Don Bauder 2 p.m., June 25
The New Yorker posted several Letters to the Ed reacting to their report on test-tube burgers — all interesting (at least, to me).
The first, from a guy in Princeton, New Jersey, was a witty suggestion that to get over the "yuck" factor, the product needed a cute new commercial-style name. We're already eating hot "dogs," "burgers" (misspelled German citizens), Grape Nuts, Spam, Activia, etc.. He suggested Newtein, Newtrient, or Protean.
Then there was a rather ponderous response from a high-ranking academic in Arlington, VA, pondering the reasons for the "yuck" factor about bioengineered meat protein. "...the bioengineering of animals is so much more unsettling to the public than the bioengineering of plants. But, ironically, to the general public eating animals is not more unsettling than eating plants... Our deeply held feelings about natural boundaries compel us to define animals as a higher order of life, in need of protection, while at the same time these principles lead us to choose meat from the slaughterhouse rather than the lab, because we consider it more natural..."
Ingrid E. Newikirk, president of PETA, also reacted: "Specter writes that tissue-culture meat will not be commercially viable until costs fall. But it is government meat subsidies that deflate the price of everything from pork to hambuger. Removing the subsidies would bump up the price of meat from the slaughterhouse substantially. These subsidies encourage meat comsumption, which in turn brings high cholesterol and higher health insurance rates for the entire population..."
Finally, from Ashland, Oregon: ..."making our need for livestock obsolete may render the animals themselves obsolete.... Placing a value on the existence of cows, sheep, pigs, and chickens as both edible and sentient beings gives them species-appropriate lives, albeit with a scheduled death..."
Well, the vanishing of actual animals is a long ways off, per the article. But imagine the possibilities. They're not all "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?" Another vision: With in-vitro hamburger meat (once it's cheap) supplying the protein needs of huge masses worldwide, then naturally, sustainably-raised pasture-fed meats become gourmet delicacies at a price — just as they are now! But instead of government subsidies going to huge ranchers, they might go to small-scale organic ranchers. Yeah, I'd happily eat doctored-up "Newtein" ground beef, to the extent that I eat ground beef now (not much). Maybe even more, given the substitution of good fats for bad fats, and the probable elimination of the E. coli and salmonella contamination from slaughterhouse cows sloshing around in their own manure in the feed-lots. Imagine — rare burgers. Without fear!