When it comes to new technological developments, some of the strangest ones involve food. For example, the Daily Telegraph recently reported that scientists at Maastricht University in the Netherlands are working to produce a real hamburger that doesn’t require slaughtering any animals: The Dutch scientists say the “vitro meat,” made from beef mince grown from 10,000 stem cells extracted from cattle, could make it possible for people to continue eating meat even as livestock production becomes unable to feed the world’s quickly growing human population.
The Telegraph adds that laboratory-grown chicken and lamb won’t be far behind, and that fish fillets already have been grown in a New York lab using cells taken from goldfish muscle tissue. (A 2009 attempt to “grow” pork in the lab was less successful; the gray, calamari-like substance, scientists said, “was not particularly appetizing”).
We all have heard about food developments that achieved market-driven goals while robbing our foods of flavor and nutrition (think the Delicious apple). Food writer Barry Estabrook digs into the tragedy of the tomato in his new book, Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit. Estabrook explores how efforts to make the red fruits tough enough to ship also ensure they’re pretty much tasteless. Further, mass tomato production, particularly in Florida, involve massive amounts of chemicals and sometimes results in exploitation of low-ranking farm workers. (Note to file: Buy tomatoes at this Saturday’s Downtown Farmers Market or other markets in the area.)
Vitro meat, on the other hand, might be an example of good freak food. Those Dutch scientists will soon seek taste-testers for their results. Want ketchup with that test-tube burger?