By Staff Writer Sawyer Pollitt.
In 2018 the vegan movement is stronger than ever, and the market is reflecting these societal changes in ethics and dietary needs. San Francisco based company ‘Just’ is taking the lead on what could become commercially viable lab-grown meat.
In the past, ‘Just’ has produced and sold a number of vegan food substitutes including ranch dressing, chipotle mayonnaise, and egg replacer. However now the company is branching out to new territory. Grown from the cells of a plucked feather, lab-grown chicken nuggets are the result of years of research on the best methods in which to grow meat in a laboratory setting. The nugget was grown in two weeks and was noted to taste just like chicken albeit with a softer texture.
This advancement, although not yet on a level where it can be reproduced on an industrial scale, is still a step in the right direction for those who are against the consumption of meat for ethical or environmental reasons. Those who abstain from meat for health-based concerns will still be out of luck as this product is not a substitute but an ethical replica.
Lab-grown meat greatly reduces the current environmental impact of the factory farming industry. By producing meat in a lab, millions of acres of land can be relieved of their current use as fields and factories used for the raising and slaughter of cows, pigs, and chickens in the United States.
As a current vegetarian and former vegan, this advancement raises interesting questions for someone like myself who is a part of the vegetarian/vegan community. Although these nuggets were created in a lab, without the need to slaughter a live animal, the fact remains that an animal was still used for the production of this meat. Many in the vegan community will have issue with this because it is impossible for the chicken whose feather was harvested to consent to the use of its body to create this meat.
This argument of consent is important to the vegan ethical philosophy because they believe that all animals, regardless of perceived sentience, have the same rights to bodily autonomy as humans. Due to this, and due to the inability we as humans have to communicate meaningfully with animals, there is no way to use a product an animal produces in an ethical way.
Although this argument is integral to the idea of veganism, if one looks at this from a utilitarian perspective the unmoving philosophy of the vegan begins to be muddied. Doesn’t the suffering of millions of chickens being slaughtered to produce nuggets using the standard methods outweigh the suffering of one chicken losing its feather?
This vegetarian says yes. One of each animal would need to be harmed, but this harm could potentially save the lives of every other animal that would have formerly been used for consumption. Although eating lab-grown meat would undo years of carnivorous abstinence, it is a step I, and most likely many other vegetarians would take. The willingness of people to try these lab-grown foods is important to show that there is in fact a demand for this kind of food.
This kind of product needs a strong support system to make it viable in the face of a strong industrial meat industry. Hopefully, in the next several years lab-grown meat becomes more commonplace and is able to be produced on a scale that is capable of feeding a state or even the entire country.
In the meantime, us vegans and vegetarians will have to settle for the veggie burgers at Birch and the impossibly long wait times that go along with them.