Aug 27, 2009

Eating Test Tube Burgers

Chuck MisslerBy Chuck Missler

Food is always big news. From the dangers of a high-McDonald's lifestyle to the potential cancer-fighting benefits of chocolate, people are always interested in food. In those parts of the world where people don't necessarily eat every day, a steady food supply is serious business. At the same time, researchers and scientists have developed some bizarre methods for producing food, and the products may or may not be as great as their advertisers claim.

Test Tube Meat

CNN reports that research group New Harvest has been working on creating "meat" in a laboratory. In an effort to get away from the hassles of animal production, with the space and grain requirements, New Harvest researchers are growing their protein-rich products in steel vats. New Harvest also claims its lab-made meat comes free of the diseases that can be found on normal animal farms.

The process does not require anything exotic like big computers recombining atoms. Nature is still used, after a fashion. The eggs of cows or pigs are collected from a local slaughterhouse. Those eggs are fertilized and the resulting embryos are put in a nutrient solution where they can grow as big and strong as embryos can without a uterus involved. The in-vitro meat can't replace a chicken leg or steak, but it can work as ground meat, sausages or chicken nuggets.

"Cultured meat would have a lot of advantages," said Jason Matheny of New Harvest. "We could precisely control the amount of fat in meat. We could make ground beef with an ideal fatty acid ratio - a hamburger that prevents heart attacks instead of causing them."
Environmentalists and animal rights groups are excited about the prospect of moving the world's meat supplies from the stockyard to the lab. They visualize a world with no more cramped chicken runs packed with birds that are pumped full of hormones and antibiotics. They imagine rainforests safe from bulldozers because new fields are not needed to grow crops to feed cattle.

One environmental scientist was less than impressed with the plan, however, commenting on the CNN article:
"Animal cells do not manufacture protein out of wishes and moonbeams. There will be a feedstock, likely based mostly on soy and corn to balance the protein content just like animal feed today. It will be heavily chemically processed to break it down into a form muscle cells can use. There will be waste from this process which will be chemically similar to the waste produced by animal digestion. The metabolic processes of the tank meat will also produce waste which will be essentially identical to the waste produced by metabolism in an intact animal."
In other words, this isn't a food-from-nothing effort. There will still be feed and waste issues to deal with. We cannot grow in-vitro burgers "in a cup" in space for 700 years while WALL-E stacks our garbage into skyscrapers, fun as that sounds. At the same time, it would seem that, pound for pound, growing embryos would require less feed and would emit less waste than a steer that eats for half a year before it's slaughtered.

Either way, there is something perverse about eating animal embryos, even coated with sweet and sour sauce. It might not be Soylent Green, but it will still take a long time to convince consumers that in-vitro is all good to eat.

Organic Continues to Thrive

Test tube chicken nuggets are not the only option. There are other alternatives to hormone-filled chickens squished in cages. As the economy has slowed down, folks have been returning to their own backyards. People with a few acres are taking advantage of their land to let a bullock or two forage during the summer. Gardens grown with heirloom seeds and old-fashioned manure can be guaranteed free of chemicals and genetically modified vegetables. A few happy chickens wandering around the yard not only eat bugs, and poop out natural fertilizer, but they offer hormone-free eggs and even an occasional healthy supper of chicken and dumplings. Feathers are messy, but we all make trades in life.

Organic farms have flourished in recent decades as people shy away from the hormones and chemicals and genetically modified produce that have overtaken supermarket shelves. Even in the cities, rooftop and vacant lot gardens have cropped up. A good supply of tomatoes or basil can be gathered from potted plants on a balcony, and they taste miles better than the ones from the store.

Future Famine?

In Revelation 6:5-6, the Bible speaks of a time when a simple measure of wheat will cost an entire day's wages. Famines are not new, and there will be some terrible ones in the future. The problem is not lack of resources or overpopulation, however. The majority of famines on earth are man-made. The horrible economic conditions of the future will be caused by mismanagement and corrupt government rather than a lack of land or water, or even of a shortage of embryonic-beef burgers.

The Christian's Famine Today

Too many Christians today suffer from malnourishment; we are living in famine conditions but the famine has nothing to do with food. Our famine is like the one that Amos spoke of:
"The days are coming," declares the Sovereign LORD, "when I will send a famine through the land - not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD." - Amos 8:11
Let's put as much effort into feeding ourselves with the Word of God as we do putting supper (with or without in-vitro burgers) on the table. After all, man does not live by bread alone.

Related Links

In-vitro meat: Would lab-burgers be better for us and the planet? - CNN
Opinion: Is In-Vitro Steak The Meat That Can't Be Beat? - Digital Journal
Organic Farmers Seek Healthier Future - Wall Street Journal
Rooftop garden a Sweet success - Telegram and Gazette
The Sorcerer’s New Apprentice? - Koinonia House