It's entirely possible to be a vegetarian in Porkopolis. Pop culture reporter Lauren Bishop blogs about products, recipes and restaurants she's tried for others who eat meat-free. E-mail her at email@example.com.
Nicci King is an unabashed foodie and the Lifestyle/Food editor in The Enquirer's features department. She loves to discover new food faves, and she's on a daily quest to answer one burning question: What's for dinner? E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Food/dining writer Polly Campbell loves every quirk and secret of Cincinnati's food personality, and is on a constant lookout for something good to eat. Keep an eye out for her restaurant picks, or see how she's progressing toward becoming famous for her apple pie. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Communities reporter Rachel Richardson is on a mission to prove vegetarians eat more than lettuce. She shares both her graduate work on American food culture and food-related news.. E-mail her at email@example.com.
Would Mikey eat it?
We grow fruits, grains and vegetables. Can we "grow" meat, too? Research has already begun in producing in vitro meat, that is, meat grown in a lab and not harvested or hatched from an animal. Now Peta is offering $1 million to any scientist who can create lab-grown meat that is commercially viable and tastes like the real deal.
An impossible task? Maybe not. But will people eat it?
Here's how it works? Researchers take stem cells from animals and place them in some kind of growth medium - some kind of fluid that supplies nutrients blood would normally supply. Sheets of cells are then administered electric shocks or stretched mechanically. Wait. Harvest. Eat. Sounds straight out of a sci-fi movie, right?
Proponents of "cultured meat," as it's called, say it's not only safer for personal consumption, it's better for the environment, too. Meat grown in a petri dish would be safe from diseases like Avian Flu and Mad Cow Disease and free from growth hormones or antibiotics used in many factory farms. Researchers can also adjust the fat content of lab-grown meat and even substitute artery-clogging beef fat with heart-friendly salmon fat. Lab-grown meat would also reduce emissions and pollution associated from cattle productions. And vegetarians/vegans laud it because it eliminates animal suffering and death.
Research on cultured meat has taken on greater proportions in light of the current fuel crisis. Last year 16 percent of the grain grown in the United States went to produce ethanol, but 70 percent of U.S. grain production was fed to livestock. Cultured meat would allow us to divert grain usage from cattle to alternative fuel development - without resulting in a rising of food prices or food insecurities around the world. This is especially significant considering that as use more and more of our own grain to produce ethanol, we then have to import more grain, grown in poorer nations, to feed our livestock. Eventually, poor nations will be unable to compete and will become less and less likely to be able to feed themselves - a phenomenon we're already seeing today in Mexico, Pakistan and West African countries.
Cultured meat is a novel idea, and one many find, well, yucky. But with global meat production expected to double between 2001 and 2050, the need for bio-fuels and world food security should ultimately triumph over our gag reflexes.
What do you think? Would you eat cultured meat? Should we eat meat grown in a lab?