Experiments for NASA have shown that meat tissue can be grown from existing meat cells, and now a new paper proposes two new techniques for large-scale production of lab-grown meat for human consumption. They still have to figure out how to make the cultured meat more meat-like by combining all the different kinds of tissue naturally found in meat and ‘exercising’ it for the proper texture, but they seem confident.

The article is very optimistic about the potential health and environmental benefits, but I’m wondering about the possible cultural ramifications. There is already a divide between the people who eat organic food and those who eat standard chemically treated food. Organic food still mostly costs quite a bit more than standard food so there is a resulting economic (and social) gap. Some people just can’t afford organic food no matter how good it is for you. With cultured meat, a similar thing may happen.

If cultured meat techniques develop to a point where it is cheaper overall than raising and slaughtering livestock, the number of people producing traditional meat may go down and the prices may go up. If that trend continues then, at some point, only the well to do of the world will even be able to afford real meat and most people will only ever eat food grown in labs or genetically engineered to be easier/cheaper to produce. Organic, natural food may become even more of a luxury item than it already is today.