Heroes

From a basic burger to endangered species, this virtual restaurant wants you to have it all.

Would you eat meat that was grown in a laboratory? If these folks get their way, you just might get that chance.

A Dutch artist wants you to imagine a world beyond factory farms, slaughterhouses, and the culinary experience of meat as you know it.

In 2013, Dutch scientist Mark Post reached a huge milestone in his work to transform the way meat is produced. He created the world's first lab-grown, in vitro hamburger patty. After hearing about this potentially delicious breakthrough, fellow countryman and professional culture jammer Koert van Mensvoort was intrigued.


Not an in vitro burger. Photo by pointnshoot/Flickr.

But after hearing about Post's burger, Mensvoort, an artist at heart, was a little dissatisfied. According to NPR:

"When van Mensvoort first heard of lab-cultured meat, he says the scientists who 'thought they could use in vitro meat to make the same steaks, sausages, and hamburgers that we all know' disappointed him. He felt that they should be reaching farther with this exciting new technology."

So Mensvoort opened Bistro In Vitro, an online restaurant that's ready to feed your imagination!

"It's a virtual restaurant, so we strictly serve food for thought," says Mensvoort. He's partnered with renowned chefs to get people psyched about the future of sustainable meats (also called cultured meats), a food innovation that's being made possible through stem-cell research. And I have to say, some of their ideas are pretty appetizing.

Their menu includes bizarre bites like...

Friendly Foie Gras

Scallops with Cultured Caviar

Magic Meatballs

See-Through Sashimi

Ravioli of Cultured Bresse Chicken

Crane Origami

Dodo Nuggets

And here's one that actually gives me the shivers, but I'm game:

Celebrity Cubes

Tasty as these may sound, why would anyone want meat that was grown in vitro? Well, let's consider our current relationship with meat.

The U.S. is a global leader when it comes to carnivorous cravings, with the average American consuming 125 pounds of red meat and poultry per year!

And according to the Bistro In Vitro fact page, our current meat production systems require an obscene amount of resources. From farm to factory to market, producing a single quarter-pound burger, for example, it says takes all this:

  • 52 gallons of water for irrigation and cattle hydration
  • 6.6 pounds of grain
  • 75 square feet of land for crops and grazing
  • 1.09 kilojoules of fossil fuel energy ("enough to power your microwave for 18 minutes")

For a quarter-pound of ground beef! Can you believe it?

As long as humans are around, meat will be, too. But it's clear we need to change how it's produced.

In vitro meat could not only solve for systemic animal cruelty, but it's also a possible solution to global crises such as climate change and world hunger.

If the thought of lab-grown meat still doesn't sit right, Jason Matheny, founder of New Harvest, a nonprofit working to advance cultured meats asks that you consider this:

"Cultured meat isn't natural, but neither is yogurt. And neither, for that matter, is most of the meat we eat. Cramming 10,000 chickens in a metal shed and dosing them full of antibiotics isn't natural.

I view cultured meat like hydroponic vegetables. The end product is the same, but the process used to make it is different. Consumers accept hydroponic vegetables. Would they accept hydroponic meat?"

That's biophilosopher Cor van der Weele. She knows what she's talking about.

Watch a delightful introduction to Bistro In Vitro below, then visit their website to "place your order" for a heaping plateful of the future.