Tuesday, April 22, 2008

PETA Issues $1 Million In Vitro Meat Contest

While I am no fan of PETA (well, except for their promotion of nakedness as a protesting tactic), I like the contest they just announced to encourage the development of test tube meat.

PETA is offering a $1 million prize to the contest participant able to make the first in vitro chicken meat and sell it to the public by June 30, 2012. The contestant must do both of the following:

• Produce an in vitro chicken-meat product that has a taste and texture indistinguishable from real chicken flesh to non-meat-eaters and meat-eaters alike.

• Manufacture the approved product in large enough quantities to be sold commercially, and successfully sell it at a competitive price in at least 10 states.

Judging of taste and texture will be performed by a panel of 10 PETA judges, who will sample the in vitro chicken prepared using a fried "chicken" recipe from VegCooking.com. The in vitro chicken must get a score of at least 80 when evaluated in order to win the prize.
The idea is solid, but the $1 million is Dr. Evil low. I bet a lab with 10 people would go through more than a million in a year. I also don't see the reason for an expiration date on the contest, let it go until someone wins. And the requirement that it must be sold in 10 states at a competitive price is also too much. If you were able to do that, $1 million is chump change next to the amount of money you could make just selling the product. Given the requirements, I think it is most likely that a large agribusiness company like Tyson or Monsanto will win, which would be fantastically ironic to see PETA award them the prize.

I think PETA should redo the contest offering $5-10 million for anyone who can just produce test tube meat that is indistinguishable from real chicken in taste and texture. Then let someone else figure out how to scale up the process in a manner that makes it economically viable. I would also add that the winner must open source the methods of making it, allowing others to build on that person's work and making commercialization much more feasible.

And because I think this will be big, I am coining a new Fat Knowledge term: vegtubearian (or maybe vegtubarian, I was never good at speling) which is a person who eats no meat unless it comes from a test tube. Expect there to be a big debate over whether vegtubearians are real vegetarians or not.

via Andrew Sullivan

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