Edible Dictionary: Carnery

Could the future of the factory farm be inside laboratories filled with engineered meat?

Carnery, n.
Pronunciation: /kɑrnərɪ
Etymology: Formed as carne (< Latin carnis flesh) + suffix -ery

1. A factory where in vitro laboratory-grown meats are manufactured

2011 Harriet McLeod Reuters. If wine is produced in winery, beer in a brewery and bread in a bakery, where are you going to grow cultured meat? In a "carnery..."


Since feedlot-fattened meats entered the scene in the 1860s (according to James Whitaker's Feedlot Empire), industrial livestock production has been bringing us cheap steaks, chops, and thighs in exchange for intensive land use, environmental destruction, greenhouse-gas emissions, water footprint, and a slew of health problems. What if all that came to a close—without turning back the clocks to a pastoral past?

Techno-utopian futurists, like Dr. Vladimir Mironov of the Department of Regenerative Medicine and Cell Biology, say the solution is meat grown in sterile laboratories. These factory farms of the future might one day be more efficient than our current system—better at converting energy into flesh without the ecological handicaps of growing grains, managing grassland, or tending to live animals. The hope is that carneries could even pump out custom blends of in vitro meats with a lower social and environmental cost. Meat production might even be off-shored to fleets of carneries circling in orbit above us.

The development of affordable, market-ready beaker bacon, petri pork, and cultured chicken requires massive investments, and without a significant injection of cash, lab-grown meats are a long way from the deli counter. Moreover, many people may find the idea of lab meat off-putting. But with an ever-expanding literature on how disgusting our food has become, carneries and the flesh they produce may seem like the more appealing option before long.

Edible Dictionary is a new series from GOOD's Food hub that investigates obscure food terminology in an attempt to shed light on the lesser-known workings of our food system.


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