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Vat Nuggets

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When I was running my American Empire series last year, set in a satirical future, one of the details I improvised to evoke the awfulness of things was the ubiquity of vat-grown McNuggets . Many of the vexingly alien inhabitants of the planet the cyber-soldier PCs were policing considered this food an intoxicating delicacy.

If I’d been paying attention, I would have known that the technology for in vitro meat production won’t have to wait until the interstellar future. It’s not that far from the production stage— if anyone wants it.

The article discusses the difficulty of growing complex, quality cuts of meat but surely the technology will be used to create cheap processed meats. If I were trying to market the stuff, I wouldn’t call it meat at all, or underline the exact mechanics of its production. “Cultivated protein” sounds much less Cronenberg than “in vitro meat.” (Okay, make that somewhat less.) It might also be easier to sell something that isn’t trying to taste like a specific tasty animal.

Normally you’d expect the eco movement to recoil from something like this, as it has from genetically modified foods. With in vitro meat less energy-intensive and having a lower greenhouse gas footprint than cattle production, the question of whether to instinctively reject the idea becomes complicated. Is it the environmentally concerned carnivore's ethical obligation to prefer faux-burgers? Will a schism arise in the vegan community between purists and early adopter vat eaters?

Would you eat the stuff?

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