Do Test Tube (In Vitro) Meats Really Exist?

In vitro meat might seem attractive from an environmental perspective, but it's damn expensive to develop.


In 2008, PETA offered a $1 million prize for the first commercially available lab-grown meats. Others have dreamed the techno-cornucopian dream of petri pork or beaker bacon, all produced without the guilt of confined animals or the massive environmental footprint.

In their latest issue, Nature has an update on where researchers stand in the bid to build in vitro meats and it's not entirely promising. For one thing, test tube chicken would cost about twice as much as its real-life commercially farmed alternative. One researcher estimates that he would need another quarter of a million dollars to make something as simple as a palatable pork sausage. And, so far, only one person has ever even tried the fake meat and he said it was chewy and tasteless.

What do you think? Are five-story bioreactors churning out fake meat a prospect worth exploring if they're more efficient than raising animals? Or is there no future in meat—farmed or manufactured—whatsoever?

Illustration: Nik Spencer via Nature.