsch
The article cites "Impossible Burger" as harvesting "cells humanely from animals". The linked article and Impossible's own site, though, show their "meat" generated from plant-based heme, not animal cells. This is something I'm more likely to eat.
Bob Flint
Nope, would give up meat just I have alcohol...
VincentBrennan
I would try and probably consume any and all "meat" IF (big IF) it was safer than real meat.
My problem is that in the past agribusiness and chemicals in our diet are NOT healthier or safer than naturally grown products.
Going all the way back to the early 1960s when my step mother used saccharin only to find after years of use it was probably not safe. This has happened over and over again. These days many people backed by studies are making moves like going from margarine to butter (I felt butter was safer all along) while marketing is still telling us that the fake stuff is better.
Those of us old enough even remember big tobacco testifying that it was actually not that bad for us and even some advertising that it had many benefits
I just do not trust any food that is industrial although it is very hard to live on a budget without it. Until proven safe I want the real I would want the real thing. Proven safe, I would try any of it and consume any I liked.
ljaques
Yum, 100% GMO meat? What could be safer? I'd eat real dog meat, but not something cooked up in a lab. I've eaten venison, beef, pork, chicken, turkey, pheasant, cornish game hen, kangaroo, horse, and rattlesnake, but I prefer sticking to the homegrown.
chase
IVM is a fertilization process. In Vetro Maturation is what it stands for. Though in layman's terms i suppose you could call a IVM baby grown in a lab maturing meat.
I've never tried dog or cat let alone baby... excuse me "meat" of those flavors matured in a lab or otherwise. Not so sure i want to at this point in life either. But that's me...
LanceTurner
Being vegan, I have no interest in any animal product no matter how it's derived. There's really no need to eat meat, people do it because it's easy and they are usedt o it, but once you stop eating meat, the thought of doing it again becomes quite repulsive after a while.
another issue with lab grown meat is, how do you know what you are buying is actually lab grown meat? There have been many food scandals over the years, with foods supposedly from one source being from somewhere else, and being less safe and ethical. There is no way you can 100% protect against food substitution because of the potential corruption through bribery etc of the humans in the supply chain.
ViktorLacca
What kind of a dog? fryers or roasters?
MichaelShortland
Here is a thought, if you can grow lab meat, then what is to stop you from putting human meat on the menu?