With the world’s first lab-grown burger submitted to a public taste test this week, the idea of "real" fake meat hitting the supermarket is not as farfetched as it once seemed. But that doesn’t mean the world’s legions of meat-avoiders are all itching to abandon their veggie patties.
Vegans and vegetarians, who comprise roughly 5% of the U.S. population and much larger percentages in countries like India, have been weighing in on Reddit on whether they would consume test tube meat. Their opinions vary widely, just as many people’s reasons for adopting a meat-free diet in the first place.
To some, stem cell meat would be a wholly welcome addition to their diet. It would address their ethical or religious qualms with killing animals or raising them in cruel conditions, and stands to drastically reduce the environmental impact of meat production.
"… the day they can grow some fried chicken for me in a lab, I will be the happiest man this side of the Mississippi."
"As a veg who chooses not to eat meat due to opposition of factory farming, absolutely. Test tube bacon would be worth losing vegan super powers :)"
"I’ve lived in mostly Buddhist countries for long periods of time. There, the moral issues are largely because of the soul of the animal. I can’t see how that would related to lab-grown muscle tissue. There is no animal and so there is no soul."
However, others say not so fast. Meat is meat, both nutritionally and physically, and they don’t necessarily trust the way it would be produced either:
"I think it depends on how you get the stem cells. One of the many different reasons I’m vegan is because I do not believe that animals should be treated as a commodity. Using "donor animals" wouldn’t really work around that issue."
"I’m pretty sure I’m the world’s largest (euphemism for fattest) vegan… and I manage to eat enough crappy food as it is, so I probably would avoid lab grown meat."
"My parents went vegan/no oil after my dad had a heart attack, and he halved his cholesterol levels so quickly that they took him off the meds. Pretty sure they wouldn’t be down for this."
"I reject meat in my diet because I don’t trust the way animals were raised and killed, not because I feel bad about animals. I just don’t want to ingest all the antibiotics and hormones they are exposed to. This lab meat I will not eat only because I don’t trust any of these corporate meat labs."
"…lab grown meat only promotes meat consumption. Furthermore, it makes 'real’ meat a premium product, which could lead to increased demand for one; and could further glorify 'real’ meat as aspirational. Not all moral vegans will be ok with it."
Practically, though, most vegetarians on the forum (including myself) believe that lab-grown meat would be a huge leap forward, but might feel queasy about eating it themselves, especially if they’ve spent their lives avoiding it.
From a 20-year vegetarian: "I hope that lab meat someday catches on and can help end animal suffering. However, I would probably gag."
The varying responses show that even if lab meat can be made to taste good at a competitive price, it isn’t an obvious home-run for everyone. And in any case, for such a product to dramatically reduce how many animals we raise for food, the real question is whether today’s and tomorrow’s meat eaters would switch. And that will have a lot to do with taste. So far, apparently, the burger doesn’t taste bad—but it still leaves a lot to be desired.